Debbie Davis & Matt Perrine, Oh Crap, It’s Christmas (Independent)

The title may lead you to expect an album full of anti-Christmas sentiments, but don’t be fooled: Davis and Perrine’s Christmas disc may have its irreverent moments, but at heart it’s a proudly old-fashioned Christmas album, with a mood that’s warm and even inspirational.

It’s no small feat to do this sort of album without any cheap sentiment, but that’s what Davis and Perrine manage here.

Bookending the album are two versions of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”—opening the album with the downcast Depression-era lyrics that Judy Garland originally sang, then closing the disc with the more familiar words, with a few lines changed to make it more upbeat. The positioning of those two versions makes a hopeful point without getting too obvious.

Likewise, Davis alone on ukulele gives a thoughtful reading to “There Are Much Worse Things to Believe In”—first done by Elvis Costello and Stephen Colbert—making it a perfect Christmas song for cynics.

There are a few moments of pure fun, including a rollicking take on Tom Lehrer’s “Hanukkah in Santa Monica”—about time someone covered that—and Perrine taking his sousaphone for a “Sleigh Ride” with Washboard Chaz providing the gallops. One of the hipper Christmas songs around, “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” gets a suitably frisky duet from Davis and Alex McMurray.

But it’s the more traditional moments here that really stand out. Susan Cowsill appears for a lovely duet on “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth”—using the famous Bowie/Bing Crosby arrangement but making it less camp and more angelic. Helen Gillet’s cello adds an unearthly mood to “A Cradle in Bethlehem,” and “Mary’s Boy Child” gets freshened up with banjo, violin and reggae rhythms.

And if you weren’t already knocked out by Davis’ voice, the seven minutes’ worth of gospel fervor on “The Holy Baby” will do it.