A #ChristmasSongOfTheDay Part Three

We’re getting closer to the big day, aren’t we! This is, as the title suggests, the third part of my compilation of daily song posts, and offers the usual melange dredged from the canyons of my mind (bonus brownie points to anyone who got that reference!). Today, I’m refreshing you on days 13 up to day 18 – which, in case you hadn’t noticed, is today. Time to get those sprouts on!

For the 13th I went back to my musical roots. Deep down, I am at heart a folkie, and have long loved the music of bands like Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention, which is where the English folk-rock genre really began, in the late 60s. The driving force behind Steeleye has been their singer, Maddy Prior, and I’ve been lucky enough to see the band (I think) six times, going right back to late 1970. For a good many years now Maddy has also run a side project – Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band – who tour at Christmas. This year is no exception: they are still going strong. A new video popped up on YouTube a few days ago: I’m not sure when the performance is actually from, but it looks fairly recent. This is their version of a well known carol, and it is simply joyous:

This is actually the fifth year that I’ve done this – although only the second here on the blog – and very few songs have featured every year. My choice for day 14 is one of that select group: it is from Blue, one of the best albums ever made, by one of the best singer-songwriters ever. The version I’ve previously shared was accompanied by a video of Snoopy skating, which was a perfect fit, but sadly that one has now been withdrawn for copyright reasons: the word that springs to mind is ‘snowflakes!’ The song is still just as brilliant, though, and this video is a good substitute for Snoopy. Here is the wonderful Joni Mitchell:

Day 15 went down a rather different track. Although they haven’t done it recently, the rock band The Killers produced a Christmas song each year for about eight years. Proceeds were donated to charity – I think that is a rather wonderful thing to do, and deserving of mention in my dispatches. This is my favourite of their collection because, well, nothing says ‘Christmas’ quite like cowboys and robot spacemen, does it?

As the 16th was a Sunday I followed my usual practice of selecting a carol. I’ve featured this one before, but not this version. I really can’t think why, as I loved this duo’s music during their short time together as a partnership. They made two excellent albums plus a one-off seasonal single, which featured this as its B-side. The carol is familiar, I’m sure, but I doubt there are many versions which even come close to the heartbreaking beauty and simplicity of the Civil Wars:

Having regretted the musical demise of one favourite, I think I applied my hex on my choice for the 17th too. You probably won’t have heard of Brynn Andre, and she hasn’t been active on the music scene very much for quite some time, having made two lovely albums and an EP going back nearly ten years. Her Twitter feed describes her as a ‘coach for the modern girl’ with no mention of music in her bio – it has been inactive since 2014 anyway. She did pop up doing some live shows in 2014 with an unfulfilled promise of new recordings, and provided the vocals last year for a song by a band called We Are. I live in hope! It says on the video that the song is from an EP entitled Holiday, but until yesterday I’d been unable to find it, other than in this YouTube video version. Having donned my deerstalker I finally managed to locate it as the title track of a three song free download on Bandcamp, so I’m now a very happy bunny! It’s an old standard, but she breathes new life into it, with a lovely evocative video to match. This is another of the select few songs which I’ve featured in all five years of my #ChristmasSongOfTheDay, and I think you’ll see why:

My selection for today takes us back to the mainstream. This is one of the few of my choices which has appeared in the music charts, reaching no.6 in the US and no.9 in the UK (as a double A-side with My Hometown) in 1985, but it is difficult to leave out the Boss (no, not those Sugar and Numpty Trumpty guys, someone more deserving of the title!). Again, this is a pop Christmas standard, but I think this version is great! It’s happy, and that’s what Christmas should be:

So, that’s a wrap for today. I’ll be back on Christmas Day with the final selection of eight more songs to take us up to the full complement of 26. Yes, I know there are 25 days in the usual Advent Calendar but this is mine so I can do it how I like! I get to a final total of 26 by giving you a bonus extra song on Christmas Day – alright, I admit it, it’s more to do with indecision than seasonal goodwill, but I hope you won’t complain!

There will also be an additional post as part of my musical advent this year. For the first time I’m doing a little something extra which will feature here on Friday, and I hope to see you again then. In the meantime, stay well and happy, and mind those sprouts 😉

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2018 Christmas Charity Appeal – Help Me Raise £250 For The Dogs Trust By Leaving Me Links To Your Blogs And Books

As you’re probably aware, I very rarely reblog others as I’ve got into the mindset of believing that I should just be focusing on my own writing here. But, very occasionally, something comes along that I feel just has to be shared. This is a lovely idea, and Hugh is a great guy, so I hope you’ll support him in his charitable endeavours. And who knows, you may even find some new blogs to read through this – including Hugh’s of course, which I can highly recommend!

Hugh's Views & News

The Christmas tree is up, but something is missing. There are no gifts under it, and I need your help to put that right.

#christmastree #christmas #charity #dogstrust

For this year’s Christmas charity appeal, I’m asking you again to help me raise some money for The Dogs Trust.

The Dogs Trust, formerly known as the National Canine Defence League, is an animal welfare charity and humane society in the United Kingdom which specialises in the well-being of dogs. Click here to go to their website.

Want to get involved? Here’s what you need to do.

  1. In the comments section of this post, leave the name of your blog and a link to it. This can be a link to your ‘about me’ page, a favourite blog post you’ve published, or the home page of your blog.
  2. If you’re an author, you’re also welcome to leave a link to any books you have published. So, for example…

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A #ChristmasSongOfTheDay Part Two

As promised, here is the second compilation of Christmas songs which I have been posting each day on Twitter and on the Facebook page for my blog (usual plug – eyes right!). This also marks the day when I swap to a temporary Christmas theme for the blog – rather in keeping with the generally happy and festive posts I’m sharing this month (back to the usual misery in January!).

We all have our favourites and it would be very easy for me to post the same songs every year. Whilst the majority of this year’s selection have indeed featured at least once before in the four previous years in which I’ve done this, it’s always good to find something new. Sometimes these can arise from deliberate searches for artists on YouTube – often to see if there is a video for something I’ve heard on Apple Music – and on other occasions I just stumble into them! Day 7 was a case in point. This was someone of whom I’d never heard before, but I was rather taken by this one. It ranks at the Stinking Bishop end of cheesiness but is so much fun that I had to include it:

I was intrigued to learn more about Si Cranstoun, so I consulted the oracle – Google – which led me to a short Wikipedia article. What an interesting character! He had apparently been in ska and fifties revival bands, and had been a busker too, for twenty years before getting his first record deal a few years back. He has since made several albums of fifties-influenced songs, and his sheer exuberance deserves to win him a bigger audience – I hope he finds it, because his music is so much more fun than the dross we get on the radio nowadays! There are a number of other videos of him on YouTube, including some from his busking days, so do check him out if you enjoyed this one.

As the 8th was a Saturday, when many would no doubt have been braving the high street in search of Christmas goodies, I thought I’d choose something appropriate to help them on their way. Or maybe not! Tom Lehrer was a consummate writer and performer of satirical songs, and his Christmas offering is a little gem:

Lehrer only wrote 37 songs and performed just 109 times in a twenty year musical career – his day job was as a mathematics professor – but his fame and recognition grew slowly as people told each other about him. He once described it as having spread ‘like herpes, rather than Ebola’ which gives you an idea of his wit and style! He has long since retired from his ‘proper’ career as well as his sideline, but is apparently still enjoying life at the grand old age of 90. I fear that his style is unlikely to be popular today but he was rather good with words: try I Hold Your Hand In Mine or Poisoning Pigeons In The Park and you’ll see what I mean! Maybe we could get a Lehrer revival going, though I dread to think what he’d write about modern day politics on both sides of the Atlantic!

I usually try to post something more relaxed or traditional for a Sunday, like a carol, for instance. I’ve not shared this one before but it seemed to tick all of the boxes for day 9:

I’ve long been a fan of Alison Krauss – she has a beautiful voice and her brand of bluegrass music is very much to my liking. She has made several sorties into other types of music – notably on Raising Sand, the album she made with Robert Plant, formerly the lead singer of Led Zeppelin. That album won five Grammy awards – just a few of the twenty seven she has won to date! I also enjoy classical crossover as a genre, and this is a perfect example of the blending of styles that seems to come naturally to great musicians.

I marked day 10 with a bit of silliness from the best band I’ve ever seen live. Sadly, they split up in 2016, after more than ten years of making hugely enjoyable music and performing some occasionally outrageous live shows – their anti-Valentine’s Day show several years ago is still the only folk music gig I’ve attended where burlesque dancers were part of the show! This song made the BBC Radio 2 playlist on release, but didn’t trouble the charts – a pity, as it would have livened them up a bit. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the inimitable Bellowhead:

No one sleeps while they’re on!

Although, as I’ve said, I try to avoid chart hits – and my musical taste doesn’t really include many of them anyway – I do make the odd notable exception. This one, which I posted for day 11, is from one of my many favourite bands. It goes back to the 1970s when it seemed that everyone was making a Christmas record, many of dubious and variable quality. This is, I think, the only one of Jethro Tull’s three Christmas singles that charted, and they also recorded an entire album of seasonal music. I love this song, and this special promotional video that was made to accompany it on TV fits it perfectly:

And finally, for Part Two of this compilation, here is the song I posted today:

I bought the Band’s first album, Music From Big Pink, when it was first released, and played it to the point where the vinyl was almost transparent! There was just something about them, the songs they wrote, and the plaintive rawness of their performance that really got to me. This song was released on their album Islands in 1977, and typifies so much of what I like about them. There is a beauty and simplicity in the lyrics and the laid back musicianship that, to me, are very fitting for a Christmas song, and this seems a good point at which to conclude my Part Two. I’ll be back again next Tuesday with Part Three and hope to see you again then. In the meantime, you can see and hear each day’s song on my Facebook page and my Twitter feed, if you’d like to keep up to date – just click the links to the right if you don’t already follow me on either or both. If you do you’ll also see posts shared from my Instagram #AdventCalendar, though maybe the less said about that the better!

I hope your pre-Christmas is going well, and look forward to seeing you again next time.