I grew up in a household where holiday music, both secular and religious, was taken seriously; the Maternal Unit has one of the greatest collections of holiday music I have ever encountered. When I was a kid, she owned — still does, probably, but now the bulk of her active-listening collection is CD and digital, like the rest of us — hundreds upon hundreds (if not thousands) of cassette tapes of Christmas music, all meticulously cataloged as to genre and subject and song content. Need 40 covers of “O Tannenbaum”? The Maternal Unit can hook you up, and at last half of them will be genre-bending and amazing. The Maternal Unit has excellent taste in music.
My own collection of holiday music is less impressive, but I’ve been working over the last few years to improve it, and on Monday I re-synced all several hundred tracks of it to my iPod. I noted last week that I’d accidentally listened to the Bright Eyes Christmas album while having my Conor Oberst shift, and I was totally captivated by his cover of “Blue Christmas”. It’s one of those songs that toes that really fine holiday music line between smarmy (Elvis) and charming (Conor’s plaintive plea, the jangly indie pop of the version on the new A Fine Frenzy Christmas EP), and it’s among my favorite Christmas songs. Maybe my very favorite secular one (my all-time favorite is “In The Bleak Midwinter”, which we shall hopefully get to in a few weeks). And so, every version I have in iTunes:
[Elvis Presley — “Blue Christmas”] 2MB, .mp3. It’s Elvis. You know what to expect.
[Bright Eyes — “Blue Christmas”] 3MB, .mp3. Conor actually does this really well; not a hint of whine in the thing, and a little twang in the otherwise straightforward indie rock orchestration. (I don’t mind Conor whining, but I know some people do.)
[A Fine Frenzy — “Blue Christmas”] 5MB, .mp3. Jangly and sweet.
[Bluegrass Christmas Jamboree — “Blue Christmas”] 4MB, .mp3. Middle of the pack bluegrass orchestration, but a plaintive whine in the vocals that actually works in concert with the music.
[Sheryl Crow — “Blue Christmas”] 6MB, .mp3. Probably the least inspired of the bunch, included for completeness’ sake.
This photo is from Baltimore’s 34th Street in Hampden; it’s one of the most impressive displays of lights I’ve ever seen, colloquially known around town as the Miracle on 34th Street. I haven’t been up to Baltimore for the holidays since 2007, when I took this photo, but every year I miss seeing the lights in Hampden. Next year!
MP3s are for sampling purposes only; if you enjoy what you hear, please support the artists by purchasing their music. Files are available for a limited time only. If you represent an artist or a label and would prefer that I remove a link to an mp3, please email me at asdonkar at gmail dot com and I will immediately remove the file.