My favorite Christmas movie is Die Hard, and I like holiday music that’s similarly offbeat – sometimes a little subversive.
Every year, I mark the season with a list of the best.
There few entries of recent vintage, proving the genre didn’t begin and end with “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and “Little Saint Nick.”
Here are my 12 songs of Christmas:
Run Rudolph Run (Chuck Berry) – The tame “Jingle Bell Rock” was probably the first rock and roll Christmas song, but this one better captured the music’s rebellious spirit.
River (Joni Mitchell) – Until this song, most Christmas music was about the holiday experience. Mitchell captured the mood and left the trappings to other songwriters.
Christmas Wrapping (The Waitresses) – A song about two alienated artistes meeting in the checkout line on Christmas Eve, it’s full of jangling angst with a frothy pop coating.
Christmas in Hollis (Run D.M.C.) – From wrapping to rapping, this is an urbanized, hip-hop rendition of the Night Before Christmas story, with fried chicken and collard greens.
Last Christmas (Wham!) – One of those holiday songs that gets stuck in your head and won’t go away, it’s been finding a new audience with fans of the television show Glee.
All I Want For Christmas Is You (Olivia Olsen) – Featured prominently in my other favorite Christmas movie, Love, Actually; I prefer 10-year old Olsen’s version to the Mariah Carey original.
Christmas in Washington (Steve Earle) – The unrepentant leftist name-checks Emma Goldman and Woody Guthrie, with a sense of dread that seemed out of place when the song came out in 1997, but not today.
The Rebel Jesus (Jackson Browne) – It’s impossible to listen to this song, which paints Jesus as a rabble rouser whose actual deeds would likely appall the pious, and not be affected.
Raise the Tree (Trent Dabbs) – From Ten Out of Tenn., a holiday collection released last year by a group of Nashville musicians, it’s sentimental modern, both edgy and happy.
Santa’s Lost His Mojo (Jeremy Lister) – Goofy and infectious, another standout Ten Out of Tenn. track about the Big Man in a funk. Buy this record!
O Holy Night (Trombone Shorty) – The most beautiful Christmas instrumental ever can be heard at http://www.localrhythms.com, where it’s a free download (with an optional charity link).
Carol of the Bells/Jingle Bells (Barry Manilow) – Back off, Barry-haters, this is great jazz. Manilow’s backed by the MaD Fusion band, with Matt Herskowitz supplying jaw-dropping piano runs.
On to the rest of the week:
Thursday, Dec. 17: Harvey Reid, Flying Goose Pub – “Master Minstrel” Harvey Reid brings his annual holiday concert tour to New London for a solo performance of seasonally inspired American contemporary and roots music, folk, blues, bluegrass, Celtic and ragtime. The show is annual tradition at the Pub, and though this year it’s without Reid’s wife Joyce Anderson, Reid still own Christmas in the Granite State.
Friday, Dec. 18: Recycled Percussion, Claremont Opera House – For my money (and a lot of America) these “junk rockers” won America’s Got Talent with their unique brand of can banging, scratch mixing and guitar pyrotechnics. In any case, they were the best band, finishing behind two vocalists. There may not be room to saw a car in half, but rest assured sparks will fly and the opera house will rock.
Saturday, Dec. 19: Local Legends Music Awards, Lebanon Opera House – Over the years, I’ve written about most of the performers appearing at this celebration of the local music scene – Pariah Beat, Pete Merrigan, Sensible Shoes, Carlos Ocasio and major domo music maven Dave Clark of Yellow House, a leading force in organizing the event. Here’s a chance to see it all – in one night.
Sunday, Dec. 20: Christmas Revels, Hopkins Center – “A Scottish Christmas” is the theme of this year’s holiday production by Revels North, as members of the community join professional performers for a mix of Renaissance Faire pageantry and Celtic-flavored music. It’s the 35th year of Revels North, and by the end of the show everyone in the house should be singing along.
Monday, Dec. 21: Battle of the Bands, Kimball Union Academy – A group of high school musicians throws down for a variety of prizes including cash, and recording session in a real studio. Tuck’s Rock Dojo and the Meriden Congregational Church sponsor the competition. MCC youth leader Leslie Macgregor came up with the idea for the event, which benefits a pair of local charities.
Wednesday, Dec. 23: Reid Trevaskis & Friends, Andre’s – Tonight’s jam session is special; it’s Andre’s annual Christmas party. $17 admission includes a sumptuous buffet prepared by the restaurant’s well-regarded chef, along with entertainment from Trevaskis, Ben Butterworth, Jan Bear and whoever else happens by. Given the great eats, that could mean friends from Reid’s bands Manchuka or Lisa Marie and the All Shook Up.