Unlike most easy listening radio stations and large department stores, I don’t start the holiday music until about a week before Christmas.
And it’s not that I don’t love Brenda Lee, but I can only take so much rocking around trees and decking the halls before the songs start to sound like week-old fallen snow.
So turn off the radio and spend your holidays with something slightly different.
Cyndi Lauper – Merry Christmas, Have A Nice Life!
Perfect for tree decorating, cookie baking or anything else that you might be doing this season that could use a few extra dance steps. She gave the standards like Silent Night a face lift while leaving room for the more quirky Minnie and Santa and Christmas Conga.
John Prine – A John Prine Christmas
Day before Christmas and Fourth of July notwithstanding, John’s favorite holiday is Christmas as he shares in his litany of Christmas Credentials which include eating an ornament at age three, getting his first guitar, and getting married to his high school sweetheart the day after Christmas. His gift suggestions? A cuckoo clock or a snow globe. Or you could go with the six original tracks on this album.
Kate and Anna McGarrigle – The McGarrigle Christmas Hour
When your family includes Rufus and Martha Wainwright and you can call on friends like Emmylou Harris, Lily and Dane Lanken and Chaim Tannenbaum Christmas becomes a very musical time indeed. The semi-eclectic French Canadian duo invite listeners back into their home for another hour of beautiful tunes. The best songs are the Il Est Ne, Spotlight on Christmas, the cover of Jackon Browne’s The Rebel Jesus and Emmylou’s version of O Little Town of Bethlehem.
Asleep at the Wheel – Merry Texas Christmas, Y’all
Ray Benson and the gang swing through the holidays with songs like Jingle Bell Boogie, Merry Texas Christmas, Y’all and Christmas in Jail. There’s also the classics like Feliz Navidad featuring Tish Hinojosa and Pretty Paper with who else, Willie Nelson. Ray also narrates his own version of the poem T’was the Night Before Christmas with forlorn music deprived cowboys at the ranch that are rescued by buses, semis and ten limousines carrying the likes of Willie, Waylon, ZZ Top, Jerry Jeff Walker, Delbert McClinton, and the ghosts of Bob Wills, Tex Ritter, Buddy Holly, Janis Joplin and Stevie Ray Vaughn.
Jill Sobule – It’s The Thought That Counts
Always ready with the unconventional take on anything, Jill brought holiday music to a new place with this six song set that includes Robert Earl Keen’s Merry Christmas From The Family and Jesus Was A Dreidel Spinner (the later was replaced by the former on the 1995 release of You Sleigh Me, a compilation of alternative Christmas songs).
Some other various favorites:
Emmylou Harris – Light in the Stable
Gene Autry – The Complete Columbia Christmas Recordings
Johnny Cash – A Johnny Cash Christmas DVD
Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers – Once Upon a Christmas
Willie Nelson – Pretty Paper
Chris Issak – Chris Issak Christmas
And some holiday singles worth a listen:
Carolyn Wonderland – Blue Lights
Lyle Lovett – Christmas Morning
Bonnie Raitt with Charles Brown – Merry Christmas, Baby
Loudon Wainwright III – Suddenly It’s Christmas
Loretta Lynn – Country Christmas
The Pretenders – Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas and 2000 Miles
Tom Waits – Christmas Card From A Hooker in Minneapolis and Ruby’s Arms (both of which mention Christmas though are not exactly what you’d call carols)