Jugology—Greatest Near Misses

A compilation of five albums dating from 1986-2009, this 19 track(!), 73-minute “best of” is a real delight. Formed in 1976 in Mill Valley by a group of musical maniacs whose careers include playing in numerous bands with notable performers (e.g., Commander Cody, Etta James, Country Joe & the Fish, Elvis Costello), the Christmas Jug Band plays a variety of “unusual” instruments (jug, kazoo, slide whistle, autoharp, washboard) as well as harmonica, clarinet, guitar, piano, bass and drums. Self-described as “the foremost purveyors of seasonal-skiffle-swing and jugband-infused revelry,” on Jugology the band celebrates the yule season with songs like “Somebody Stole My Santa Claus Suit,” an uptempo item arranged and sung by Dan Hicks, and “Santa Lost a Ho” (he's got problems and now stops at “Ho, ho”—“Where'd the other ‘ho' go?”). Vocalists Angela Strehli and Maria Muldaur join them for a jump-blues “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus,” and the late Norton Buffalo sings and plays harmonica on the charming “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” which also features a jug solo. Switching musical genres, they pop down to Brazil for “Carolin',” a lilting samba written by the band's main man, Tim Eschliman, who, with Paul Rogers, adapted “S.A.N.T.A. (Gloria),” a variation on the Van Morrison classic.