They open the album with a hopping, swinging rendition of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.” It features a fantastic vocal performance, and of course we expect nothing less from Michelle Malone. This track also features a totally delicious guitar lead with a classic sound, and some incredibly cool bass work. This is not one of my favorite holiday songs, but Michelle Malone And The Hot Toddies give us a rendition so good that I find myself loving this track. Things get even cooler with “Zat You, Santa Claus?,” with guitar work and a rhythm that will remind you of The Stray Cats. Michelle Malone is having such a good time, totally throwing herself into the music. “Who's there, who is it coming back for a visit?/Is that you, Santa Claus?/Are you bringing presents for me/Something pleasantly pleasant for me/Then it’s just what I’ve been waiting for/But would you mind slipping it under the door.” If all department stores and banks chose to play this album rather than the usual nonsense, then I might agree that this is the most wonderful time of the year. This song is certainly one to add to your holiday play list.
As “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” begins, that rhythm makes me wonder if this might be a more rocking rendition than we normally hear. It’s unclear for a moment which direction it will go, where that good bass line will lead us. But when Michelle’s vocals come in, the song takes on that sweet, warm, romantic sound and vibe. This rendition has a really nice ending, with Michelle riffing a bit on the line “I’m going home.” Michelle Malone And The Hot Toddies stay in a mellow mood with “Count Your Blessings (Instead Of Sheep),” here simply titled “Count Your Blessings.” These lines certainly stand out for me this year, after months of a Hollywood strike depleted my bank account: “When my bankroll is getting small/I think of when I have none at all/I fall asleep, counting my blessings.” Ah, but among the blessings I can count is the great music I get to listen to, including this album. Here Michelle’s vocals are supported by guitar.
There is a wonderful jazzy edge to Michelle Malone’s rendition of “Blue Christmas.” And at times there is an edge to her voice as well, a bit of attitude, as when she sings “You’ll be doing all right/With your Christmas of white/But I’ll have a blue, blue Christmas.” That helps this rendition stand out. Plus, it features some strong work on guitar. That’s followed by “Jingle Bells.” This is another holiday song I generally could do without, but Michelle Malone puts her own delightful spin on the song, and there is enough joy in her performance to make it truly enjoyable. She includes that “I love those J-I-N-G-L-E bells” part at the beginning, as Frank Sinatra did. Plus, she includes lyrics that are often cut, which also helps to make it feel fresh. And check out that great guitar work. At the end of the track, she exclaims, “Woo!” She likewise puts her own touch on “Up On The House Top.” As it begins, it feels akin to something like “Tequila.” Here Michelle Malone begins to belt out some lines, her voice having that great raw energy. And then halfway through the track we are treated to some good stuff on harmonica. That’s followed by “Go Tell It On The Mountain.” This version slowly swings, and has an uplifting effect. There is a good dose of gospel to Michelle’s vocal performance, particularly in the second half. This is a rendition to make you feel good.
“Auld Lang Syne” has a different vibe from usual as it starts, with some cool guitar work. There is something of a Latin vibe here. I love how Michelle Malone puts her own mark on these classic numbers. Give a different spin to the New Year this time around, see what happens. With this music, it feels like it’s going to be a good one. For a moment or two we can set aside the struggles that this election year will undoubtedly bring and lift a glass to each other. Then, what is this, bass and finger snaps to start “Silent Night”? You bet! This is likely one of the coolest renditions you’ll hear. Seriously, how often does this song make you feel like dancing, while still having that soothing quality? I love what Michelle Malone and the band do with this song. It is one of my personal favorites. It’s followed by “We Three Kings,” another track that comes as a wonderful surprise. This is a version you can sway to, dance to, and it features a beautiful vocal performance. Michelle Malone wraps up this special holiday album with “Away In A Manger,” once again putting her own excellent spin on it and making the song cooler than it probably has any business being. This rendition contains some delicious guitar work, with a haunting western quality, and a gorgeous and strong vocal performance.
CD Track List
- Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
- Zat You, Santa Claus?
- I’ll Be Home For Christmas
- Count Your Blessings
- Blue Christmas
- Jingle Bells
- Up On The House Top
- Go Tell It On The Mountain
- Auld Lang Syne
- Silent Night
- We Three Kings
- Away In A Manger
Toddie Time was released on October 27, 2023, and is available on both CD and vinyl. The vinyl is green, so I want to get a copy of the record (last year’s release was on red vinyl).