Emily Hurd – Any Given Day (2012)

With the average Christmas album, you dig it out sometime around Thanksgiving, then stuff it back in with the tinsel and garland sometime around New Year’s Day. Singer-songwriter Emily Hurd may have broken that pattern with Any Given Day.

From the shambling country-rocking cadence of “Evergreen,” with its trembling sense of love-struck anticipation, this just-released project presents as something both timeless and loose. Written in October, and recorded live on November 13, 2012 at Kingsize Sound Labs in Chicago, Any Given Sunday touches on some of the season’s familiar themes — snuggling up on a snowy night (“Cold Outside”), the magical innocence of Yuletide excitement (“Children Believe”) and the warm tidings that the season is supposed to illicit (“Good Will”), but it does so with a verve, passion and inventiveness that takes Any Given Day well away from convention.

“Cold Outside” is a skipping rockabilly number, while “Children Believe” tumbles out like a New Orleans second-line. She explores more ruminative notions on the piano-driven “In the Spirit of Giving” and “Chain of Light,” singing with a dusky rawness. The swinging “Glogg” then turns into good-time Americana hootenanny. “Good Will” has a smoky, slow-cooked blues feel.

Sure, both “Heart of Snow” and the title track include the moment-in-time sound of jingling bells, but both boast such perfectly attenuated tales — one of unfettered passion, the other of lonesome anticipation — that, quite frankly, any visions of sugarplums simply go poof. “Westminster Chimes” then brings Any Given Day to a heartfelt, strikingly emotional close.

Credit goes, too, to Hurd’s crack group of Chicagoland musician friends, including guitarist Greg Ostrom, percussionist Gerald Dowd and bassist John Abbey. The music on this inventive release couldn’t more perfectly match its own offbeat sentiments. Heartfelt, yet never overwrought or obvious, Any Given Day is a Christmas album unlike most any other — a gift, indeed.

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Emily Hurd, who has released 10 albums since 2005 and regularly holds the annual Emilyfest in rural North Carolina, is preparing a 2013 album called ‘Burn Like a Field’ with her country band Stone Blind Valentine — to be issued (when else?) on Valentine’s Day. ‘Any Given Day’ is also available through her web site at emilyhurd.com, and via cdbaby.com.

Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.

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