Archive for the ‘Alternative Christmas Music’ Category

I Am Gonna Make It Through This Year If It Kills Me

December 31, 2016

I always try to close the year with at least one version of Auld Lang Syne. I found a wonderful Andrew Bird version but I bumped it to 2017 (the Lord willing). I bumped Bird because I discovered a brilliant rendition from Hey Rosetta!, the very talented Canadian Band I featured back on December 23.

However, prior to that…The Mountain Goats.
The Mountain Goats is (yes ‘is’ is correct) a band originally made up of one guy, John Darnielle. Since back in 1991 Darnielle has recorded and released hundreds of songs many of which are categorized as “lo-fidelity” recordings (he recorded the songs into a boombox and onto cassettes and released them as is). After developing a cult following, Darnielle was rewarded with a recording contract and eventually formed the band.

In 2005, The Mountain Goats released the album The Sunset Tree, a recording Darnielle penned following the death of his abusive father. Tonight I’m featuring the song This Year from that record. It’s not a happy song but the “I am going to make it through this year if it kills me” seems to fit well as we head into 2017.

And quickly back to Hey Rosetta! (the exclamation point is part of the name btw.) They released a four-song Christmas EP back in 2012 (A Cup of Kindness Yet). The EP features a lovely rendition of Auld Lang Syne titled New Year Song.

NEW YEAR SONG

lend me a walking stick and i’ll lean on it
and i’ll walk on out through the snowbound yard
past the neighbours on the lawn, drinking last year out
i’ll leave this town, cut the year off clean

cauterized by leaving, sick and tired of living last year

roll out the tarmac and baptize the aircraft ‘escape and loss’
and push me off

the cold can bleach us out and freeze our doubt
so all that you knew becomes muffled and mute

i’m done with this all this standing stiff
when i move my mouth only snow comes out

euthanized by whiteness but i’ll arise, despite this last year

so roll out the tarmac and baptize the aircraft ‘escape and loss’
and push me off

should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?
should old acquaintance be forgot, and old lang syne?

for auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

And that’s a wrap for 2016. Thanks for following this blog. I hope you’ve discovered a couple of new Christmas tunes for your holiday playlists. Remember you can easily follow and message me via Facebook.  Lord willing, I’ll see you back next year on Thanksgiving Day (Thursday November 23rd). Happy New Year!

The Mountain Goats
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This Year – The Mountain Goats

New Year Song – Hey Rosetta!

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Eddi Reader’s Take On Baïlèro

December 30, 2016

Chants d’Auvergne (Songs of the Auvergne) is a collection of folk songs from the Auvergne region of France arranged for soprano voice and orchestra or piano by Joseph Canteloube between 1923 and 1930. The songs are in the local language, Occitan. The best known of the songs is the “Baïlèro”, which has been frequently recorded and performed in slight variations of Canteloube’s arrangement, such as for choir or instrumental instead of the original soprano solo. Baïlèro is commonly referred to as The Shepherd’s Song.

Eddi Reader is a singer/songwriter from Scotland. I featured her version of Auld Lang Syne on New Year’s Eve last year. In December of 2006 Reader released the record Peacetime. On it is her take on Baïlèro. In the record’s liner notes Reader says she learned this song as a child and rewrote the lyrics for a Christmas concert where the band of the Coldstream Guards were available to accompany her.

The Shepherd’s Song

snow, a blanket of snow has fallen
and I’m calling for my little lost ones
only in my arms you’ll stay
far from harm’s way

hold each other tight you’ll be alright
I was once a lost one
out abandoned in the snow
but now I know

near, I will appear beside you
when you’re falling, oh my little lost one
and in my loving arms you’ll stay
far from harm’s way

and in my loving arms you’ll stay
far from harm’s way

Whether it’s one of the many takes on the operatic original version, or Reader’s lovely take on The Shepherd’s Song, it’s a song you should have in your Christmas playlist.

Eddi Reader
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The Shepherd’s Song Eddi Reader

Winter Song

December 28, 2016

The Head and The Heart is a Seattle-based band that formed in 2009 and released their first record in 2011. Their style and sound has been described as a cross between the Avett Brothers and Fleet Foxes.

Included on their self-titled first record is Winter Song — it’s not a Christmas tune per se, but it is indeed a Winter Song. It’s officially been winter for a week — so I’ll feature it tonight.

For what it’s worth, I live in Wisconsin — The Head & The Heart is playing at The Orpheum Theater in Madison, WI Feb 21 & 22, 2017 (the band Whitney opens the show).

Interesting read on The Head & The Heart via Rolling Stone here.

The Head & The Heart
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Winter Song – The Head & The Heart

Home For Christmas – Live From Daryl’s House

December 27, 2016

Although he has also had some success as a solo artistDaryl Hall is best known as one half of the legendary musical duo Hall & Oates.  Since 2007, he has been performing with various artists in his own home on “Live From Daryl’s House,” which began as an online series before becoming a weekly TV show in 2011. In the series, Hall collaborates with both established artists and newcomers to the music scene.

On the show from 12/11/2012, Hall teamed up with country star Shelby Lynne on several Christmas tunes including the title track from the Hall & Oates 2006 Christmas release, Home For Christmas. I’ll feature that tune and a bluesy number titled XMAS.

Live From Daryl’s House
Shelby Lynne

Home For Christmas – Live From Daryl’s House

XMAS – Live From Daryl’s House

The Sounding Joy – Merry Christmas

December 25, 2016

The Sounding Joy is a spirited collection of folk carols drawn from Ruth Crawford Seeger’s 1953 songbook American Folk Songs for Christmas. Featuring Elizabeth Mitchell and a luminary list of her musical family, friends, and neighbors, this album celebrates the spirit of community and homespun traditions that existed in times before the commercialization of Christmas. Natalie Merchant, Aoife O’Donovan, Amy Helm, John Sebastian, Dan Zanes, Happy Traum, and many others including special guest Peggy Seeger all add their voices to pay tribute to a collection revered in the canon of American Music.

This is great music!
Merry Christmas and thanks for following. I’ll be posting through the end of the year.

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Baby Born Today – Elizabeth Mitchell & Friends

January, February (Last Month of the Year) – Elizabeth Mitchell and Friends

Oh, Mary and the Baby, Sweet Lamb – Elizabeth Mitchell & Friends

Dedicated To All The New Empty Nesters Out There

December 24, 2016

My wife and I became empty nesters this year, as did my neighbors and a few people at church. Tonight’s post is for all of the empty nesters however old or young who are missing having their kids around. I’ll feature two songs, Everything’s Changed At Christmas But You and Who Knows Where The Time Goes? It’s gonna be a melancholy Christmas Eve.

Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors are led by the husband/wife team of Drew & Ellie Holcomb. The band formed in 2003 and have released ten records including A Neighborly Christmas in 2007 and Another Neighborly Christmas in 2012. There are but two original songs on both — one is Everything’s Changed At Christmas But You. I’ll let an iTunes reviewer describe it:

OMG, Everything’s Changed at Christmas but You, is the most touching holiday song I have ever heard. It makes me cry every single time. An absolute holiday staple!

“Now the kids are growing old
They’ve got stories of their own
No more hiding presents in the closet
No more waiting up all night
Staring at the firelight
Little footsteps giving way to sight
Where there once were many stockings
Now there’s only two
Everything’s changed at Christmas but you”

Everything’s Changed At Christmas But You should be in your Christmas playlist. 

The second song I’m featuring is Sandy Denny’s Who Knows Where The Time Goes. Denny wrote the song in 1967. It was discovered shortly afterwards by Judy Collins who recorded it and released it as the B-side to Both Sides Now in 1968. The song has been covered by dozens of artists including Nina Simone, Nancy Griffith, 10,000 Maniacs,  Kate Rusby, Sinead O’Connor and many more.  I was going to feature Renee Fleming’s wonderful version of it but decided to back to Sandy Denny’s original as it really holds up well.  Denny btw is the female vocalist who teamed up with Robert Plant on The Battle of Evermore on Led Zeppelin’s fourth record. Denny died tragically in 1978 as the result of complications after falling down stairs and hitting her head.

Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors
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Sandy Denny
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Everything’s Changed At Christmas But You – Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors

Who Knows Where The Time Goes? – Sandy Denny
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Travelling Day

December 23, 2016

I reserve December 23rd for songs about travelling home for Christmas as this day is traditionally knows as the busiest travel day of the year.
Tonight I’m featuring The Jigsaw Jam & Keith O’Brien singing, I’m Coming Home, The Clever & The Casual with Home For The Holidays and Hey Rosetta! with Carry Me Home.

Other than they’re a alt-folk band from Dublin, I can find very little information on The Jigsaw Jam & Keith O’Brien. They have a Facebook page that has a very recent post (the video I’m featuring tonight) but then nothing since October of 2015. They have no tour dates and their website, thejigsawjam.com is dead. And just try googling “Keith O’Brien Dublin.” It’s a pretty big list.

The band released I’m Coming Home in December of 2012. The song’s video features clips from Irish people now living abroad, sending messages of love to their families and friends at home in Ireland. It’s very good.

Likewise, other than scant information on their Facebook page, I could find very little background information on The Clever & The Casual. Their FB bio simply states they are Alex & Chuck who are “just two guys with nothing better to do”  while their bandcamp page says they’re from Carol Stream, IL (not terribly far from me in Wisconsin). Very humble description from two very good songwriters. You can listen and download (for free) their excellent EP, Greetings From here. On that EP is Home For The Holidays — there isn’t a video for this song so I’ll link to soundcloud below. Well worth a listen.

Lastly is this amazing tune Carry Me Home from Hey Rosetta! I came across this song within the last week and I don’t recall how. But I’m very glad I did. Hey Rosetta! is from Canada (the third Canadian band I’ve featured this year Fortunate Ones on Dec 6 and Lost Fingers on December 7) and formed in 2005. They’ve released four studio albums and several EPs. The Christmas EP, A Cup of Kindness Yet is tremendous. I’ll feature Carry Me Home tonight and then New Year Song on New Year’s Eve.

The Jigsaw Jam & Keith O’Brien
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The Clever and The Casual
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Hey Rosetta!
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I’m Coming Home – The Jigsaw Jam & Keith O’Brien

Home For The Holidays – The Clever & The Casual
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Carry Me Home – Hey Rosetta!

TBT

December 22, 2016

Just one throwback thursday this year.

Way back in 1979, record producer Chris Christian released On This Christmas Night, a compilation of Christmas music from artists signed to MCA Songbird. It featured BJ Thomas, Dan Peek (of America fame), BW Stevenson (co-writer and original singer of My Maria), Tennessee Ernie Ford, a very young Amy Grant (she was 19) and several others.

Reba Rambo is also featured on this recording. Reba is a former Dove Award winner who has written songs for Andrae Crouch, Donna Summer and Sandi Patti. She sings an original on this record, The Whole World Is Colored With Love. I’ll feature that song and BJ Thomas’ God Bless The Children tonight.

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The Whole World Is Colored With Love – Reba Rambo

God Bless The Children – BJ Thomas

Tony Hadley – Former Lead Singer of Spandau Ballet

December 21, 2016

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that while researching music for this blog, there are always a few times where I’m blown away by a song. Tony Hadley’s cover of  Train’s, Shake Up Christmas is one of the four or five I discovered this year that indeed blow me away. Hadley is in fine form and it’s a great tune.

Hadley is the former lead singer of the 80’s band, Spandau Ballet (their biggest hit was True). The band broke up in 1989 and Hadley has been performing as a solo artist ever since (including playing Jesus for BBC 2 Radio’s Jesus Christ Superstar in 1996). And after a few attempts, Spandau Ballet has reformed – link below.

Last year Hadley released The Christmas Album and it’s actually quite good (although his version of Fairytale of New York is tamed down considerably). The record does face the same criticism I have of most new Christmas records in that it’s difficult to breathe new life into well worn holiday stand-bys. Hadley does cover of several modern day holiday hits very well including Keane’s Somewhere Only We Know,  and Chris Rea’s Drivin’ Home For Christmas. He also gives UK glam band Mud’s “Lonely For Christmas the respect it deserves instead of performing it as a novelty song (as Mud generally did). Hadley even does a lovely job with English boy band East 17’s Stay Another Day. In addition to all that, he includes three original tunes and covers Train’s Shake Up Christmas from their 2015 Christmas record. Not being a fan of Train, I didn’t give their Christmas release a listen — I have since and well, it’s still Train. However, Shake Up Christmas is a great song and Hadley nails it. I have no idea if this song gets radio airplay. It should.

Tony Hadley
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Shake Up Christmas – Tony Hadley

Shane & Shane & Phil Wickham

December 20, 2016

Shane Barnard and Shane Everett are two friends from Texas who met while attending Texas A&M University and formed a band which eventually became, cleverly enough, Shane & Shane.

They built a studio and regularly collaborate with fellow musicians. For their most recent record, Bring Your Nothing, they invited several friends and recorded most of the record live and in seven days. Pretty cool.

In 2008, Shane & Shane released Glory In The Highest: A Christmas Record and then A Worship Christmas Initiative in 2014. They’re both pretty good but both were met with mixed reviews. Shane & Shane have a breezy, acoustic jazzy feel and both records reflect that style. You can check both out in the links below. I’m not featuring either but instead will focus on their work with another Christian artist.

Over the past few years the duo has teamed up with fellow Christian artist Phil Wickham for a Christmas tour (they’re on one of those tours right now). And tonight I’ll feature Shane & Shane and Phil performing O Holy Night and The First Noel.

More on Shane & Shane
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Phil Wickham
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The First Noel – Shane & Shane featuring Phil Wickham

O Holy Night – Shane & Shane featuring Phil Wickham

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