90 out of 100
by Suzanne Cadgène
We don’t normally review holiday releases, but this one breaks all the molds and demands attention, much like that crazy uncle who constantly shakes up the holidays like his personal snow globe. The liner notes begin “from our odd, broken, repaired, differently functional, inherited, made and unexpectedly found families…to yours,” and Loose Cattle makes good on that promise. This country-influenced album boasts 15 Christmas hymns you won’t hear in Hallmark commercials, but—unless you’re a member of the Brady Bunch—I bet you’ve experienced some of it yourself.
Whether drawing from Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Joni Mitchell, standards or a couple of originals, this album celebrates real people, and real holidays, like the working man trying to get home in “A Truck Stop Christmas.” From John Denver’s self-explanatory “Please Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas)” to the mournful classic, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” this album celebrates those scotch-and-soda or Alka-Seltzer holiday moments—no grandmas getting run over by reindeer here, no puppy-under-the-tree moments. It’s not depressing, it’s not funny, but it is very a comforting album.
An original, “Shepherds in a Parking Lot,” turns out to be a personal favorite, contrasting what’s touted as a “merry time of year” with the everyday reality: “that doctor gave you pills so now you’re numb but still you’re sick…There’s no wise men on the TV, no light in the East, no shepherds in this parking lot.” Another favorite, a cover of Robert Earl Keen’s “Merry Christmas From the Family,” is worth quoting at length:
Carve the turkey, turn the ballgame on
Mix margaritas when the eggnog’s gone
Send somebody to the Quik Pak store
We need some icing and extension cords
A can of bean dip and some Diet right
A box of tampons and some more Burl Ives
Hallelujah, everybody say cheese
Loose Cattle is Tony Award-winning and TV actor Michael Cerveris and Kimberly Kaye (who has the better voice of the two), but honestly, this CD isn’t just about the music. It’s about Christmas.
The big take over
#81 November 2017
by Jack Rabid
Loose Cattle, Seasonal Affective Disorder (Low Heat)
Ah, something to listen to at holiday time that isn’t the same old same old. Michael Cerveris has won two Tonys for Best Actor in a Musical, while appearing in movies and TV like Treme. He’s also a musician: I saw him in 1998 in Bob Mould’s band, and here his classic country-Americana band (named after a Texas road sign) with Kimberly Kaye and guests take on lesser-trod X-mas tunes, such as 1974’s spiritual Big Star Third/Sister Lovers sweetie. “Jesus Christ” and 1963’s Willie Nelson-penned #15 for Roy Orbison, “Pretty Paper,” beside two originals. Unique Glen Campbell-esque country, Cajun, R&B, and folk picks such as the bluesy, lap-steel-y “A Truck Stop Christmas” and “Please Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas)” exude melancholic, clever warmth; it’s all so fresh and as timeless as a well-worn Nelson album itself. As they sing on the Dr. John-referencing Sonny Lambeth/Dixie Cups song: “Got To Get You Under My Tree.” (loosecattleband.com)
*** (out of 4) Loose Cattle, “Seasonal Affective Disorder” (Low Heat).
by Randy Lewis
This tradition-minded quartet navigates the fine line between sincerity and parody in 15 songs that navigate the intersection of country, rock, R&B, soul and Cajun music. Along with such homages to holiday dysfunction as Robert Earl Keen’s “Merry Christmas From the Family” and Mary Catherine and William Danoff’s “Please Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk this Christmas),” the band reaches wide with Tom Waits’ “Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis” and Alex Chilton’s “Jesus Christ."
by John Swenson
As a fan of the Who dating back to the band’s earliest American performances, I approached the Broadway production of Tommywith trepidation, fearful of another degradation of Pete Townshend’s spiritually sophisticated rock masterpiece.
Not only did I find myself enjoying the production, I was knocked out by the young actor who played the title role with the most feeling for this difficult-to-fathom character I’ve ever witnessed. His name was Michael Cerveris and I would hardly have expected him to later become a key element of the New Orleans music scene.
But today Cerveris is an integral member of the city’s tightly knit group of musicians and conceptualists, a central figure in one of the organizational foundations of post-Katrina New Orleans music, the stage production of Nine Lives.
On North of Houston, we hear another unexpected side of Cerveris: He emerges on this live recording as a white-hat Americana singer steeped in steel-guitar sonorities and sounding like one of the up-and-comers in Nashville’s alt-country scene. It’s an ironic setting considering the role Cerveris played in the HBO post-Katrina drama “Treme”—the black-hat music-industry manager encouraging erstwhile young violinist Annie to “sell out” and abandon her Cajun rock band for a more Nashville-centric business model.
Cerveris knows how to front a performing unit and surrounds himself with outstanding players: Gabriel Caplan on electric guitar, Jon Graboff on pedal steel, Alex Harvey on mandolin, Justin Smith on fiddle, Lorenzo Wolff on bass and Eddy Zweiback on drums (Kimberly Kaye helps out on vocals). Cerveris makes shrewd selections from the deep canon of country songwriting. There’s a terrific version of Buddy and Julie Miller’s “Gasoline and Matches,” a real outlaw-country rendition of Mark Bilyeu’s “Backwater,” Dolly Parton’s “Run That By Me One More Time” and her “collaboration” with Cee Lo et. al., “Jolene, F**k You.” There are a couple of Dylan songs, a Justin Townes Earle tune and two numbers from Cerveris himself, the easygoing “Dog Eared” and the atmospheric “Evangeline.” Not surprisingly, one of the set’s best songs is a Cerveris/Paul Sanchez co-write, “Lost in New Amsterdam.”
Then, just when you thought you’d heard it all, Cerveris finishes off with a reprise of his star-is-born moment, “Pinball Wizard.”