Candace Bellamy - Santa Baby (2016)

Candace Bellamy
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A successful physician who also has the gift of a mellofluous voice that does its own healing, Candace Bellamy has juggled her two loves for over a decade now. And while she has intentionally worked in a broad palette of musical styles, from soul to rock to jazz to blues, she takes a much more laid back, jazzy approach to her latest release and first Christmas recording, the EP Santa Baby.

A successful physician who also has the gift of a mellofluous voice that does its own healing, Candace Bellamy has juggled her two loves for over a decade now. And while she has intentionally worked in a broad palette of musical styles, from soul to rock to jazz to blues, she takes a much more laid back, jazzy approach to her latest release and first Christmas recording, the EP Santa Baby.

Opening with a smooth electric guitar and attractive bass line, Bellamy leads off the disc with a cool take on "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," emitting the kind of comfortable vibe that is a welcome contrast to the generally stilted, uncomfortable versions that have filled the radio over the years. The song provides a good peek at Bellamy's overall approach on the album, creating a musically consistent feel to a disparate group of songs, making them work surprisingly well, one after another.

Song selection often craters holiday albums, and there are times on Santa Baby when the song choices make it a bit tougher to create something transcendant. Exhibit 1 is the title cut, a novelty song popularized by Eartha Kitt more than a half century ago, but one that is rarely on anyone's list of holiday favorites. However, it is not faint praise to say Bellamy gives perhaps the most enjoyable version of the song yet, moving the ersatz sexy 1950s lyrics to less front-and-center position, and focusing more on the groove and style of the cut. And if the title cut was a challenge for Bellamy to elevate, even tougher is "Little Drummer Boy," an odd carol that has rarely been covered well over the years. But Bellamy and crew take the song in a different direction, giving it a New Orleans feel, with playful horns and and terrific vocal arrangements.

For me, the highlight of Santa Baby is the gentle reading of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," a smoky take on an oft-recorded classic, with Sean Giddings' piano interacting beautifully with Bellamy's alto, and an equally nice solo guitar from Carter Arrington. It feels like midnight in December at Baker's Keyboard Lounge, and establishes a mood that works just right.

At four songs and sixteen minutes, this enjoyable disc ends too soon for my taste. Candace Bellamy has always had an understated way of making the most of a song (if you haven't heard it, check out her 2015 version of "Try A Little Tenderness"), and she continues to demonstrate her masterful song stylings on Santa Baby, even with more suspicious underlying material than her prior albums. She makes each of these songs her own, and creates a late night holiday album that you'll want to snuggle around for years to come. Recommended.

By Chris Rizik

 

 
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