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HO HO WHO: Maryland-based singer/songwriter Steven Gellman, an acoustic guitarist with a new holiday album: Songs of Winter’s Cheer. Gellman compares himself to John Denver, but with a slightly nasal vibrato and a tendency to lean into his diphthongs, he sounds like a better fit for an off-Broadway production.
O COME, MALL YE FAITHFUL: The bulk of “Jewish Christmas,” an open-chord strummer with simple harmonies and sparse cello work by Doug Poplin, lambasts the commercialization and frenzied over-celebration of the titular holiday. Gellman recorded the track live at the Hill Chapel in New Market, Md., but if you didn’t know that, you’d think the occasional spatter of chuckles came from a laugh track. The Full House of holiday tunes, “Jewish Christmas” is chock full of corny jokes and slapstick humor, and some of the song’s strained lyrics (“All of these sights and sounds/Follow me all around”) might make you gag on your eggnog—-or latke, as the case may be.
ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS JEW: It’s not until two verses deep that Gellman broaches the religion collision he promises in the title: “It’s Christmastime in Maryland for this Montgomery County Jew/Celebrating Jewish Christmas with a movie and Chinese food.” (Full disclosure: My boss is a MoCo-raised Jew and, until October, so was his second in command. No word on their plans for Dec. 25.) Why leave so many potential Jew-Jesus jokes out in the cold for just a passing mention of a “Hanukkah bush”? The topic seems ripe for richer fun than Gellman’s tired digs at Starbucks’ overpriced coffees. Plus, a $14-cocktail joke would have been far more topical ’round these parts.
CHEER FACTOR: 2/10. A longtime shiksa who was hoping for a little insight into how my yiddishe boo and I might sloppily meld our holiday traditions this year, I feel like a schmuck after listening to this cheesy tune three times through.