Archive for the ‘12 Roots Songs of Christmas 2012’ Tag
I spent the evening over at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass, commenting on the IBMA awards as they unfolded in Raleigh, NC. It was a great show, highlighted by some super performances, a pair of moving and inspired inductions into the Hall of Fame, and Barry Bales. Visit Fervor Coulee Bluegrass here.
I was only a little bit mitchy.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. I know I haven’t been posting very often. Call it a writing depression caused by listening to music that doesn’t inspire. So much of the roots music I’m hearing is quite, well, blah. But, the 60s and 70s soul has been outstanding. Gladys Knight and the Pips!
Whatever your definition of roots music, for me there can only be one #1 Roots Song of Christmas, “Fairytale of New York,” released in 1987 by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl. It is a beautiful sounding song with crushing lyrics and a give-and-take duet that seems all too natural. The song is re-released annually, and most recently hit the top 15 (yet again) in Ireland and England.
The song is that much more poignant as Kirsty died at the front of the Christmas season in 2000.
The original video is here, and a live version from 1998 is here; there is a recent newspaper story encapsulating the history of the song here. It was the highest charting song for both The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl. To learn more about Kirsty MacColl, visit Freeworld.
“Fairytale of New York.” Nothing more needs to be said. Brilliant all around.
Just a couple of days to Christmas, and my series of Roots Songs of Christmas is coming to a close. There are so many songs and performances I wish I could have included, and- rather than having a non-roots song of Christmas today- I will provide links to some of these down below.
I had considered going all Bah, Humbug today, but I couldn’t find a link to Tim O’Brien’s song of the same name. “Santa Bloody Claus” was an option, but while I love both of these songs, I don’t want to go down that path this year. I’d rather keep things focused on more traditional meanings of Christmas.
And things don’t get much more traditional than the birth of Jesus Christ. Today, my Roots Song of Christmas is an entire album, bluegrass songwriter and artist Donna Ulisse’s All the Way to Bethlehem. Much like Kimmie Rhodes’ Miracle on Christmas Day, Ulisse has chosen to go all the way and write an entire album focused around Christmas; this set is focused on her interpretation of the events leading up to and following the birth of Christ.
The album obviously has a Christian rather than secular approach to Christmas. From the immaculate conception (“You Will Be Delivered”,) to Joseph’s confusion (“He’s Not Mine,”) to an interpretation of the events at the inn (“You Cannot Stay Here,”) to the star leading the three kings (“I’m Gonna Shine“) Ulisse’s (along with her collaborators) interpretation of Scripture and the Christmas story is both interesting and listenable. I believe “Let the World Wait for a Little While” will become a seasonal favourite.
Considering the number of songs that already exist about the first Christmas, all the traditional songs that we grew up on, it is pretty remarkable that Ulisse has been able to create new and inspirational music that forges new ground: a listen to “He Is Here” provides ample evidence of this.
The music is varied, some touches of bluegrass, a bit of contemporary Christian-pop sounds, and some country, and it definitely isn’t for everyone. But, one admires the energy and focus- not to mention talent and vision- that went into All the Way to Bethlehem.
Honourable mention today goes to The Father of Bluegrass Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass
A Christmas bluegrass set I’ve almost plum wore out
Boys with “Christmas Time’s A-Comin’;” this clip is from the old Nashville Network Ralph Emery show.
As for the other songs that I couldn’t fit in before tomorrow’s all-time best Roots Song of Christmas, and really it will be the only song on the list that I consider to be in any sort of order, there are links to more; happy exploring.
Jack Johnson “Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer” in which Johnson has rewritten the popular song into the tale of self-determination it should have been all along.
Mary Chapin Carpenter’s excellent “Bells are Ringing” from her Come Darkness, Come Light album of a few years back.
Eric Bogle “Santa Bloody Claus”
Chuck Brodsky “Toast to the Woman in the Holler”
The Be Good Tanyas “Rudy”
Mary Gauthier “Christmas in Paradise”
Eric Brace and Peter Cooper “Silent Night”
The Indigo Girls “I Feel the christmas Spirit”
Chris Rea “Driving Home for Christmas”
Chris deBurgh “A Spaceman Came Traveling”
As well as a couple I couldn’t find links to, Jane Hawley “Christmas in Montreal” which is on her Letters to Myself album and Laurie Lewis & Tom Rozum’s entire Winter’s Grace album.
Thanks for checking in at Fervor Coulee. Tomorrow, what I consider the all-time best Roots Christmas Song.
The family is on their way over, so this one is going to be rushed- which is just as well as the song speaks for itself. There is a whole set of Christmas songs that are a bit acerbic in their delivery. While not spiritual or carols in any manner, they have become as much a part of my Christmas as the more traditional fare. Songs like Robert Earl Keen’s “Happy Holidays, Y’all” John Prine’s”Christmas in Prison,” Dar Williams’ “The Christians and the Pagens” and Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis’ “Oklahoma Christmas” are some of these, songs that take a different aim at the season.
The granddaddy of all these is the previously mentioned Robert Earl Keen’s “Merry Christmas from the Family,” a song that requires no commentary. This is the only video I can find on the YouTube as the CMT site is blocked to me. I’ve heard a dozen singers attempt this and only one other has been able to pull it off, John Wort Hannam.
Today’s non-roots song of Christmas is Alison Moyel’s “Coventry Carol.” ‘Nuff said.
Thanks for continuing to visit Fervor Coulee. Only two more days in this series, and as I did not strategically plan out anything on this list except for #1, there are a bunch of songs I’m not going to get to…perhaps I’ll have to do a Bah, Humbug double header tomorrow. Donald
Tonight’s Roots Song of Christmas takes us to Texas; for me to have gone this long without some mention of Texas singer-songwriters is a feat.
Songbird Kimmie Rhodes has been recording rich, original Americana for a couple decades, and during that time, the Austin-based songwriter has used her impressive mastery of words and melody to pull on heartstrings in a manner that has established her as one of the finest, under-recognized voices in roots music. I believe I first encountered her on Austin City Limits, the rose between several thorns named Willie, Waylon, Kris, and Billy Joe. I’ve been an admirer ever since, and have written about her a few times including here and here.
In 2010, Rhodes did something pretty rare- she created a dynamic and compelling Christmas album Miracles onf Christmas Day including but with two standards of the season- including a beautiful rendition of “Carol of the Bells”- and an interpretation of Patty Griffin’s “Mary.” The rest of the material is original, and I dare say each of the songs has something more than a little special about it. Her songs pull listeners into warm embraces of emotion strengthened by reminiscences and hopefulness.
Her greatest achievement within this collection may be “One More White Christmas,” a song in which the hopeful pines -eloquently and without cloyingness- for additional time with that special someone: “That would be the greatest gift for me…one more white Christmas with you.” Knowledge that Rhodes’ husband Joe Gracey passed the year following the release of this plea makes the song that much more poignant.
Miracles on Christmas Day is that rare seasonal offering that stands on its own not only as a beautiful recording but as a thematic exploration that maintains significance outside of December. And “One More White Christmas” is its crowning achievement. Listen to it here.
This evening’s non-roots Christmas song is one that even I sometimes overlook. Rachel Sweet was
Sweet , early 80s
my first ‘favourite’ female singer, I think. I can’t recall any other female in my small collection of cassettes, albums, and 45s prior to 1979 who had grabbed me the way she did from first listen; prior to Sweet, I was all Springsteen, The Who, and Three Dog Night. And David Dundas. Sigh.
If I am not mistaken, “Silver Bells”- released in 1995 and drawn from the Stuart Saves His Family soundtrack- was the last excursion into the commercial music realm for Rachel Sweet, a singer I’ve followed since the summer prior to high school. I suspect the song had been in the can for some time previous to its release as by 1995 Sweet had left music far behind to embark on a career in television acting (including an appearance in the greatest Seinfeld episode of all time, “The Contest”) writing (Sports Night) and production (most recently, Hot in Cleveland).
Sweet, left, set of Hot in Cleveland
With a voice triangulating Brenda Lee, Suzi Quatro, and Sammi Smith, Sweet never had significant sales or chart action, although her first album has become a bit of an underground classic in some quarters; Maria McKee wrote about Fool Around in a 2007 edition of MOJO within the “Last Night a Record Changed My Life” feature. Still, she gives “Silver Bells” some rare swagger and swing, transforming the staid MOR number into something a bit spectacular.
We’re into the homestretch.
Today’s Roots Song of Christmas doesn’t need any written accompaniment; “Old Toy Trains” is two minutes of pure Roger Miller perfection. Nostalgic, I’m sure, even when released in 1967. The song didn’t chart. While my childhood Christmases weren’t quite like this, I wish they had been. YouTube has it here.
I’ve avoided the novelty song thus far. My non-roots song of the day is Garfunkel and Oates’ “Present Face.” From the comedy team of Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome, this one never fails to bring a smile to my face, whether listening or watching. This is another version of the video, not as appealing IMO.
Thanks for spending some time at Fervor Coulee.Donald
Sorry for the delay- I couldn’t get WordPress to cooperate earlier; perhaps I did something wrong.
Over the first five days of Roots Songs of Christmas, we’ve been heavy more often than not. Most of the songs have been on the serious side with only “Wish You A Merry Christmas” lightening things a wee bit. We’ve done the traditional (“The Huron Carol”) and the contemporary classic (“Christmas Must Be Tonight”). We’ve looked at the intentionally downbeat (“Call Collect On Christmas”) and at the depressing (“Get Me Through December). We haven’t yet explored the humourous, cutting side of Christmas songs and that is where I want to take us tonight.
Winterbloom is a collective of four singer-songwriters who come together annually in December for a limited series of appearances. I came across the band a few years ago when I went into a deep Meg Hutchinson phase, includes a review of a previous album. The others in the group are Anne Heaton, Natalia Zukerman, and Antje Duvekot, and three years ago they released an e.p. or very short album entitled Winterbloom: Traditions Rearranged. I discovered it quite by chance and loved it from first listen.
The song I feature tonight is Antje Duvekot’s “Thanks for the Roses (Merry Christmas),” a funny little number that features sharp wit and a warm cleverness that isn’t so smug as to overwhelm the melody, nor so silly as to distract from it. In less than four minutes, it says almost everything that needs to be said about a relationship that is about to snap, and apparently not a moment too soon.
The (not so) little annoyances of one’s partner are known to all of us, and these tend to amplify themselves at times of stress and togetherness- such as the holidays- and when compounded by the inappropriate or thoughtless gift- three sizes too small- there isn’t really any other outcome possible: “the song’s got it right- it’s going to be a silent night.”
It is a song that I have included on almost every Christmas mix tape I’ve made since I first heard it. Each of the eight songs on Traditions Rearranged has something to recommend it. Hutchinson’s “Of The Magi” interprets the O. Henry story and she also is featured on “O Holy Night.” Zukerman’s telling of Greg Brown’s “Rexroth’s Daughter” is near epic. Heaton’s tunes swing. A real beautiful seasonal album, especially great for late night listening.
There are a few clips of this one on YouTube, including this one. There is also a solo version available
Today’s non-Roots Christmas Song of the Day is Brenda Lee, from 1958 “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” She’s one of the best and this rendition has lasted this long for a reason; Lou Ann Barton’s version is also very nice, while Kim Wilde’s recent turn is…memorable?
As always, thanks for visiting FervorCoulee.