Down Christmas LaneAustin cabaret act Hedda Layne gives one of the nicest gifts of all. On her website, she’s offering a free album download of holiday music. With an electronica approach, Layne and producer/husband Troy Lee come out of left field to drop a whimsical package of carols to add to your collection.

Without going overboard, Layne offers nine familiar tunes, but starts with Lee’s remix of “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.” Lee keeps it simple, but turns the instrumental into a great techno-lite opener.

The beat hits when “Santa Baby” goes into a high energy beat that works almost too well. Layne’s voice has an appropriately vintage Betty Boop-ness to it which the song needs. The dance tone never pulls away from the song’s spirit, but instead enhances it with some punch. They delve into some robotic voice enhancement that could have gone majorly awry, but instead, Layne and Lee smartly just add in a pinch of it. The formula continues to work in the dance-floor-ready “Winter Wonderland.”

Layne stays true to traditionals “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and “What Are You Doing for New Years Eve,” which balance out the the energetic numbers. Her “Silent Night” rendition, though, is a bit hit and miss. Layne has beautiful control over her voice, reaching sublime high notes, but at times she gets a little too dramatic and that feels more like she’s showing off.
She teams up with Girl Scout Troop 1149  for two songs which have a lot of heart, but are also a bit awkward.

Remember, this is not a girl’s choir, but a scout troop. Layne singing on “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” works fine, but the kids are all over the place. You can sense what she’s trying to do here, but the intended cuteness factor wears thin.

The medley of “Jingle Bells/We Wish You a Merry Christmas” works far better. The girls are reigned in as they sing the chorus and the downtempo dubstep beat gives a consistent groove. Layne sometimes derails on her vocal runs, but the track finishes with surprising sophistication.

— Rich Lopez

Three stars.
To download the free tracks, visit

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 16, 2011.