Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
In this review, I’ll be delving into ‘BKLNXMAS,’ a seven track live album and video event from MusicSnake, the artistic moniker of Fred King. King is a Belarusian-born musician working in New York City who explores hip hop, rock, pop, jazz, and funk stylings, and he raps in both English and Russian. His new endeavor is dedicated to Christmas, and it’s certainly an imaginative spin on a selection of timeless classics. Joined by the singer songwriter Jessica Rowboat, MusicSnake’s new set of live recordings and videos may certainly make for a nice addition to one’s holiday music collection this season.
Right out of the gate, ‘BKLNXMAS’ is an intriguing effort, opening with the most spirited ‘Santa Claus is Coming To Town’ that I’ve heard since Bruce Springsteen’s take on the classic tune. MusicSnake is accented by a single acoustic guitarist, and the two are elegantly in step in one another. The fervor of the instrumentalist’s performance and the gusto of MusicSnake’s delivery connect wonderfully. ‘White Christmas’ is weaved into the latter half of the track as well, which works surprisingly well.
‘Come On! Let’s Boogey To The Elf Dance!’ is the second performance on ‘BKLNXMAS,’ and it’s the first by Jessica Rowboat. Armed only with a ukulele, Rowboat echoes the same sort of musical brevity and simplicity that MusicSnake opened the album with. Her performance is absolutely lovely, and her take of a more obscure Sufjan Stevens track is one of the highlights of the collection.
The ball then returns to MusicSnake’s court with a Temptations cover, ‘My Christmas Tree.’ Oddly enough, it’s opened up by an extensive impromptu ‘Stairway to Heaven’ on behalf of the acoustic guitarist. Again, it’s surprising how well this actually does work. It’s splendid to see a younger performer like MusicSnake embracing tunes that were once brought to the forefront by acts like The Temptations. This version of ‘My Christmas Tree’ is strongly performed, and MusicSnake’s creative license in his favor.
When Rowboat returns again, she brings a classic rendition of ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ to the table. She has a very Norah Jones-esque sound to her, and I’d argue Rowboat’s personality seeps through each performance of hers in a terrifically unique way. She’s just infectious to hear play. Similarly, MusicSnake’s very contemporary take on ‘Jingle Bells’ is equally embracing and lovable.
While not directly a Christmas song, Rowboat’s take on Jackie DeShannon’s ‘Put a Little Love in Your Heart’ is her best performance on ‘BKLNXMAS.’ Now donning an acoustic guitar, Rowboat performs the hit 1969 single with a special sincerity and beauty. Followed by ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,’ Rowboat ends the album on a particularly high note.
This is a great little collection of holiday performances. Rowboat’s songs are more traditional, embracing singer songwriter tendencies, but in a gorgeous way. MusicSnake’s performances genre-bend and experiment with well-traveled classics, and to great success. The videos are shot very nicely, too, making ‘BKLNXMAS’ a holiday set you won’t want to miss.