Hill's "Jasper's Worst Christmas" perfectly captures the antispirit of Christmas: "I didn't get what I wanted,/I didn't get what I wanted./Sister she got everything,/And I didn't get what I wanted." Hill sings it in a just-right mix of childish whine, nasal twang, and bluegrass high lonesome.
Her homage to the Lionel electric train is a fine sketch of the classic toy, but it also has a broader perspective: "How I wish I lived down there,/In this town where all is fair. . . . And everything works just fine,/And everyone arrives on time." Latini has a train song too, and in contrast to Hill's, which has a solo acoustic guitar backing, his track roars like a runaway freight train.
There are sweet ballads like the jazz-inflected "Snow in the City," which Hill cowrote with husband Al, and her country-flavored "Caledonia, Christmas Day." There are dark moments too. Hill's "Mama Made Her Getaway" is sad enough for any day of the year. You won't want to hear it on Christmas, but when you do listen, it will open, and break, your heart.
Whit Hill, John Latini, and friends present the songs from D-E-A-R S-A-N-T-A at the Ark on Saturday, December 15.