What to Listen to This Christmas!
HERE ARE THE BEST NEW HOLIDAY SINGLES & ALBUMS OF 2021
by Dash Archer
The Imaginaries Release “Christmas Town” – Partnering With EDC For Festival Of Light and More
Oklahoma native’s The Imaginaries deliver all the Christmas cheer with this fun and free-spirited holiday number called “Christmas Town.” The band, comprised of Maggie McClure and Shane Henry, are best known for blending a fine balance of blues, Americana and pop melodies together. Both the song and video will help usher in the Chickasaw Festival of Lights. (Named by Forbes magazine as one of the best light displays in the USA).
After spending many holidays in Chickasha, the duo were inspired to pen this song and it transcends as a sort of anthemic song for Christmas. “Chickasha truly is the quintessential ‘Christmas Town’ says McClure and further describes the place as a “warm welcoming community”. The song is playful and the two lead voices blend perfectly together.
The Festival of Lights event is taking place November 20 – December 31 and is slated to be filled with parades, music, food trucks and more. If you plan to be on the Chickasha, OK area during the holidays, visit here for more info.
Holiday Swingin! A Kat Edmonson Christmas Vol 1
After making a touching contribution NPR Morning Edition Song project, an appearance on Letterman and much more, Kat Edmonson delivers a Christmas gem.
There is so much to enjoy about this album by Edmonson. It’s not just a classic-feeling Jazz album with all the usual songs played in the usual ways. But these holiday favorites and staples, truly feel re-imagined all held together with Kat’s very rich and unique trill. Tons of effortless charm and attitude fall off each words as she sings, truly committed to delivering an experience.
The standout songs for me were “White Christmas,” “The Christmas Blues” (Where Edmonson’s raw emotion is on full display), “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm” and “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem.” Her voice is so unique, like Peggy Lee, Norah Jones and Eartha Kitt rolled into one dynamo, that these songs breathed new life. Very enjoyable listen!
It has also just been announced that Kat has been cast as a principal actor in Taylor Mac’s play The Hang, set to begin performances this January in NYC. The play imagines the final hours of Socrates’ life, and is a celebration of queerness, questions, and the eternity of the moment.
Lori McKenna’s debut holiday EP Christmas Is Right Here
So much can be said the body of work and career of Lori McKenna who is a three-time grammy winner. Best known for writing hit songs for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill and dozens more of country music’s darlings, Lori has a strong and true worth within all of her work. So it was nice to see that this Christmas album was conceived with the share tenacity. McKenna shares “It was such a joy making this holiday music with my Nashville family of cowriters, musicians and friends. I feel like we hit on some of the emotions that come with the holidays – the easy feelings and the harder ones.”
The selection of songs starts with the Paul McCartney classic “Wonderful Christmastime.” In this arrangement, it feels every bit like something McKenna would write. The instrumentation throughout he EP is very much akin to her large back catalogue. Winding acoustic instruments and organic production together with an airy and easy-going vocal approach. After this peppy staple, it leads right into the somewhat sad and McKenna-esque “Christmas Without Crying.” It’s as beautiful as it is somber. It continues down this raw and real path til it hits the hopeful “Hail Mary” and closes on “Grateful.” Really easy-going listen from start to finish.
Serabee Brings It Home This Year With Her Holiday Song “This Christmas”
Hailing from Kiln, Mississippi, Serabee has roots in the American south. Her name and voice may sound familiar to you as she was a contestant on a prior season of The Voice. TV shows come and go but a voice like hers reminds you that few of those contestants have the heart of an artist. As Sera puts it “I was born on a Saturday and singing on a Sunday”.
This Christmas song is particularly hopeful with its message. It unravels with a lyric about missing loved ones at Christmas, a message broad enough to transcend the usual relationship tones. If Covid has taught us anything, it’s that sometimes you are physically unable to see the ones you love. So this song resonated with me with a firm honesty. If you’re a fan of bold American south voices, you’ll love this one. https://www.serabeemusic.com
Ken Pomeroy’s Album Christmas Lights in April
Horton Records presents us with OK songstress Ken Pomeroy. At just 19 years old, this is the second release from the up-comer. If you love artists like Joni Mitchell and Patty Griffin, you will take an immediate shine to Pomeroy.
With effortless vocals and folk-layered production there is a breezy tone to the whole Christmas album. Standouts on this release for me were definitely “Magnolia” and the bittersweet “White Noise” has elements that lean Mccartney at times. “His Eyes” affirms a poignant and vulnerable side of her that I was hoping to hear. The title track “Christmas Lights In April” finishes out the album. This seems like this an album set up to the played throughout January and February. It contains some of the winter and Christmas notes usually found in this genre, but leaves me wanting to hear more.
Suzanne’s Band’s Holiday Songs – 2 x singles
Rootsy production and a strong vocal, Suzanna’s Band offers us two new Christmas songs this year. First up there is “Underneath The Tree” where a scaled back instrumentation including fiddle and some light percussion play as Suzanna describes “underneath the tree is where love grows”. It warms and builds throughout the song.
Then there is “One More Night of Christmas” where the lyrics talk about wanting one more night of Christmas, but really this is a love song that winds romantic themes into the story. If you need a break from the usual Christmas songs you hear on repeat, Suzanne’s Band offers you some great original holiday songs. https://suzannesband.com
The Festive Folk of Joe Newberry & April Verch’s Holiday Album On This Christmas Day
Ever since their first year of playing together in 2016, Joe Newberry and April Verch have performed their eagerly awaited holiday tours around the U.S. Their new recording project, On This Christmas Day, is a true representation of organic folk and Americana music played with style and skill. This album brings together a heartwarming collective of 11 stories and makes for a very good listen. Some songs including “Round The Christmas Tree” include bubbly banjo and spritely vocals. And “Christmas Eve” showcases bright and present fiddle ad plucky banjos dueling right from start to finish. And this serves as a great reset musically.
Favorites included “On This Christmas Day,” “Martin Luther’s Tree,” “Round The Christmas Tree” and the anthemic “First Day of the Year.”
This album is folk-infused but has all the trimmings of a true Christmas album. https://aprilverch.com/about/newberry-verch/
“Jingle Bells” by Thelen Creative
“If Halloween & Christmas music had a baby, this version of ‘Jingle Bells’ could be it.” That is how Thelen Creative describe their cover of the 1889 Christmas song.
This version of “Jingle Bells” is a true unique approach. Meaning, even though I was halfway through the song, I forgot multiple times I was listening to Jingle Bells. From it’s roots inspired musical approach to the vocal that leans in the direction of Tom Waits, this version is unlike any I’ve heard. Minor chords sprinkled into the song at will coupled with a raspy voice. What I love about this song is that they truly went bold with the arrangement. And it pays off. For a familiar, yet bourbon and egg nog soaked listen, this one’s for you. https://thelencreative.com/thelen-creative
Richard Lynch Has A New Christmas Song “Christmas Time”
Richard Lynch is a chart topping traditional country music artist. And the lead song “Christmas Time” is the perfect way to start the season. Rich and deep vocal tones wrapped in pedal steel is the anchor that holds this song down. The chorus springs into “Oh I’m a kid again and grandpa threw a log on the fire”. These lyrics paint an idyllic image of Christmas complete with family and traditions tracing back generations.
After the 2019 release of “I saw santa fishing” followed up by the 2020 single “I saw santa balin’ hay”, the new single “Christmas Time” reels it in. This one is an easy listen for lovers of true country legends like George Jones and Alan Jackson. https://richardlynchband.com/album/2081630/christmas-time
The Twangtown Paramours Play Nice and Naughty with Their New Holiday Single, “My Gingerbread Man.”
MaryBeth Zamer and Mike T. Lewis are the Twangtown Paramours. And as Mike from the band explains it “‘My Gingerbread man’ is 40% nice and 60% naughty”. It blends elements of 60’s rock and roll with Americana and Jazz flavors in a very fun way. With big band elements, brass and a sultry vocal, the chorus lyric proclaims “let’s get naughty it’ll be so nice”.
You can audibly hear this award-winning husband and wife team unravel this song in a playful and upbeat fashion. It’s an easy listen and one you’re sure to put on repeat as it’s captures the essence of Christmas parallel to “Santa Baby” and other more light-hearted numbers from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. https://www.thetwangtownparamours.com
Christian Simeon “How Xmas Was” Featuring Lt Thomas.
Country Music Christmas Indeed! “Xmas Ain’t The Way It Used To Be. I Used To Watch My Grand Pa Chop That Pine Wood Tree. See Kids Playing Deep Down In The Snow. And My Mom And Dad Kissing Under The Mistletoe.” This is “How Xmas Was” opens by alt-country artist Christian Simeon. It tells the story of a gathering together once a year. Opening presents and feeling a general sense of joy. Eating a great meal together and describing the childhood family home. With all of the joyful imagery there is also a bittersweet notion sewn into the song. Like Christian wants to go back to those moments and stay there. Almost delivers as wistful in sections.
This contemporary approach to a Christmas song is a great representation of how the tradition and familiar themes of the holidays can also be applied to more delicate lyrical content. There is something deeper to be found in this song. https://music.apple.com/us/artist/christian-simeon/331353885
Goldschatz Christmas EP It’s For Christmas.
Americana duo Goldschatz share three shiny new Holiday songs with their new EP “It’s For Christmas.” The opening track “What are you doing New Years Eve” blends harmonies perfectly with a playful clarinet and acoustic guitar with crisp production. Next comes an authentic and raw cover of the Elvis classic “Blue Christmas.” There are some clever vocal arrangements in this interpretation where the female vocal crosses over back and forth from melody to harmony in an effortless way.
The joy and simplicity of this EP is very apparent. And after you hear it you’ll most definitely agree. The EP closes on the song “Christmas is the time to say ‘I love you’.” With both voices singing together and held together with prominent upright bass and sparkling acoustic guitar, this all makes for a warm and earthy Christmas listen. http://goldschatzmusic.com
Nineteen Hand Horse Celebrates a “Solstice with the Mostest” on New Jingle-Bell Rockin’ Holiday Single
Tis the season for a sing-a-long. With established Americana band Nineteen Hand Horse, there is rarely a dull moment to be found with these band members. They have decades of experience between them and career highlights including the likes of luminaries like Don Was, Howard Jones and Duran Duran. Eclectic, yes. Fun, yes. So it’s not surprising that the new Christmas offering from the band called “Solstice with the Mostest” follows suit.
The song begins with tradition sleigh bells, then singer Nathalie Archangel quickly chimes in with her signature quirky and playful rasp. The serious note that is carefully threaded through the lyric is the mention of the pandemic we are experiencing. Because of the light-hearted approach, that message may not be immediately apparent. “Another 365. And look at us – still alive”. It plays to the more optimistic side of our reality. And it’s just the balance that is needed in this quirky Christmas anthem !!! https://www.nineteenhandhorse.com
Katie Cole delivers Christmas single “Snowing”
Hailing all the way from Melbourne Australia, but residing in Nashville, Katie Cole is no stranger to releasing Holiday Singles. Dabbling with both original songs and Classic Christmas favorites, Cole has a tendency to be eclectic with her Holiday offerings. This single “Snowing” is a sparse recording with minna piano, guitar and strings.
Dare I say this is a ‘break-up’ Christmas song? And let’s face it, there aren’t many of those since, George Michael’s hit “Last Christmas.” Cole states the inspiration for this song was wanting to share the other side of Christmas. We all know and love the joyful moments and gathering with family. But what about those who are experiencing loss or heartbreak, or maybe, can’t be with family when they want to? Cole’s voice carefully carries the listener through bittersweet moments of wanting things to be a different way. I can relate to that. At times, I completely forgot this was a holiday song. The pandemic has dealt us all a hefty serving of ‘self-isolation’, maybe this is the Christmas song we didn’t know we needed? I think so!! https://katiecoleofficial.com
First Christmas Release For Guitarist Joe Robinson Christmas Au Chalet
What a wonderful surprise to hear a debut release from a brilliant guitarist. This album was conceived in the heart of pandemic. But you would never know the origins when the musicianship is so heartfelt and articulate. I hear a resemblance in finger-picking style and light strums to another virtuoso, Tommy Emmanuel.
Stand outs for me were the delightful “Silver Bells” and “Rudolf the red-nosed Reindeer” with a flurry of harmonics and additions to make seem fun. I also loved “Silent Night”, the John Lennon classic “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” and “Let It Snow” that was masterfully executed. Like a conversation with himself on one guitar.
This is quite a light listen that just flies by with each song roughly only lasting 2 minutes. This is not a fireplace album to pop on but more a driving or baking the kitchen soundtrack. It makes you want to do something useful. Really fun debut Holiday album here!! https://www.joerobinson.com
Hoho! The yearly Christmas single from Sofia Talvik is released
What a heartfelt Holiday single this one is. Listening to “A Memory of Snow” by Swedish native Sofia Talvik there is something to be gained here. Rather than recording this song entirely in English or Swedish the song leaps back and forth between the two languages effortlessly. Honestly, even the Swedish parts, although I do not speak the language, I feel like I understood exactly what she was saying.
There is something akin to Mumford and Sons, but some darker viking and celtic tones in this song. It creates a feeling that there is a deeper layer to this song even if I fully don’t understand the lyrics completely. It feels wistful, yet captures just enough holiday charm to warm you this season. https://sofiatalvik.com
“Perfect Gift (Remix)” by Judy Paster
“You are the perfect gift, who would want more than this” is the opening line of the chorus for “Perfect Gift” by Nashville-based Judy Paster. This song has all the makings of a fun Christmas classic.
With an easy going mid tempo groove, this single could be enjoyed by the fireplace or better still, by the lake or crashing waves of an ocean somewhere. It feels just beachy enough to bring you into a relaxed, good mood. Honestly, even if this were not a Christmas song I’d still be convinced it felt like a mini holiday. Paster sings with such joy that it’s impossible not to feel this with her. This song is definitely best heard with a Christmas Colada (if that exists) or with a Hot Toddy!! https://www.judypaster.com
Paul Kelly readies ‘How to Make Gravy,’ Australia’s most popular holiday song; new single from Paul Kelly’s Christmas Train album
If you are not familiar with Paul Kelly, he is to Australia what Springsteen is to America in many ways. He has always written these working class songs that just feel unabashedly real. Working class Australian, is very different to working class American.. but it all feels the same way when you listen to this type of music. Real and honest. Paul Kelly has an unmistakable folk style that can only be described as Australiana.
So this is exciting news to read that he has finally compiled his first Christmas Album. And rather than sticking to the 10 song standard format, “Christmas Train” is an explosive 22 songs deep and borrows some Australian talent for this endeavor. Guests include Vika & Linda Bull, Marlon Williams and Kasey Chambers.
It seems that Kelly did not recruit guests to merely sign along like many do, but the approach was to collect voices that were varied musically and culturally to bring something else to this project. This song has classic Christian songs & hymns and Rock anthems. It switches confidently from other language tunes (“Silent Night” is in German) to “Christmas” which feels like it straight from Sgt Peppers by the Beatles and offers much more. Heart stopping moment from indigenous-Australian vocalist Emma Donovan on “The Virgin Mary Had One Son”. And my fave on this release was “Christmas must be tonight” as it feels truest to Paul Kelly’s style.
Honestly, I can’t say that I’ve seen other artists put this much dedication into cultural diversity for a Christmas album to celebrate all forms of humanity in one gathering. It’s incredibly inspiring. I insist that you watch the small ‘making of’ documentary about this project. It provides far more insight that this review can muster.
Very excited to share this album with you. This feels more like a Greatest Hits album than a holiday release. Do yourself a favor and listen to this one. You will not be disappointed!! https://www.paulkelly.com.au
Drew Cooper Christmas song with video featuring Cody Canada and his son
What is not to love about hearing a newer, slower more soul-infused “Please Come Home For Christmas”? Nothing. This Eagles classic springs to life by the rust-infused vocals of Drew Cooper.
His voice oozes quiet bravado and there’s a certainty about his delivery that makes me think he could tackle the catalog of Creedance as easily as Otis Redding’s material.
What makes Cooper’s rendition a great listen is the attention to detail. He didn’t try to simply remake The Eagles version, nor did he replicate Don Henley’s precise way of singing it. Instead this version offers a deeper dive into lyrics and coupled with a choir of vocals at all the right moments. Great musical moments by the musicians with immaculate guitar work and B3 solos raking through sections when it could!
You’ll enjoy this version as it’s just gospel and southern-infused to cater to those ears, but stays in its lane enough to be a great, familiar Holiday listen!! https://www.drewcoopermusic.com
What to Listen to This Christmas!
What to Listen to This Christmas!
What to Listen to This Christmas!
What to Listen to This Christmas!