Sounds of the season

By |2010-12-09T09:00:00-05:00December 9th, 2010|Guides|

By Brian Q. Newcomb

I think by now we can all agree with the logic that we don’t need any new Christmas music. It’s all been done, from traditionals to country and hip-hop.
But still they come, variations on the same 50 or so songs, the “hopes and fears of all the years” expressed in Christian hymns and secular stories of Santa, snowfall, family warmth and romantic possibilities. The music we hear in stores, on the radio, in our homes capture the complicated relationship we have with the Christmas season.
Our texts for this year’s lectionary readings emphasize Isaiah’s complex visions of the dream of God for our world, something our songs point to but rarely capture. Perhaps a focus on the fun music and “tidings of comfort and joy” are just what we need to get us through to the new year.
I’ve written a lot about that, and lots about Christmas music in the past. Here are the highlights selected from this year’s offerings:

“Christmas Comes Alive,” The Brian Setzer Orchestra
If you’ve followed former Stray Cat, Brian Setzer’s storied solo career with his big-band brass Orchestra, you know he’s done a number of Christmas music albums in the wake of songs requested for Gov. Schwarzenegger’s holiday film “Jingle All the Way.”
“Comes Alive” brings all the best of that material with vibrant energy and stellar performances to a live audience, and thankfully this great recording. Setzer’s great guitar playing thrills throughout, mixing that unique blend of old-school rock ‘n’ roll, rockabilly, blues and jazz that he’s occupied for several decades.

“Crazy For Christmas,” Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks
This one’s in a similar vein, but with an almost country acoustic vibe that has run through Hicks’ sneakily subversive swing music. “Cool Yule” is the descriptive here – and Santa’s the hero, as most of these songs move toward the more secular expressions of the holiday. There’s also toe-tapping, pickin’ and grinnin’ takes on “Santa Gotta Choo Choo” and “I’ve Got Christmas By the Tail.”

“Merry Christmas,” Shelby Lynne
Country singer Shelby Lynne smartly keeps her soulful vocals front and center on this self-produced record of longtime favorites that lean toward the sadder songs of longing, like “Silver Bells” and similar readings of “O Holy Night,” “Silent Night” and “White Christmas.” “Christmastime’s A-Coming” gives her fine pickers a little room to shine on a country trotter.

As we all know, some of the best Christmas gifts are found in unexpected places, like a homey kitchen, a candlelit sanctuary on a snow evening or a manger surrounded by animals where a poor expecting couple might find a little protection from the weather. Some of the best music this season will be the same, not in stores or big studios, but around pianos in homes, at church caroling parties and on Christmas eve in the candles’ glow.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.