Sunday, December 24, 2023

More Christmas Americana

Over to our correspondent in the field of all things Americana (country, bluegrass, blues, soul, r&b, etc), mr Ton 'T55' Ensing. Short notes on four great songs:

You might know Gary Louris as the main man from legends The Jayhawks, the band he started with Mark Olson in the mid eighties. After Olson left the band Louris kept on releasing records with the Jayhawks - the last one being XOXO in 2020. In 2008 he made his first solo-record, Vagabonds - a sign that there was a musical life after the Jayhawks.

The solo records allowed Louris to experiment with sounds and genres besides the alt country and americana for which the Jayhawks are known. The experimentation and genre-hopping takes a festive corner with the release of his first christmas single. It’s a tune called ‘Christmas In The City’ and it’s vintage Louris. Lots of harmonies, a joyful piano, a string quartet, an acoustic guitar, a melodious bass and a drumcomputer. Beatlesque, one might say. I wouldn’t be suprised if it turns up on a future movie soundtrack. A lovely tune.

Another unexpected christmas track is ‘Snowglobe (2023)’ from Dean Owens, who also happens to be a harmonies-man. In the past he recorded with Latin Americana giants Calexico, amongst others. His solowork earned him praise from fellow Scots - authors Ian Rankin and Irvine Welsh are fans. He recorded the original version of Snowglobe more than a decade ago. ‘Snowglobe (2023)’ is a cute little tune about life in a snowglobe. Not exactly the place where you want to be. "Empty days / silent nights / all is still / all is white / loneliness falls with the silence of snow.” Surrounded by festive cheer may be great for some people but not for Dean, who has only one wish: get me out of here.

Caleb Nichols has no problems with snowglobes. He just released a three track EP called ‘So This Is Crimble”. Beatle fans immediately know what this is all about: Beatles christmas! The EP open with a christmas track originally released on Caleb’s album Let’s Look Back, released in october: ‘Christmas, California’. A poppy tune with a just a few bells and whistles - preparing the listener for things to come. Then there’s ‘Crimble Medley’ - a medley of christmas’sy covers of Beatles classics and solo-Beatles tunes. See if you can recognize the originals.

The last track on the EP is the second original track. It’s called ‘I Fell In Love On Xmas Day’. An acoustic track with the usual ingredients. Sleighbells, an acoustic guitar, a faraway choir - accompanying the artist and his girlfriend on their way to her parents house. It’s not a joyfull ride. They pass a plastic snowman on his face, passed-out on someone’s lawn. Misery shows up in many forms but christmas is a great time to make up and fall in love again.
Finally there’s the legendary Grey DeLisle again. Her second Christmas song this year (first HERE) is called ‘And It’s Christmas Time’. Written by Joey Simeone of The Bellfuries, who wrote the song a couple of years ago but didn’t get around to record it just yet. ‘A super sweet version’, he calls it. And it is. Violins, sleighbells, tambourine, a soft bass, an acoustic guitar and the sweet vocals of Grey herself. "When all your tears become a snowstorm / while it takes form / you need to stay warm”. And we all know that christmas gives you plenty of warmth, do we. "Open up your heart and receive it, ‘cause it’s Christmas time.”