Sunday, 14 December 2008

Get Behind Me, Santa!

Seven Festive Favourites

Our modest Christmas tree is illuminated, a few presents have been bought and so far I've eaten two mince pies this month. If you're not feeling festive yet these seven songs should help.

MP3: Sufjan Stevens - Get Behind Me, Santa!

This is from Stevens' Songs For Christmas box set. Not the greatest Christmas song of all time but certainly the one with the best title.

MP3: The Blind Boys of Alabama - Last Month of the Year

The Blind Boys' Christmas album contains more hits than misses and starts brilliantly with this track. This is usually the first festive song I play each year and for much of December Jo has to out up me constantly asking, "When was Jesus born?".

MP3: The Blind Boys of Alabama w/ Tom Waits

The Blind Boys have covered a few Tom Waits songs so it makes sense that he guests on this. Plus, his growl is perfect for preaching. (For those who care about these things, Danny Thompson plays double bass on this track).

MP3: Tom Waits - Silent Night

Recorded for a 1989 charity compilation, SOS United, I'm not sure that this version of Silent Night works as a lullaby.

MP3: The Staple Singers - Who Took The Merry Out of Christmas

I love this song. Like so many Staple staples it's full of righteous anger but remains utterly joyful.

MP3: Low - Just Like Christmas

A Christmas song that isn't actually about Christmas but does have plenty of sleigh bells with nods in the direction of Phil Spector. Perfect.

MP3: Captain Beefheart - There Ain't No Santa Claus on the Evening Stage

What can I say? Certainly one of the strangest Christmas songs ever recorded. You can find it on the Captain's Spotlight Kid album.

Happy Christmas! As usual please leave a comment with your thoughts on yte tracks. For an even more interesting collection of Christmas songs I recommend a visit to Big Rock Candy Mountain - twang, truckers and tinsel abound.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Mark Olson & Gary Louris

A belated response to their Union Chapel show last month

I have an awful lot to thank Mark Olson and Gary Louris for. Their band, The Jayhawks, were my first Americana heroes and in the fifth form I wore out my cassette of their album Hollywood Town Hall. That record, along with a photo of Evan Dando wearing a Gram Parsons t-shirt on a Lemonheads sleeve, were the chief ingredients mixed in the crucible that formed my love of '' (whatever that is/was). Sadly I never got to see Louris and Olson sing their wonderful harmonies together on stage. I think The Jayhawks played in London the day before my English A-level so that was a no-no. By the end of 2005 Mark Olson had left the band.

Since then I've seen both the Louris-led Jayhawks and Mark Olson perform plenty of times but I never thought I'd ever get to see the pair play the songs together that first set my musical taste on a twang trajectory. I'd heard rumours that Louris and Olson had recorded a new album together and at Dingwalls last year I asked Mark Olson if a tour was likely. He was optimistic; I was excited.

And so to a 19th-century Gothic church in Islington a few weeks ago...

Watching two middle-aged blokes with acoustic guitars isn't comparable to seeing a band in their youthful prime but the fantastic reaction to songs they wrote together like Settled Down Like Rain and Over My Shoulder proved that I wasn't alone in being overwhelmed by both nostalgia and enormous affection for the men in front of the pulpit.

Thankfully, a lot of the songs on their new album, Ready For the Flood, are pretty good. They're certainly more Simon & Garfunkel than Gram & Emmylou but you can imagine tracks like Bloody Hands being worked up into full-on country rockers.

Unless you're a Jayhawks fan of old this I can't imagine this reunion would mean much. Perhaps the tracks below might convince you otherwise. Let me know.

MP3: The Jayhawks - Sioux City

MP3: The Jayhawks - Settled Down Like Rain

MP3: The Jayhawks - Over My Shoulder

MP3: Mark Olson & Gary Louris - The Rose Society

MP3: Mark Olson & Gary Louris - Bloody Hands

Related Posts
Mark Olson - Dingwalls, 17 October 2007

Related Links
Mark Olson - MySpace

Gary Louris - official site

Buy This Music

The Jayhawks: Amazon | 7digital
Mark Olson & Gary Louris: Amazon
Mark Olson: Amazon | 7digital
Gary Louris: Amazon | 7digital

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