Jingle Bells Friday – just two more sleeps…

Photo: J. Aird

Yes, just two more sleeps which is either really really exciting or far too little time.  Or both.  What will be coming under the tree/in the stocking/by Parcelforce a few days late?  Well, hopefully something musical – a new album (have you seen out Top 10 list?  Numbers 1 and 2 come particularly highly recommended), a new instrument (harmonicas are great – especially if they’re Hohner Special 20s), or a ticket for a great gig (our friends at the Americana Music Association UK have a really nice showcase event across six venues over two magical January nights in magical ‘Ackney)  Whatever you’ve got planned, dear reader, whether it is busy busy busy or quiet quiet quiet or something in-between here’s hoping it goes just as you’d wish.

And before we get to the final selection of festive tunes there is a confession needed – there was a bit of a mad rush in the last week and it’s not possible to use everything that came in.  Apologies if you’ve been overlooked – the back up plan is to start this feature in October next year….that’s too early though, isn’t it?  It is.  So an apology it is and here’s to 2023 – the greatest year in music is about to dawn!

Ben Cook-Feltz gets us underway with a song that conjures up a perfect snowbound winter scene on his version of Brian Wilson’s ‘Winter Symphony’.  It’s a song that impressed Ben from the first as he explained: “Winter Symphony” is a lesser-known Brian Wilson song, originally recorded in the 70’s but not released until 1998. The first time I heard it, it blew me away, both the quality of the music and the fact that it sat unreleased for 20 years. I started performing it during the holidays a couple years ago, and when I had some free time in the studio this fall, I decided to record my own version. I wanted to give it the feel of a midwestern field on a cold winter night. Add a little upright bass from Andy Schuster, some atmospheric Thomas Nordlund guitar, and a pinch of eerie synths, and presto! Winter song!

Of course whilst Ben Cook-Feltz may eulogise that deep and crisp and even landscape, Laura Cortese has a more accurate prediction for us with ‘Rainy Christmas‘ which has an amusing back story which also allows us to make a rare Abba reference: “When Dietrich Strause and I independently moved from Boston and its legendary music scene to London, England and Ghent, Belgium, respectively,” says Cortese, “we found solace in the fact that we would never have to shovel our cars out again. To commemorate that freedom, we wrote a retro Christmas song filled with nostalgia for dreary weather of our newfound homes. To record the track, we met up on a rainy day in Room 13 in Ghent, Belgium, and asked friend, composer, and folk fiddler Karl-Johan Ankarblom to arrange strings. A week later, an amazing string quartet added their magic in Benny Andersson’s studio in Stockholm.”

But what would Yule be without some Hurdy-Gurdy?  It wouldn’t be the same – fortunately Medieæval Bæbes are here to ensure that disaster doesn’t occur.  Covering all bases on the video for their recording of ‘Personent Hodie‘ the Bæbes (they kind of insist on the name) go from rocking a monkish look to bringing out their full on Hammer Horror Wiccan vibes.  The song is taken from the new album ‘MydWynter‘ on which the Medieæval Bæbes present “a darker reminder of the pre-Christian origins of the winter festival.”  You probably still get a beer and a spiced fruit pudding, and mulled wine is obviously on the menu so it’s all cool.

Dave Sutherland brings us almost up the date with ‘Nineteen TwentyFour‘ which imagines a man who has been down on his luck, reflecting on his life, lamenting where he failed, recalling who he loved and hoping that someone will remember him this Christmas. The band are pretty impressive: Steve Simpson from the legendary Slim Chance on electric guitar and mandolin, Charlie Hart and Geraint Watkins also from the Slim Chance fold sharing piano duties, Tim Hutton from The Doghouse Derelicts on a plethora of brass, esteemed musicians Malcolm Hoskins and Jim Kimberley on bass and drums respectively, and Welsh songstress Lowri Evans on harmony vocals.  Phew!

And a final contribution for the week…for the year (don’t worry Jingle Bells Friday will reappear with just a little shaking of Fairy Dust in November-ish 2023)….it’s a classic Festive song from David Myles.  As he explains it the song almost chose itself for a makeover: “There’s just nothing as fun as singing a classic Christmas song.  he melodies are so strong and that’s why they stand the test of time. ‘Silver Bells’ is that for me. I find it a particularly interesting one as well because it feels less like a jazz song, like many of the other standards, and more like a country song. I tried to tap into my inner Jim Reeves on this one.  I wanted to see how it would feel with an active bass part, a sweet drum groove, pedal steel, and backup vocals! And it totally paid off. To me, it feels fresh and new but still with that classic melody that is undeniable. It was really fun to make.”

David has been touring his Christmas catalogue earlier this month with his annual ‘Singing For Supper’ tour which raises money and awareness for New Brunswick’s Food Banks.  That really is the festive spirit in action.

And that really is it, so go off and finish that letter to Father Christmas….just two more sleeps, remember?  And hey….here’s a little bonus from the newly remastered and reissued soundtrack album of a true Christmas Classic. Now that’s really it – scat the lot of you!

About Jonathan Aird 2501 Articles
Sure, I could climb high in a tree, or go to Skye on my holiday. I could be happy. All I really want is the excitement of first hearing The Byrds, the amazement of decades of Dylan's music, or the thrill of seeing a band like The Long Ryders live. That's not much to ask, is it?

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