Welcome back to our seasonal feature Jingle Bells Friday where we celebrate all the joys of a festive season that abounds with snow and good will and gift giving and….arguments and drunkenness and heartbreak. This is, after all, the Americana view of having a good time.
This year Christmas really did start early for us at Americana UK Towers – our first song was offered to us in July. Hey, no judgment. July. No, no, it’s fine. To save their blushes though they won’t be the first song featured this year – but don’t worry, they will be featured. Instead we’re going to start the season by setting the bar really high. Tom Paxton and John McCutcheon have a new album ‘Together‘ which features 14 songs culled from around a hundred or so that the two veteran folk singers wrote during their regular pandemic Zoom calls. There’s something of a retelling of a nativity story in ‘Christmas In The Desert‘, and is one of the rare songs featured on Americana UK that mentions trucks. We don’t hate trucks, we just generally hate songs that have trucks in them. But not this one. This is a new Christmas standard, prepare to wipe that corner of your eye as you hear the lines “I got them into Flagstaff dropped them at the ER door / This Christmas just felt better than all the ones before / Two kids out on the highway out of money, out of luck / the miracle that they got was just me and my old truck.”
There’s a mix of sweetness and the bitter dregs of regret and loneliness on ‘Late December Low‘ from Bjoern Nilsen, recording as Nilsen’s Southern Harmony. The sun may still rise, he notes but it’s all meaningless when you’re “standing on the sidewalk / a pocketful of mistletoe/ Late December Low.” Someone get the guy a drink…
Nicky Schrire is also having an attack of the blues this ‘Yuletide‘, wandering lonely streets amid glimmering lights and snow but, it would appear, wandering alone and perhaps wishing that was not the case. It’s quite a pretty melancholy though, and Nicky Schrire is ably assisted by Grammy award-winning violinist Drew Jurecka (Dua Lipa) who adds a string quartet arrangement, while pianist Chris Donnelly and bassist Dan Fortin round out the accompaniment.
Is this getting a bit…sad? That’s not what we need at any time, and especially at Christmas. I have always thought of it “as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave…” Oh Blimey, death again? This won’t do, could someone call in The Storm Windows? Yes, the duo of brothers Rob (on guitar) and Don (upright bass) Mathews can be relied on to lift the mood. As Rob explains the song came about because: “It occurred to us that we should have a Christmas song, like many of our musical heroes. So we wrote one. A Christmas song is a good place to be optimistic while still noting that there are a lot of things out there that need fixing. We tried to make it thoughtful, but light. Plus, like we say in the song, we really like the holiday season.” Us too.
As we’ve mentioned before Christmas is just not Christmas without a banjo – so luckily we have one here on the last song for this week. Cuddle Magic can be seen crammed into a bathroom to record their version of ‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel‘. The group’s six members are conservatory-trained and lifelong friends, and the arrangement is by two members of the band the brothers Christopher and Jeremy MacDonald, and it aims to invoke a calm and peaceful spirit. White rum infused with coconut is a calm and peaceful spirit…just saying.
And that’s enough Christmas / Winteral / Yuletide / Solstice / Not having to go to work time songs to carry you, dear reader, into the weekend. And if we’ve prompted you to get on with the Christmas tasks then we hope it’s something positive like the Christmas cards (very cottagecore you know) – could this finally be the year they get posted before December? Remember it’s not about gifts, it’s about connections and re-connections.