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Rising Stars [Issue #12]
Judith Owen: Christmas With the Devil
By Jason Sklar
Christmas In July (CD Century Of Progress)

Elves in leather. Angels in chains. No bells in hell, no snow below.

Stockings in flames? Sounds like Christmas images from a nightmare, or in this case, a few lines from “Christmas with the Devil,” the first track on Judith Owen’s melancholy, yet serene Christmas in July.

“I have a great love of arranging rock anthems,” says Owen. “The first one I did was a Dave Brubeck Take 5ish ‘Blackhole Sun.’ It’s still a hugely popular song. In fact, Chris Cornell’s (former singer/frontman of Seattle’s Soundgarden) mother is a bit of a fan.” This time around Owen selected a Spinal Tap tune as a vehicle for a jazzy piano-bass-vocal enclave.

“I like taking a stupid, idiotic, most irreverent song and doing it straight, groovy, and hip with the idiotic words coming through,” says Owen. “The joke is doubly funny if you commit 100%. It is pointless if you join in on the gag.”

Owen’s desire to record a Christmas CD stems from her nostalgic, melancholy Welsh heritage. I’m not a gratuitous sentimentalist,” explains Owen. “I hate Christmas stuff that makes you want to retch.” In this collection of songs, “Christmas with the Devil” serves as “the irreverent jewel on the crown to make it all possible.”

“The reason we love Christmas songs is because they are incredibly timeless and powerful,” says Owen. “Each year, Harry (Shearer, her husband) and I use Christmas as a massive excuse to cram a hundred people into our tiny cottage and sing in harmony.” After living in the UK, Owen used to “expect cold, bitter weather hiding outside. Now, I am usually at the beach bodysurfing in the water.”

As big as the album’s impact might be for both Owen and her audience, the whole album consists of merely six sincerely selected songs. “It was meant to be a tiny little tease,” says Owen. “It was never meant to be big and laborious and drawn out. It is warm and sad and completely irreverent. It’s a small, perfectly formed package.” Not wanting to make it a major event, Owen characterizes the album as a “stocking filler.”

Owen’s lyrics whimsically fly off the tip of her tongue. They gently strike eardrums in the same way wet snowflakes vacillate between a near future fate of snow or droplet when falling at a temperature of 32° F. Through depression and darkness, her humor quells glum, grey gloom.

“I love Christmas and I am destroyed by it every year,” says Owen. Similarly, Owen sings deep and intense songs when performing, but offers an effervescent quirkiness when speaking in between. “There is a switch inside me that flicks on and off.” In total control of this switch, Owen offsets the dark and intense with witty humor.

“So often during this time of year, the pressure and expectation are so high. We may get depressed and feel alone,” Owen sighs hopefully. “And yet, the flip side is of course the most phenomenal, wonderful, fabulous experience if you remember what’s important.”

Christmas In July
Century Of Progress

Christmas With the Devil Judith Owen Christmas In July

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