Aimee Mann's albums have taken such a dour turn of late that an Aimee Mann Christmas album doesn't sound like the kind of gift most people would want to find in their stockings. The holidays can be depressing enough without such an affecting singer souring the candy canes. The potential was there for One More Drifter In The Snow to be the biggest yuletide downer since Crash Test Dummies bellowed through Jingle All The Way.
Happily, Mann had other plans. There's no absence of melancholy on Drifter: From the album-opening Jimmy Webb cover "Whatever Happened To Christmas" to the Mann original "Calling On Mary," Mann questions default gaiety. But as with her best material, Mann sings with doubt underscored with hopefulness. When she sings "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," there's a punch to the line "if the fates allow," but it never quite swallows the happiness around it.
Though "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch," narrated with gusto by Grant-Lee Phillips, probably doesn't need to be heard more than once, this should otherwise fit nicely into the rotation of Christmas albums favored by those who like a little genuine emotion with their roaring fireplaces and holiday togetherness. It's Christmas music for those who think they've outgrown such things.