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Certified Gold, Incense & Myrrh
Artist: Dr. B.L.T. featuring Tommy Isbell and Other Artists 
Label: Frosty Rock Records (Independent)
Length: 24 tracks/76:15

Leave it to The Phantom Tollbooth’s Rock Doc to come up with one of the most original Christmas recording of the season. How do I describe it in just a few words? It’s raw, heartfelt, inventive, thoughtful, fun, reverent and all over the map musically.

If you are tired of homogenized Christmas songs that all start to sound the same, you might find this singer/songwriter collection to be just what the doctor ordered. Folk, alternative, pop, country, rock, rap and exotic programmed rhythms are all employed to honor “the baby king” and celebrate the trappings of the season.  Amazingly, there are only a few covers on this generous offering of 24 songs.

Most of the tracks tend towards minimalist production and simple arrangements that marry guitar strumming with country, rock and folk influences. When they come together, as on “Brand New Christmas Song,” it helps spread that Christmas cheer that this Rock Doc would no doubt prescribe.

In "Certified Gold, Incense and Myrrh,” the opening song, Dr. B.L.T. sets the stage for the remainder of the CD by offering his music as a gift to the Christ child. He shows himself to be a clever songwriter with the play on words in “Between Iraq and a Heart Place,” a song that wishes US troops in Iraq a Merry Christmas. It’s a touching song, one that they would appreciate, knowing that they are not forgotten. “Christmas 4 Two” is a quiet, love song that eloquently expresses a desire to celebrate the season with one’s spouse.

The laugh out loud song of the CD is “You’re Not the Kinda Ho that Santa Had in Mind (Original County Rock Version).” The doctor tells a story that deals with a serious subject in a funny way. There is also a (New Rap Edition) of the song. Both versions are done equally well. 

“Dear Johnny (Won’t You Help Me with My Christmas CD) is an affectionate ode to Johnny Cash that has a little of his trademark sound. 

The wide variety of songs demonstrates how versatile Dr. B.L.T. is musically. The whimsical nature of the music and lyrics, the number of songs and their interesting titles, are all somewhat reminiscent of Sufjan Stevens. The stripped-down sound of many of the tracks fits well with the unpretentious vocals. He’s at his best when he ruggedly combines folk, rock and country influences. If you are not afraid to try something a little offbeat, you might enjoy this homespun blend of wit, wisdom and worship. 

You can stay tuned to the Rock Doc and his songs by checking out his writings each month at The Phantom Tollbooth. He often helps to answer readers’ questions with a song and also shares his gift of music in his “Single Servings” column.

Michael Dalton
December 17, 2007

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