Rosen: Nick Lowe Celebrates Christmas in July

Nick Lowe performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park on July 12, 2013 in London, England. Photo: Christie Goodwin/Getty

Nick Lowe has been grise for a few decades now, but over the last dozen years he’s gotten the éminence thing down, transforming from an ironic Brit-pop also-ran into a wry, ruminative old-fashioned troubadour, with songs and a voice worthy of that impressive head of hair. Lowe has now recorded a Christmas album, Quality Street, which makes some sense. There’s a bit of Father Christmas, a.k.a. Bing Crosby, in Lowe’s mellow croon, and his songs inhabit a kind of spiritual 1959, sitting snugly between Tin Pan Alley pop and country and early R&B and fifties rock and roll. (You can imagine Lowe’s recent songs being sung by Der Bingle or Nat King Cole or Patti Page or, for that matter, Gene Autry or Jackie Wilson or Buddy Holly.) Quality Street’s official release date is October 29, but it’s streaming, for one day only, on YouTube — a Yule log for the briskest day of the summer so far. My early favorites are a pair Lowe originals, “Christmas at the Airport” (the title says it all), and “I Was Born in Bethlehem,” a telling of the Nativity story, narrated, over a loping acoustic guitar strum, by the Baby Jesus.