Christmas Blues? Christmas is coming and I'm just not feeling it. People are putting up lights, and having office parties--if they haven't been laid off. Pipes are freezing, the economy is going sideways, and now you've got to buy presents. All that cheery super cornball Christmas music is like eating a dinner of candy canes. It just ain't cutting it. It's time for Christmas blues. That's right, compared to all that sugary crap these tunes are like shots of egg nog--hold the egg.
"Christmas Tears" by Eric Clapton
There is a tradition of underground Christmas blues and country from the other side of the tracks. This isn't the crap you hear from old Andy Williams. This is the real deal. Some might be upbeat, and some is low and slow as molasses in December, but it's all rings true. It decks the halls, and just might deck you, too.
"Blues for Christmas" by John Lee Hooker
Christmas brings out high emotions and lowdown feelings. It's hard not to feel it. Instead of denying the Christmas blues, these performers tell it like it is. The sweet stuff is good, too, for dessert, but this is the real red meat sizzling on the grill. Listen up.
"Santa Came Home Drunk" by Clyde Lasley and the Cadillac Baby Specials
Oh, man, drinking and the holidays? I hadn't noticed. My Uncle Dick and Molly (not their real names) used to get so plastered they'd end up fighting every holiday, and their kids would drift over to our place like orphans out of Charles Dickens. Drink was a good part of the holiday, and people love getting all warm and cozy--and maudlin and self-absorbed and melancholy and nostalgic. It's a Christmas tradition.
"Merry Christmas Baby" by Charles Brown
A Christmas classic, if you ask me, right up there with "O Come All Ye Faithful." Remember the Christmas pageants at school? We'd drill for weeks with our music teacher, and then finally the glorious day would come that we'd all pile into the gymnasium in front of all the parents. Grade by grade we'd all sing basically the same songs, while parents shifted in their folding chairs. We never sang any Lightnin' Hopkins, to my recollection, but maybe we should have thrown in this one:
"Santa" by Lightnin' Hopkins
Times are hard. The worst depression, er, recession in ninety years has left people jobless and looking hard at Christmas. People have been laid off, or had their hours cut (like me) and there are no bonuses this year. Bonuses, hell, there are no cost of living raises. Now go buy presents for everyone. This tune might touch a nerve in you working class heroes. Here's an "up" tune.
"Kamikaze Economy Christmas" by Jeremy Fisher
Joni Mitchell was everyone's sweetheart, and back in the day every girl with a guitar copied her style and looks the way they now imitate Lady Ga Ga. Here she sings a sweet sad song about the holiday season.
"River" by Joni Mitchell
Joni ain't got nothin' on Del Reeves. Reeves sings about Santa in deep do do, like this department store Santa.
"Santa Got Lost" by Del Reeves
You wouldn't really have a Christmas without the King. Yeah, that guy too, but I'm talking about Elvis. Here he gets all loosey goosey on whatever pills the doctor prescribed and let's loose with some holiday cheer. Go with it. Don't just sit their, let that music get into your soul and tap your feet. Feel that?
"Santa Claus is Back in Town/Blue Christmas" by Elvis Presley
Like that? Of course you did. Now let's get down. Commander Cody has long been known for his killer band and arrangements. Here they hit full holiday mode, Cody style. Another sad one, but hey, this is Christmas barbecue not penny candy. Listen up, kids.
"Daddy's Drinking Up Our Christmas" by Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen
Santa's in trouble. Nobody knows trouble like Andre Williams, that's for sure. He could kick Andy Williams' ass in a heartbeat. When Andre talks about "Christmas Wish" he knows what he's talking about. Give the man some respect.
"Christmas Wish" by Andre Williams
Country music has its own outlaws, and the blues infuse the best of it from Hank Williams to Steve Earle. The Everly Brothers come up with the absolutely bluest Christmas song anytime, anywhere. Loosen your necktie, gulp down some courage, and give this tearjerker a good listen.
"Christmas Eve Can Kill You" by the Everly Brothers
Tom Waits has a new album, and he's still alive and kicking even though he sounds like those homeless guys sleeping outside under the bridge. Those guys must be tough, and it's good to remember them this time of year. Here is Tom Waits' beautiful rendition of a classic to sing us home. Merry Christmas.
"Silent Night" by Tom Waits