It’s almost December and that means the stats for this blog shoot sky-high as Google searchers find my many Christmas music posts. Not that the Christmas music madness ever really stops around here. I brag — and I’ve seldom been challenged — that I own one of the largest and most diverse collections of Christmas music ever compiled. Go ahead, name a genre — Reggae, Heavy Metal, Gospel, Pop, Latin, Country, Calypso, Lounge — I’ve got at least one CD of Christmas songs represented. That’s not even counting various CDs of traditional Christmas music from countries as wide ranging as Russia, South Africa, Iceland and Brazil. A collection this special shouldn’t just come up for air in December. Andy will tell you I’m perfectly capable of firing up the Christmas playlists in July if I feel we need a little jingle spirit. In addition, a collection such as this is too special not to share. So for several years now, I’ve been compiling some themed Christmas playlists. I’ll be doing that this season. But first, here in one convenient location, are some of the most popular Christmas music posts I’ve put together so far.
A Cowboy Christmas. Let’s start at the obvious point with some ranch-worthy Cowboy Christmas tunes. What isn’t obvious about this playlist is the choice of songs. I’ve resisted the temptation to just pull together the same old Christmas retreads, but sung by various Country and Western stars. My goal was to include songs that really had a Western vibe and a bit of the Western experience. And any student of the West will know that experience wasn’t all Holly Jolly. So, this collection includes Merle Haggard remembering his family’s Dust Bowl era Okie migration experience to Bakersfield with “If We Make It Through December”.
Underplayed Christmas Gems: The Come to Jesus Edition. Underneath all the elves and Santas in the mall, Christmas is a religious holiday. This playlists embraces that and aims to have you testifyin’. But this is NOT your pastor’s Christmas list. I doubt that he’d mix Mahalia Jackson, Johnny Cash and the Brian Setzer Orchestra. But I think it works.
Underplayed Christmas Gems: The Dance Party Edition. Now let’s get up on our feet. But if you think this will be heavy on the Disco or House Music, think again. I’m trying to get you to bust every move you’ve ever imagined with Christmas tunes that move you to Cha Cha, Swing, Rock and Cajun Two Step beats.
Christmas Cocktails. Ring a Ding Ding! I’m a huge fan of the music my parents used to listen to and what has been repackaged as “Lounge”. This post is not so much a playlist as it is my five favorite Lounge Christmas compilation CDs. It only scratches the surface of the great Lounge Christmas music that’s out there, but it will give you a good sampler.
An African American Christmas. Call it an early Kwanzaa present, but here’s my attempt to span the full spectrum of classic African American music — from Gospel to Blues to Jazz — and tie it up with a big Christmas bow. This playlist is pretty traditional. But since I have Hip-Hop, Rap, Reggae, Calypso Christmas music, I sense the need for a second list. For now, consider this the Old Skool contribution.
The Best Christmas Songs You’ve Never Heard. This collection crosses genres. Many of the songs are from some of the more obscure reaches of my collection — such as Calypso legend Lord Nelson’s “A Party for Santa Claus”. But some are somewhat familiar songs that, in my humble opinion, take on legendary status when finally sung by the right artist. Case in point: “Silver Bells” is done ad nauseum. But as performed by Elvis Presley, it’s a revelation. If you listen to the lyrics, this song always sounds as if it’s sung from the point of view of a wide-eyed rube. An unsophisticated country boy who is experiencing a city Christmas for the first time. Well, no one is more the epitome of the white trash country boy making the big time than Elvis. I imagine him singing this on his first day up from Tupelo. He sees the bright lights of Memphis. And the rest is history.
There. That’ll get you started. Now watch this space and I’ll try to get more playlists and undiscovered gems up through the month of December. But in the meantime, here’s a bonus carol straight from the ranch.
Splendid list, including many of my faves. May I modestly suggest a few more to add to your fabulous collection? First, one of the most beautiful collections of traditional Breton carols: Noëls Celtiques by the Ensemble Choral du Bout du Monde. Next: December Stillness by the now disbanded, and lamented, Dale Warland Singers. A beautiful collection of mostly contemporary music, sung with impeccable musicality; as clear and crisp as a Minnesota winter’s day. Love Tchaikovsky, but check out the Ellington version: Harlem Nutcracker…fun! Another Kathleen Battle fave: Angel’s Glory wi the glorious Christopher Parkening. In honor of our SFT namesake: Django Bells, by the Gypsy Hombres; what Nashville session musicians play when left to their own devices 🙂 Bells of Dublin by the Chieftains, more fun than an Irish house party and finishes with my favorite trad tune of all time : “Once in Royal David’s City.” Finanally, our own Northwest superstars Pink Martini with their CD “Joy to the World.” Of course, it goes without saying that anything by the King’s College Choir is the best. I know there are so many more. Joyeux Noël, Glaedelig Jul, Happy Christmas and
Guess what? I have ALL of these except for the Dale Warland Singers. I just haven’t gotten around to fitting them in a playlist. (I told you my collection was huge and varied.)