Tag Archives: Christmas

Tommy Emmanuel: All I Want for Christmas

Superbly talented guitarist picks holiday chestnuts

Australian guitar player Tommy Emmanuel may just be the single most talented picker of his generation. His finger- and flat-picking are precise yet graceful, with tone that’s clean but still soulful. Emmanuel sticks to his acoustic here, playing in both solo and band settings. It’s the former, in which his syncopated bass runs support the melodies, that is the most mesmerizing. The song list is mostly well-worn chestnuts, but Emmanuel’s sprightly and sensitive renderings make them sound fresh. This album will fit perfectly into many different holiday activities, whether you need background music for family gatherings, meditative instrumentals to unwind after the rigors of shopping, or rich instrumental versions of Christmas classics to set a holiday mood. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Tommy Emmanuel’s Home Page

Lyle Lovett: Songs for the Season

A three-song holiday treat from Lyle Lovett

This three-song EP from Lyle Lovett includes jazzy covers of Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmastime is Here” and Frank Loesser’s “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” with vocalist Kat Edmonson serving as harmonist and foil. There’s also a sly new original, “The Girl with the Holiday Smile.” The latter is slated to reappear on Lovett’s next album, but the cool yuletide covers are only available here. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Lyle Lovett’s Home Page

Haley Reinhart and Casey Abrams: Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Talented American Idol Top-10 finalists sing a holiday duet

Reinhart and Abrams were each too sophisticated and jazz-oriented to win the popularity contest of American Idol, but hopefully the attention they received will turn into full-length releases. In the meantime, this duet is a nice showcase for their hip style of singing. Too bad they didn’t include an Abrams bass solo! [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Haley Reinhart’s Home Page
Casey Abrams’ American Idol Page

Tony Bennett: The Classic Christmas Album

Forty years of Tony Bennett’s Christmas recordings

Seventeen of these eighteen tracks have been selected by the vocalist from his catalog of albums and compilation appearances on Snowfall: The Tony Bennett Christmas Album (1968), The Playground (1998), Our Favorite Things (2001), Christmas with Tony Bennett (2002) and A Swingin’ Christmas (2008). The album’s one previously unreleased title is a Marion Evans arrangement of the traditional “What Child is This.” Bennett appears in orchestral, big band and small combo settings, and though the original albums can still be found, this provides a nice sampling across forty years of his stylish takes on holiday standards. Bennett sings with a jazzy cool unparalleled by his peers or followers, and together with some hot charts (particularly those for the Basie band), he gives new life to these holiday chestnuts. The Bennett fanatic in your family may be expecting the monumental 73-CD Complete Collection under the tree, but the rest of the family will be satisfied by this warm collection of classics. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Tony Bennett’s Home Page

The Layaways: Maybe Next Year

Layaways_MaybeNextYearHomemade indie-pop Christmas productions

The Chicago indie-rock trio, The Layaways, have extended their three-song 2006 Christmas EP with seven new tracks. The productions retain the same homemade feel, exuding warmth and a dash of holiday melancholy. The album mixes vocal and instrumental tracks, layering folk-rock harmonies on acoustic guitars, and adding some heavier neo-psych sounds. “Auld Lang Syne” channels the mood of the Long Ryders, while the throbbing bass line and subliminal lead guitar of “Silent Night” suggests the end of a long night of egg nog. The backward guitar of “Away in a Manger” adds a contemplative Eastern tinge, and the album finishes with the short, meditative instrumental raga “Repeating the Sounds of Joy.” This is a sweet treat, deliciously musical without being over baked for mass media consumption. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | O Christmas Tree
MP3 | Silent Night
The Layaways’ Home Page

The Husky Team: Christmas in Memphis

HuskyTeam_ChristmasInMemphisSmithereens drummer offers up Christmas classics, Stax style

Here’s a fun Christmas album from 2002 on which organist/inventor/WFMU DJ Dave Amels and Smithereens drummer Dennis Diken give a Stax-styled instrumental spin to a slate of holiday classics. From the opening of the Beach Boys’ “He’s the Man with All the Toys,” you get plenty of smooth organ, deep bass, twangy guitar, punchy drums and the funky vibe Stax created in their Memphis studio. A few numbers roll in iconic MG riffs, such as the organ and guitar of “Green Onions” behind the Husky Team’s version of “Auld Lang Syne,” but for the most part the players just revel in the Stax sound and groove. For the real thing, check out Stax’s Christmas in Soulville, but as a fine instrumental tribute, these super soul Christmas classics will warm you as if you’d thrown another log onto your holiday music fire. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

Los Straitjackets: Yuletide Beat

LosStraitjackets_YuletideBeatLos Straitjackets rock the holiday classics, instrumental style

What says “The Holidays” more than a primo wave of tremolo guitar and a rockin’ backbeat? If you’re the masked men of Los Straitjackets, nothing says Christmas better than super-stoked versions of holiday classics. They first rocked the holidays with their 2002 release ‘Tis the Season for Los Straitjackets, but this time out they’re melding iconic melodies with the rhythms and riffs of iconic rock instrumentals. “Deck the Halls” takes on the rhythm guitar signature of “I Fought the Law,” and “We Three Kings” is given the buzzing, single-string treatment of Dick Dale’s “Misirlou.” Los Straitjackets translate “Oh Tannenbaum” into the Latin instrumental “Que Verdes Son,” give “Joy to the World” the Stax treatment, borrow the opening riff and guitar styling of “Buckaroo” for “Jingle Bells,” and play “O Come All Ye Faithful” as if the Tornadoes broke into “Telstar” at the company Christmas party. This is a fresh spin from start to finish, and will add some much needed rock ‘n’ roll spice to your holiday music carousel. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

Burning Hank: Oh Joseph

Burning Hank is a UK folk-pop four-piece whose sense of humor brings to mind ’60s provocateurs like the Fugs. Their first single and video, recorded and shot on a shoestring budget of zero contemplates how Joseph would handle his wife’s pregnancy were he advised and hectored by his guitar-strumming, soccer-playing friends. The single arrives just in time to start some arguments at your family Christmas party and can be had for free at Bandcamp.

Download “Oh Joseph” from Bandcamp
Burning Hank’s MySpace Page

The Singing Saw at Christmastime at Your House!

If you’re looking for a unique holiday experience, consider having Julian Koster visit your home, along with his dog Rudolph and his Singing Saw friend Badger, for an evening of holiday carols.

The current plan has him caroling on these dates in these areas:

12/5 – Atlanta / Rome, GA
12/6 – Nashville, TN (early) / Louisville, KY
12/7 – Indianapolis, IN (early) / Champaign, IL
12/8 – Chicago, IL
12/9 – Kalamazoo, MI (early) / Detroit, MI (and area)
12/10 – Toledo, OH (early) / Cleveland, OH
12/11 – Buffalo, NY (early) / Geneseo, NY
12/12 – Ithaca, NY (early) / Monterrey, MA / Easthampton & Northampton, MA (late-night)
12/13 – Boston, MA (and area)
12/14 – Providence, RI (and area)
12/15 – Riverside, CT / Purchase, NY / Marlboro, NY
12/16 – New York City, NY
12/17 – New York City, NY (and area)
12/18 – Manalapan, NJ (early) / Philadelphia, PA
12/19 – Baltimore, MD (early) / Washington, DC
12/20 – Eagle Rock, VA (early) / Lynchburg, VA
12/21 – Chapel Hill, NC / Raleigh, NC
12/22 – Athens, GA

Invitations are still being accepted for Nashville, Louisville, Indianapolis, Champaign, Cleveland, Providence, Baltimore, D.C., and Chapel Hill/Durham. For more information, send an e-mail to musictapescaroling@gmail.com. Please note in your e-mail if you’re willing to entertain outside guests, and whether you can offer the carolers a place to sleep. This could be the most unusual house concert you ever have a chance to host!

If you’re rather attend than host, you can find the address of one of the homes in your area that will be hosting the carolers: e-mail musictapescaroling@gmail.com for the address and time of a performance near you.

Free song download!

Julian Koster is gifting fans with his version of a holiday classic.

MP3 | White Christmas

Click here for a review of Julian Koster’s album, The Singing Saw at Christmastime.

Julian Koster: The Singing Saw at Christmastime

JulianKoster_TheSingingSawsAtChristmastimeHave yourself an ethereal Christmas

The singing saw (or as it’s commonly known, the musical saw) is thought to date back to the late 1800s, though it really came into its own in the first few decades of the twentieth century. Early saw players used standard issue hand saws, but over the years specialized compounds, thinner steel and varying lengths were used to produce a saw that excelled at producing music in lieu of cutting wood. The saw is played with its handle between the player’s legs and the blade bent into an ‘S’. The sawyer bows the flat middle part of the ‘S’ to produce an ethereal vibration whose harmonics and sustain can make a single saw sound like several. For those who’ve never heard a singing saw, close relations in sound are the Theramin, an electronic instrument that’s been featured in many films (Spellbound, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Ed Wood), and the electro-theremin, most famously used on the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations.”

Like these electronic instruments, the musical saw produces an other-worldly sound whose pitch is wavery and laden with overtones. Julian Koster, whose saw graced the works of Neutral Milk Hotel, has sharpened his axe, uh, saw, on a dozen Christmas and wintertime classics. Koster performs these as instrumentals, allowing the saws to sing on their own. The result is an unearthly tonal chorus that’s simultaneously beautiful and unnerving. Jolly holiday favorites “Frosty the Snowman,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Jingle Bells” can’t quite dash along, given the slow speed with which one can change notes on a saw. The more somber tunes are stretched and thickened with tonal ambience. This isn’t the rocking good cheer of A Christmas Gift For You from Phil Spector, and it won’t inspire the dance moves of a Jackson 5 Christmas, but it will add unusual and thoughtful moments to your Christmas mix. It’s also the perfect album to play when the eggnog is all gone. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Jingle Bells