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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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"
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).
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)