Here is a flawless, beautifully produced cover of one of the most striking Christmas songs. Yes, it’s a little early but just take note of those lyrics: “So this is Xmas and what have you done? // Another year over and a new one just begun.” How many of us long for this year to be over with the opportunity for a fresh start when a new year begins? John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s words and ideas are as relevant in 2020 as they have ever been: “And so this is Xmas // For weak and for strong…For black and for white.”
This version of ‘Happy Xmas (War is Over)’ is all about the mesmerising vocals that flow back and forth, elevating the song, as it builds, to something like a hymn. It is taken from Calexico’s new Christmas offering, ‘Seasonal Shift’, which is due for release on 4th December. This well-chosen cover reflects the album’s theme of reflecting on the year that has passed and acknowledging it, for better or worse.
Vocalist and guitarist Joey Burns says of the song: “I love this song and I love the universality of the lyrics and the call and response sea of voices. I decided to start as quiet as possible and find out how loud and massive we could make this song build. There’s a touch of bittersweet added with Connor Gallaher’s slow bending pedal steel that combined with the trumpets that frames this song in a very southwestern, familiar tradition for us, but it’s the vocals that really carry this tune for me and the way the chorus keeps going. We decided to not stop as the original had and see what would happen if we kept the trance and mantra going. This is something that we would do live onstage a lot and felt really good to try it at home in our makeshift studios scattered around the globe. I love how spread out we all are. Gives a sense of pride especially in these times.”
Christmas is allowed to start early for songs and performances like this. Start the bells ringing.