Stubbys House of Christmas       
 
12. SANTA HAVE MERCY - CALICO THE BAND
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I've seen virtually no mention of "The Alternate Root Holiday Music Sampler" on the Interwebs and that's puzzling.  Alternate Root's collections have been one of the brightest stars in the Christmas sky for the last several years.  I don't know if people just take it for granted, now, or what.  I don't believe Roots music is any less popular than its been.  And one of the greatest things about the Alt Root Holiday Spectacular is the diversity of sounds and styles it presents.

44 songs in all and featuring well known artists like Over The Rhine,  The VooDUDES, James Lee Stanley, Deborah Holland, and Rev. Jimmie Bratcher as well as a whole bunch of acts hoping to catch your ear.

There were at least a dozen tracks I'd have liked to lift from here, but there's that darn "no double dipping" rule again.  Special mention should go to Yarn, who offer a poignant Christmas song for the troops, and the aforementioned Deborah Holland, who weighs in with one of the best (and funniest) Hanukkah songs I've heard in a while.

In the end, though, one track demanded inclusion on A Stubby's House Christmas.  Calico The Band's "Santa Have Mercy" is a rollicking roots romp the likes of which we haven't heard since the Davis Sisters did "The Reindeer Boogie".  Calico confesses their crimes and sins--Lord knows, they've been bad--and throw themselves on the mercy of St. Nick.  Not that they're looking to turn over a new leaf or anything, even offering to give Santa the best time he's ever had.  How can it be bad when its sooo good.  And, really, who could blame them when they declare, "I don't wanna go to jail for Christmas/I don't wanna eat no county bird/I just wanna crash your brother's party/Get a little loose and deck the halls !"  Yeah!  That's what I'm talkin' bout!

Hard to believe, but Calico The Band has only been together for about a year.  Why doncha come up and see them sometime...at their home site, Facebook, or ReverbNation.  Read the legend and be amazed.  Grab some of their music on Bandcamp.  And get the whole 6th annual "Alternate Root Holiday Music Sampler" at Alternate Root while it lasts.  Time for another video?  Yeah, thought so.

13. OLD MAN WINTER BLUES - GLENN CRYTZER'S SAVOY SEVEN
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So, did you download this one like I told you to?  Yeah, I thought so.

I know you don't think you need any more big band Christmas music in your collection, but you do.  You need "A Little Love This Christmas" by Glenn Crytzer's Savoy Seven.  You especially need to hear "Old Man Winter Blues".  This is a great Jump Blues number as the big bands would have done and the late great Joe Turner would be diggin' on this one if he were around today.  Just a great tune and well worthy of inclusion on A Stubbys House Christmas.

Glenn Crytzer has been composing music since he was 14 and was playing long before that .  He's still a young man in his 30s today.  So why is he writing and recording Big Band music?  'Cause its cool, that's why.  Born in Pennsylvania, Glenn plies his trade in Seattle and environs these days.  He's got oodles of degrees in music and plays multiple instruments.  Did you need to know all that?  Hmm, you might, rabbit, you might.

Learn more about Glenn and his many musical projects on his web site and, for goodness sake, go download this great free Christmas record like I told you to do in the first place.  You'll find it on Bandcamp.  Remember, Santa's watching (in the off-season, he works for the NSA).

14. ANAK NG P - KRIS LAWRENCE featuring KARYLLE
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This one's for Megyn Kelly as it comes from "Unwhite Christmas", a 3-track EP available free on Bandcamp.  I don't think anyone's buying that her "Santa is white" segment was just tongue-in-cheek, nor that she really intended any discussion of the article that spawned the segment.  If you're trying to do something like that tongue-in-cheek and foster a discussion, here's what you say:  "You know, I'm always asleep when Santa comes each year, so I can't really say what color he is, but it does seem that, in most of our movies and advertising, for example, Santa tends to be depicted as white.  Should that continue to be the case, or should we see more diversity represented?"  You don't just declare, harshly, "Santa just IS white!" and then spend the segment with three white people doing nothing more than agreeing.  And then, instead of apologizing, Megyn played the victim card.  Everybody hates poor privileged, conservative you.  Well, boo-hoo.

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The music on "Unwhite Christmas" is genuine Pasko (Christmas) music from the Phillipines.  So I'm guessing, in their homes, Santa is Filipino.  He just IS, Megyn, OK?  By all accounts, Filipinos adore Christmas--they celebrate from September through the third Sunday in January--and I love their music.  The three songs on "Unwhite Christmas" are very different--and any one of them would have been welcomed on a Stubbys House Christmas--but I chose "Anak ng P" because the sound is one that was missing from the mix.  Do I know what they're singing?  Heck, no (though you can make out that they're wishing Jesus a Happy Birthday), but it sounds like Christmas to me.  Both Kris Lawrence and Karylle are very popular singers and actors in the Phillipines (though Kris was born and raised in Los Angeles).  Kris sometimes goes by the handle "Prince of R&B".

By the way, Megyn, Santa is actually a black man.  I know because my man Akim told me so.  And I trust him far more than I would ever trust you.

15. JWAYE NWEL - OLENCE CALIXTE
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Olence Calixte lives on Haiti's north shore.  When he was 15, he was struck by sudden blindness and his mother gave him a guitar to keep him occupied.  Since then, he's rarely been seen without it.  At the time "Jwaye Nwel" was recorded, Olence was homeless, thanks to the Haitian earthquake of 2010, living next to the ruins of the Catholic Cathedral in Port-au-Prince and playing and singing for anyone who cared to listen, hoping some passers by might feel generous and open their wallets a bit that he could feed his family and hoping that others in his circumstance might take comfort.  Haiti has the highest unemployment rate in the world and little of the promised earthquake relief money has reached the Haitian people almost 4 years later.

Lakou Mizik, a non-profit organization working to preserve and celebrate Haitian music and culture, began work on an EP with Olence late in 2012.  On the first day of recording, Olence offered up this yuletide original, "Jwaye Nwel".  The song celebrates the joy of the season, whatever the hardships or circumstances.  "If you're barefooted," Olence sings, "Jwaye Nwel.  If you're without clothing, Jwaye Nwel.  If you're without food, Jwaye Nwel."   (I'm personally fascinated by how much the music sounds like Hawaiian music, for which I have a weakness.)

Thanks to the magic of the Internets, accompaniment was provided by musicians in multiple countries, donating their time and efforts, and "Jwaye Noel" was completed in days.  Although the song is a name-your-price download at Bandcamp, enough money was raised that, in March of this year, Olence and his family were able to sleep with a roof over their heads for the first time since the earthquake.

So, anyway, although all the music in our annual collection can be obtained for free, please consider tipping generously for this song.  100% of your payment will go directly to Olence Calixte and his family.  And, if circumstance prevents you from being able to give, Jwaye Nwel.

16. A BERLIN CHRISTMAS TALE - SOFIA TALVIK
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Swedish singer/songwriter Sofia Talvik offers up a free Christmas song every year.  And pretty much every year, I declare that "this is her best yet" or that "this is my absolute favorite."  Well, "A Berlin Christmas Tale" is Sofia's best Christmas song yet and my absolute favorite.  Sofia has explored a lot of different musical styles in the past, but "A Berlin Christmas Tale" returns Sofia--with the enrichment of all her musical experimentation and time on the road--to the Sofia I was originally drawn to...the Folk Pop artist who paints pictures with her music, words, and voice--pictures so clear and alive that you experience them yourself.  Christmas is not always the idyllic print from Courier & Ives we would wish it to be.  "But, baby, its Christmas."  

If Christmas didn't exist, we'd have to invent it.  In the depths of winter, with the biting cold and days so short it always seems to be night, we need a celebration of hope to keep us warm.  We need pretty lights and the smell of pine and the spirit of giving and good will for all and the promise of something wonderous and beautiful to replenish our faith, recharge our batteries, and keep on keeping on.  We need something to remind us that we are alive and that that alone, when all is said and done, is pretty f#&king amazing--that that miracle alone is worth living for.  Life's not perfect, it's not easy, it's often harsh and cold.  "But, baby, its Christmas."

Eh, too much philosophizing.  Who said the soup was free?  Just count yer blessings instead of sheep, tonight.  And enjoy this wonderful song, "A Berlin Christmas Tale", from Sofia Talvik.  Sofia has gathered up all of her solo Christmas efforts from past to present in one spot on her web site (which is well worthy of deeper exploration, btw).  Click on the titles to get to the (still) free (or name-your-own-price) downloads.  If you've already got them all, you can just grab "A Berlin Christmas Tale" on Bandcamp.

17. COVENTRY CAROL/KING WITHOUT A MOUNTAIN - BETA RADIO
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I don't think I knew before now that Beta Radio hail from Wilmington, North Carolina.  These two friends--Ben Mabry and Brent Holloman--have been playing and singing together for over a decade.  The duo's stripped down, alt folk style is haunting--staying with you long after the music ends.  "The Songs The Season Brings, Volume III" is the group's third annual holiday EP and this one has a bit of a King Herod focus.  Click on the cover art for the Bandcamp download.  It won't be free forever (neither Vol. 1 nor Vol. 2 are free any longer).

Listening to as much Christmas music as I have, the meaning of some of the ancient carols is often lost in their familiarity.  Listening to Beta Radio's medley of "Coventry Carol/King Without A Mountain", I feel the import of every syllable of "Coventry Carol" as I never have.  I've never heard "King Without A Mountain" and am going to assume its original until someone tells me otherwise.  If its not, I can't understand why it isn't a staple of traditional holiday recordings.

Beta Radio has been slowly gathering a loyal following and, hopefully, that means good things for them and for us.  But I'm going to be contrary guy and say I hope Beta Radio doesn't record a full length Christmas album.  I'd much rather keep getting these small annual gifts, so beautiful and perfect, than get one big gift just once.  You know, unless the big gift is a new Mazzerati that comes complete with a supermodel in the passenger seat.  Yeah, I know, I totally lost the real meaning of Christmas, there.  But, seriously, Santa, a supermodel would look lovely under my tree.  Wrapped or unwrapped.  Either way.

18. CHRISTMAS MEDLEY - LANDON STAHMER
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Even doing the virtual needle drop thing, this is one track that I could not pick the virtual needle up from.  I was immediately captivated from beginning to end.  I have no idea who Landon Stahmer is, but what a voice.  Since I downloaded this "Christmas Medley" some time ago via SoundCloud, Landon has given it the title of "Oh Come To Joy The Merry Gentlemen", but that's a little too frivolous for such an impressive and gorgeous performance, in my opinion, so I'm just sticking with the old standby, "Christmas Medley".

There's one every year and, in my opinion, this is this year's show stopper.  Just beautiful.  Grab the free download from SoundCloud, check the video on YouTube, and see what else Landon Stahmer is up to by visiting his web site.

Ah, what the heck, we've got time for another video, don't we?

19. WORK ON CHRISTMAS - SEAN NELSON
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No doubt, this one sounds familiar to you.  Sean Nelson used to be the lead singer for the Seattle based Alt Punk band Harvey Danger (who sadly said goodbye forever in 2009) and "Work On Christmas" is shorthand for "Sometimes You Have To Work On Christmas (Sometimes)".  It's one of my favorite Christmas songs of the modern age (much better and more meaningful than the Mariah Carey, Wham, and Band Aid tracks combined).  When I worked in radio, I used to love working Christmas.  Heck, I'd be volunteering by the time August rolled around.  But, by the time the Harvey Danger Christmas song turned up, I was working what we radio people (and some musicians) call a "real job" and it was no longer my choice.  Fairly low on the totem pole, I would be working on Christmas.  To be truthful, it wasn't all that horrible; I think it was the lack of choice that bothered me (although, as I used to tell those even lower on the totem pole, you always have a choice; the question is are you willing to accept the consequences of that choice).  Anyway, the song struck a chord with me and "Work On Christmas" (yes, I'll accept the shorthand, thank you) has been one of my faves ever since.  It helps that it's brilliant both musically and lyrically.  And somehow Sean's voice makes it just perfect.  The music on the new version is less...organic, but it also has new found intimacy.

Sean Nelson's done a lot of stuff with a lot of people since Harvey Danger split, but has decided upon a solo career for the moment, his "debut" album ("Make Good Choices") having been released earlier this year.  So when the chance arose to contribute to No Sleep Records latest holiday collection, "No Sleep Till The Holidays 2", it probably seemed like a great idea.  Hey, worked for me; I didn't know Sean had a solo record out.

The new No Sleep holiday set contains 7 tracks and, as usual with No Sleep, they're all great.  Any other year, you might be listening to Allison Weiss, or Daisyhead, or What's Eating Gilbert?, or Maps For Travelers, or...  But not in a year of no double dipping (dammit) and Sean Nelson's "Work On Christmas".  Grab the whole collection free at Bandcamp.  It's an instant download, so you don't even need to surrender your email.

20. LOU CHRISTMAS (WITHOUT YOU) - mojochronic
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We mentioned before that we have not been repeating artists of the Stubbys House collections, much to my own surprise.  Sofia Talvik and Beta Radio make their second appearance this year.  But there has been one notable exception.  The mashup artist known as mojochronic has appeared on each and every Stubbys House Christmas.  There's been some mighty fine stuff on the Santastic mashup comps through the years.  DJ BC has turned in many a fine effort, as have many of the others.  But mojochronic, man, that dude is a freakin' genius.  Some day, mashups will be considered the legitimate art form they already are.  When that day comes, mojochronic will be hailed as one of the best of a very talented and creative group.

Until that day, you should absolutely download "Santastic 8".  In addition to "Lou Christmas", there are 14 more tracks of mashed-up Christmas goodness.  No.  GREATness.  It's simply Santastic!

21. KEEP ME FOR CHRISTMAS TIME - THE HARD GROUND
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Like our friends at Christmas Underground (where I totally missed it), I found this great track at 2 U I Bestow, which is one of those sites that, every year, I find myself going, "What's the name of that awesome Irish blog again?"  You'd think "2 U I Bestow" would be memorable enough, but obviously not.  I've finally done the smart thing and added them to our list of Festive Friends (What, you thought those links were for you?).  But neither CU nor 2U offered much background on The Hard Ground's "Keep Me For Christmas Time".  The Hard Ground's web site wasn't any more helpful, really.  And, as great as the song was, it just sounded so dang familiar.  I hate a mystery.

I'll save you the Sherlock and get down to the deets.  The Hard Ground began life as Berries Blue, a West Cork Ireland duo of Marlene Enright and Pat Carey, who'd met in college.  Enright played keyboards and Carey played guitar, but it was the haunting harmonies of their vastly different voices (and the beautiful original music they wrote) that was at the center of their sound.  "Beauty and the Beast," the press called it.  When they were performing live or in studio, the pair would often be joined by a rotating cast of supporting players.  Berries Blue released an EP in 2009, "Drinkin' To Heaven" and the folk rock duo were hailed as rising stars of the Emerald Isle.  "Keep Me For Christmas Time" was a digital single released in 2010.  I knew I'd heard it before.  Sometime in 2011, two of the rotating support players--Dave Duffy (bass) and Dave Ryan (drums)--became full-fledged members of the group and the foursome became The Hard Ground.  Ta-da!

The Hard Ground have released one album, so far--"Broken Conversations"--and they are still hailed as rising stars of the Emerald Isle.  "Keep Me For Christmas Time" is a beautiful song about when love fails for no particular reason.  It's not him, it's not her--it just is.  The love's still there; it just isn't...enough.  But a Christmas breakup is the worst thing in the world--worse than a Valentine's Day breakup.  So, although its ending, lets just please stay together for Christmas.  Very sad.  And also a perfect ending to this year's Stubbys House collection.  I feel like I may be moving on.  I don't want to.  I didn't suddenly wake up hating Christmas music or this blog.  Its just "an unfortunate circumstance".  But I'm here, right now, and, so, "Would you keep me for Christmas Time?  If not after then for Christmas Time."

There are two versions of "Keep Me For Christmas Time" on The Hard Ground's Soundcloud page--both available for free download.  I went with the first which I believe is the Berries Blue version featuring the beautiful cello of (I'm guessing) Aisling Fitzpatrick (please note, although I tagged it as 2013, I'm guessing it should be 2010).  I found the bass to be a bit high on that one, obscuring some of the vocals, so its the only track I actually edited the sound of (just dropping back the bass a bit on the ol' EQ).  You're certainly free to prefer it as offered and can easily drop the original into your Stubbys mix, replacing my bass reduced version.

AFTER THOUGHTS
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So when I finished the Stubbys House mix, I realized in horror that I was at 80 minutes......and 26 seconds.  Yeah, I could've probably found 26 seconds, shortening the fades and such (just cutting the countdown to "Jwaye Nwel" would've save 5 or 6 seconds).  Instead, I just dropped a tune.  I'm not even going to tell you what I dropped because it wasn't all that great.  You won't miss it.  I don't.

But there was a whole bunch of stuff that was either very good, or arrived too late, or that I didn't get around to listening to.  Even not looking all that hard, there was a mountain of free music I downloaded this year.  Seriously, I'm considering giving up buying Christmas music at all; the music being offered by bands and artists trying to get heard is so much better--more genuine, more sincere, more everything--and its free.

I wanted to tack onto the end of this post a list of those Christmas freebies, but look at this thing.  War & Peace was shorter.  So, if I find the time, we'll do some sort of Boxing Day links dump for you.  It'll probably be on the Free Page (just sayin'), so you'll have to check over there when you stop by.  But I do want to mention a few, here.

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We mentioned, in our review of "Let It Snow" by New York Voices, that one other group had sent a CD to our physical mailbox.  But you don't have to wait for me to get around to listening to it because The Sugarpills "Stocking Stuffer Sampler" is absolutely free to download.  This is, I think, their third holiday confection and features three new covers (they covered Jonathan Coulton's "Chiron Beta Prime"; how awesome is that?) and a "bigger, better, more awesome" version of their now classic cover of "Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You".



I did not include Brainpool's "The Last Christmas" because it had a spot on my own mix (so it would have been sorta like double dipping...I guess).  If there is one song I sort of regret not having on this mix, it would be Teenage Casket Company's "One Thing You Don't Need This Christmas".  Found it just as I was wrapping up and I was loathe to start moving pieces of the puzzle.  But I liked it a lot.  Sort of a cross between Jim Steinman and Bon Jovi, but with a bit of edge.  Anyway, I'm a sucker for lines like this: "Merry Christmas, isn't that what they always say/A million happy people.....and then there's me".  It's a free download at Bandcamp.  Let's toss it up on the jumbotron, shall we?

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I looked for "Ho Ho Canada V" before I started on the Stubby's House Christmas.  I really did.  I checked again when I was just about finished.  Still nothing.  Sure enough, as soon as I was done, there it was.  *sigh*

Another annual fave, the BFW Christmas album, hewed closer to their ambient core this year and, unfortunately, the virtual needle drop is especially brutal to ambient music.  SineRider's "First Snow" was probably closest to making the cut.

And sad news in Holiday town.  Those lovers of Christmas at Zang Productions closed up shop earlier this year.  No Christmas presents from them this year, but you can still find plenty of previous musical gifts in their archives.

There was a treasure trove of great music on The Music Bed's Christmas compilation, "Water For The Holidays".  The Music Bed is a music licensing clearing house and the idea, here, is to raise money to bring clean drinking water to developing nations and I sure would like to see them raise more money.  Catholic Guilt (TM) and a lack of a proper fit kept me from including anything from that one (you can skip the donation step and just get the free sampler, as I did).

WXPN is doing their annual thing (though the site is impossible to navigate anymore), as is the Alternativ Julekalender and we've gotten our (mostly) annual gifts from Exohxo and friends of the blog Gordon & Cilla, too.  Exohxo covers "Christmastime Is Here Again" this year, which reminds me that that freakin' genius mojochronic has recently posted "Yuletide Beatles", in the tradition of "Yuletide Zeppelin"

Jeez.  I could just go on forever and I'm sure I'm forgetting a ton.  Like I said, we'll do a links dump one of these days.

But one last thing.  Lie In The Sound has given us plenty of Christmas cheer, this year.  Among their presents was their own mixtape (I assume its theirs; I don't speak German), "Very Adult Pleasures On Christmas".  Great stuff (including the Dollyrots' latest), but one track just jumped out as exceptional, a keeper, just beautiful, unique, and better than the rest.  "Lover Man For Christmas" by Lots of Love (aka Jessica Fleischer).
The song is really good, too.  Download it free from Soundcloud.  Jessica's got a website and a Facebook page and a new album, "From The Start".

Santa, scrap the supermodel.  Scrap the Mazzerati, too.  I want Jessica for Christmas.  (Yeah, I know, I'm a pig.  An old man can dream, can't he?)


Don't forget, you've got through January 6 to download "A Stubby's House Christmas 2013".  Then its gone forever.  Don't dawdle.  OK, cats and kittens? (Update 1/8/14: Gone, gone, gone)
 


Comments

Randy
12/21/2013 23:30

Thanks Stubby for sharing another great collection. Even though you are officially not here...your efforts this year are appreciated.

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12/26/2013 22:09

Magnificent Collection, as always!!! Thank you so much, Santa Stubby!

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