Jingle Bells Friday – welcome to the bleak midwinter

Photo: J. Aird

Well, here we are at last with the first edition of Jingle Bells Friday for this year’s festive season.  We’ve had a bumper crop of yule-themed songs already so to (hopefully!) fit them all in we’re starting whilst still on the cusp of December.  Sure, we may be heading for a Winter of Discontent thanks to soaring fuel bills, economic mismanagement on a heroic scale (£120Million for the festival of Brexit that no-one went to – gosh, thanks so much) and a record 12th year of austerity.  Your local library, has it survived, may now be a “Warm Bank“.  But you can still rely on Americana UK to bring you the best of the season’s songs – old songs re-imagined, new songs featuring snow and burning logs, and doubtless some over-indulgence in drink and who knows maybe some near-homicidal thoughts brought on by enforced proximity with those not-so-loved ones.  It’s going to be great – or, at least, “interesting.”

First up we have the sweet rocking sound of The Smithereens with their take on the classic ‘Run Rudolph Run‘ – it comes from ‘Christmas With The Smithereens‘ which was rereleased on vinyl on November 18, 2022.  Featuring ’60s covers – including a rare Beatles track from their fan club disc – alongside originals which are very much in the spirit of the songs they sit alongside.  Can you tell which are which?  Of course you can dear music obsessive reader.

If you’re looking for something more traditional you could always try The Old Crow Medicine Show who are trimming the tree and honkey-tonking under the mistletoe in Nashville.  And if you’re still looking for Yuletide presents, The Old Crow Medicine Show are playing the Country To Country festival in March next year.

However, if you’re looking for a John Prine cover then you’re in luck as next up is ‘Christmas in Prison‘ by ambient shoegaze-folk artist Aarktica (aka Jon DeRosa).  Jon says of the song “When I heard “Christmas in Prison” with its lilting waltz rhythm, beautiful vocal melody and lyrics that were sad, sentimental and funny all at once, I knew it was the one.  The imagery Prine conjures up in the lyrics is also so vivid and poetic. Prine once said about the song, “It’s about a person being somewhere like a prison, in a situation they don’t want to be in. And wishing they were somewhere else”.

And having mentioned ambient, here’s an opportunity to go the whole instrumental route….with Davis Causey & Jay Smiths‘ version of ‘White Christmas‘ which comes from the album ‘Pickin’ on Christmas.’  It’s a poignant track as Davis explains: “This project came about in 1998 as a limited run of 100 CDs to be given as Christmas presents from Jay and myself to friends, relatives, etc. It was so special to me to collaborate with Jay on this project. He was one of the nicest and most talented musicians I’ve had the privilege of playing with! Unfortunately, Jay passed soon after we finished recording ‘Pickin’ On Christmas’. I’m so thankful we have these recordings to keep his spirit and great playing alive for others to appreciate and enjoy! So with great love and affection, I dedicate this recording to Jay – love you brother.

And here’s just one more song for this week, something to really get you into that reflective festive mood.  Canadian Andrea England knows another meaning of the season, as she explains on ‘Jolly Melancholy Christmas‘ which takes a look at that first year that someone is missing.  As she says: “I like to keep it real, as much as possible, in songs and in life.  When I think of Christmas, and the holidays, the first one is always the hardest when you’ve lost someone. Every ‘first’ without them is hard, not only for me, but for all of us.

We’ll be back with more next Jingle Bells Friday – stay tuned!

About Jonathan Aird 2720 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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