It’s Christmas time and that means new Christmas songs and modern takes on old classics. Sure, there are solid new releases from major artists like Carrie Underwood, Dolly Parton, Meghan Trainor and Goo Goo Dolls. But the Christmas holiday spirit hits songwriters the same way, no matter who they may be.
Here are a few under the radar Christmas originals and a cover or two. Today is the first Friday of the month and Bandcamp is offering artists 100% of the sale proceeds so you still have some time to hit the link and support those who have their recordings on the site.
Nicole Atkins: “Every Single Christmas”
Atkins wrote “Every Single Christmas” with JD McPherson several years ago and he released the first version on his 2018 record Socks. McPherson arranged it in a classic, ‘50s style, complete with a sax solo that sounds straight out of the great Atlantic Recordings of that era.
Atkins opts for a rocked-up version of “Every Single Christmas” featuring special guest Nicholaus Arson of The Hives that blends punk rock, an ‘80s feel, fuzzed-out guitar riff and a steady driving bass line a, topped by Atkins’ vintage-sounding vocals.
Atkins says: “I’ve kept hearing it in my head as a fast and wild Christmas punk song – like Cyndi Lauper and Brenda Lee, the spirit of the NY Dolls, and The Ramones’ “Palisades Park,” all rolled up into a National Lampoon’s Christmas movie.”
Elvis Cosello gives the song his stamp of approval: “I love this [‘Every Single Christmas’] and it will join Nick Lowe’s take on Roger Miller’s ‘Old Toy Trains’ and Dylan’s Christmas polka, ‘It Must Be Santa’ on my seasonal playlist… this is full on pop music, as in Lesley Gore, like Kim Wilde or even Noddy Holder, without sounding like any of them.”
Anthony D’Amato: Merry Christmas, I Guess
Anthony D’Amato always has an insightful, left of center point of view and he makes the best of current situations in the tender folk ballad original “Merry Christmas, I Guess.”
Merry Christmas, I guess/ We’re all just doing our best
To make it through this wretched year alive
Merry Christmas, I hope/ I’ve still got rum and Coke
And a pack of cards to help me pass the time
“The holidays are going to feel extra lonely for a lot of people this year,” D’Amato said. “Some have lost loved ones, some are quarantining far away from family and friends, some are working long, heartbreaking hours in hospitals and care facilities. I wanted to write a song that would ring a little more true for them than the standards this December, something that said it’s ok if you don’t feel particularly festive right now. We’re all just trying to get by in our own way, and it’s important to embrace whatever shape that takes. Merry Christmas, I Guess.”
The song is up on Bandcamp now with an official release date of December 8.
Rusty Young (Poco): “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas/Jingle Bells/White Christmas” medley
Poco-founder and pedal steel virtuoso Rusty Young puts his own instrumental spin on a medley of Christmas with “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” along with “Jingle Bells” and “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.”
“This medley brings back memories from my childhood,” Young said. “It’s one I played at Christmas family gatherings back in Colorado. It makes me think of family gathered together, pine scented candles, a glowing Christmas tree, love and lots of snow.”
Red Wanting Blue: Christmas All Over Again
The Goo Goo Dolls aren’t the only ones who are fans of the 1992 Tom Petty classic, “Christmas All Over Again”. Red Wanting Blue puts their spin on with a cover produced by the Grammy-nominated, Dave Darling, who also produced Rusty Young’s medley.
“Tom Petty is a champion of rock-n-roll. Why wouldn’t we cover his Christmas tune?” exclaims Red Wanting Blue’s Dean Anshutz. “We also don’t think anyone needs a bunch of middle-aged men singing ‘All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth.’
Blue Élan Family: Glorious
Both Young and Red Wanting Blue’s songs are part of the Blue Élan Record family. Kirk Pasich, Blue Élan label co-founder, gathered a few of his artists for a rendition of “Glorious” for a new recording. “I always loved the song and thought that its lyrics resonate in these times. ‘Friends and family near, no more judgments, no more fear, All is calm, all is bright, everyone will hold this light.’
Sweetlove, Wes Hutchinson – Christmas Without You
Written over Zoom this year, “Christmas Without You” by Sweetlove with Wes Hutchinson is a tender, acoustic ballad about lovers separated by distance and current circumstances.
“We wrote ‘Christmas Without You’ this summer, over Zoom meetings, in the heart of quarantine – a time when the distance from our loved ones was weighing heavy on us, and we wanted to focus on the moments that make holidays special, the small moments that warm the heart and matter the most,” Sweetlove says. “As time passed, and it became even more clear that this year we will all be facing very different holidays, often even further away than ever from those we cherish the most, we realized that this was really a love song to the memories we’ve made through the years, memories that we can always carry with us.”
Haylee Joe: Dear Santa ( from Before Christmas EP)
California’s Haylee Joe just started releasing music this year after partnering with producer Michael Arrom. The two were quick to collaborate on an all-original 5-song EP, Before Christmas, which captures the sentimental vibes of holidays past spiced up with a modern spin, highlighted by Haylee’s sultry, endearing vocals.
Link to “Dear Santa”: https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/hayleejoe/dear-santa
Link to Before Christmas EP: https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/hayleejoe/before-christmas-2
Gold Record: “Candy Cane”
Bandcamp link: https://goldrecord.bandcamp.com/music
Bay Area / New Mexico-based band Gold Record bring holiday cheers with their Volume XMAS EP out December 18 (pre-order), their sixth EP this year. “Candy Cane” is the lead single from the forthcoming release.
“It was never meant to be a Christmas song,”, singer Noah Clark said. “But the melody in my head just only sounded correct to me when the words candy cane were in there. So, I just leaned into it and wrote 4 holiday songs. So fun.”
Olivia Rox: “It’s Christmastime”
Olivia penned her original holiday song, “It’s Christmastime,” while reflecting on childhood memories spent with her family in Boulder, Colorado. The song features her father, renowned jazz artist Warren Hill on saxophone.
“This song is all about the joy of Christmas and favorite Christmas memories,” she said. “Baking cookies, cuddling up in a cozy blanket by the fireplace and watching “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and even that indescribable feeling of waking up to see the world blanketed in white on a snowy day. During these tough times in the pandemic, we all more than ever before need the feeling of Christmas. A somehow magically uniting force that brings us all together, even when we’re apart. I hope that my song helps bring that magic to your home this Christmas season.”
Helen O’Shea with Mike Montrey: “Fairytale Of New York”
Irish-born, New Jersey resident Helen O’Shea gives The Pogues & Kirsty McColl’s classic Christmas anthem a Jersey spin, teaming with multi-instrumentalists Mike Montrey and Michael Arrom, along with Grammy-nominated producer Marc Swersky.
“Although this song is a massive Christmas anthem in Ireland, it is rarely played in the USA because of some offensive lyrics in the original version. I’ve loved the song since I first heard it as a teenager in Ireland. After I moved with my family to the USA, I really wanted to create my own version so that this beautiful song could reach more people.”