Driving through the Midwest, a person's mind could be forgiven for drifting a little. Expansive, field-laden, mostly flat, sprinkled with oddly-named pop-up towns... it's been said that the Midwestern winds carry with them subtle undertones of strange nostalgia and easy lagers and how's-it-goings and hollow good-and-yous and Scandinavian apologies. It could be easy, in those moments, to fool oneself into thinking this is a static place. But you'd be just that: fooled.
It was during one of these drives, westbound from Wisconsin into Minnesota, that Minneapolis cello/violin duo Olivia Diercks and Karla Colahan—monikered as The OK Factor—faced into those Midwestern winds, took a deep collective breath, and said aloud in perfect major-harmony unison: “It's high time for another Christmas album.” Somewhere in Fond du Lac, an entire cornfield bloomed.
Approaching their five-year anniversary as a group and in the wake of nearly 50 performances throughout 2017 alone, Have Yourself an OK Christmas offers the refined sound one would expect from a duo with this kind of experiential momentum. With records past having been tracked into a single microphone, this album finds the group teaming up with Steve Kaul at Wild Sound, introducing an edge of perfectionism while paying homage to the singular root these two will never let go of: good, old-fashioned live performance.
All the while, every song has been reinterpreted to be more dynamic and less predictable: Cliffhanging extended measures on “Go Tell It,” sharp, percussive attitude on “Blue Sleeves,” vocals layered in track features throughout the record, and smart collaborations with singer/songwriter Ellis and percussionist Jenny Klukken, put Have Yourself an OK Christmas in its own category.Imagine your favorite go-to red wine, before your super-hip aunt taught you how to mull it. This is the sassily-mulled wine of winter albums, and we all know there's no going back to a straight red.
If we're comparing things to your grandmother's holiday music (and we are), it's a bit like that—but Grandma's acting flippant, she's dancing in clogs that were shelved decades ago, the cousins are gossiping in hushed whispers, and all the eggnog has gone inexplicably missing. Your grandfather is loving every minute of it. Where did Grandma find that ukulele? When did she learn to play it like that??
To press play on Have Yourself an OK Christmas is to flip through an audible family photo book, reliving a past that never sounded quite like this, at once warmly familiar and jovially unexpected. It is to step outside into the pristine Minnesota snow, breathe in the gentle scent of the pines around you, ignore the squirrels fighting mere feet away, and fondly course through a mental slideshow of holidays past. It’s the same footage you’ve watched and re-watched, though you reflect on all of it a bit differently now.
When you open your eyes, the pines are larger than they were years ago. But they're exactly where you left them.
- Aaron Rosell
Featuring thirteen new arrangements of O&K's favorite holiday tunes, Have Yourself an OK Christmas is sure to brighten your holidays and bring a smile to your face this season. Pre-orders will be shipped the week of November 27.