For this year’s holiday mixtape, we asked our resident experts (i.e., local musicians) to pick their favorite, obscure Christmas tune. You know, the non-Bing Crosby/Nat King Cole/Wham songs that most people probably haven’t heard of, but everyone should add to their playlist for any good holiday party.
Check out their choices below. And be on the lookout for parts 2 and 3 in our countdown to Christmas.
Greg Cartwright (Reigning Sound, The Parting Gifts):
The Harlem Children’s Choir “Black Christmas” [off the holiday compilation album In The Christmas Groove].
Ralph Lewis (Sons of Ralph):
The Bill Monroe/Tex Logan song “Christmas Times’ a Comin’” is one that brings back memories of a Grand Ole Opry Christmas show we did, where Dolly Parton came out on stage and surprised Bill Monroe and us to sing a verse!
Jetson Black (The Black Rabbits):
If you’re looking for an awesome underground indie band then check out Eux Autres’ song “Another Christmas At Home.” I generally can’t stand Christmas music, but this song would be a great song even if it wasn’t a Christmas song.
Graham Sharp (Steep Canyon Rangers):
I’ve been liking the In the Christmas Groove record, and “Christmas Must Be Tonight” by The Band has a steady spot in my holiday rotation. Nothing too quirky or off the wall here, just good clean holiday fun.
Chris Lee (Kovacs and the Polar Bear):
I know this is extremely obscure, but Seth Kaufman and Brian Landrum from Floating Action have a Christmas album they recorded under the name The Advent Family, and it’s incredible.
Josh Martier (The Critters):
I love throwing Alessandro Moreschi into the Christmas shuffle. He was one of the last castrato singers of the Catholic church. His voice is so haunting and beautiful it reminds me of snow. Like Christmas, there is something mysterious and magical about these recordings. “Domine salvum fac” is favorite and its off of Alessandro Moreschi, The Last Castrato. Surprisingly, the echos of Catholic genital mutilation really get you in the Christmas spirit.
Jesse Langlais (Town Mountain):
This may not be my favorite Christmas song but certainly obscure, funny and great: “Christmas In Prison”, John Prine.
Kevin Stanford (Knives & Daggers):
“Just Like Christmas” by Low is a rare treat among the onslaught of overplayed commercialized music we hear this time of year. This is an original piece of music they wrote which doesn’t just speak of Christmas, but conjures up images and feelings of winter as a whole. Taken from a whole album of original and traditional Christmas songs they put out for fans, it single-handedly saved Christmas music for me by its minimalist and charming approach.
Secret Agent 23 Skidoo:
As evidenced by Saki’s (aka MC Fireworks) guest singing at the Mountain Xpress Best of Bash, our family fave is “Oh Shit it’s Christmastime” by Asheville’s own The Mad Tea. It’s awesome, it’s local, and it’s far from sugary sweet.
Josh Phillips (Folk Festival):
“Is Papa Gambino gonna have to smack a bitch this Christmas?” by Papa Gambino
“The Rebel Jesus” by Jackson Browne. My dad loves this song and when something moves his heart it makes me listen more carefully and give a different value to it than I might otherwise. Also, this song represents the Christmas sentiment that I actually resonate, ‘cause most things about Christmas make me want to flee the country.
Amanda Anne Platt (The Honeycutters):
I’d say mine might actually be an album, The Austin Christmas Collection from 1981. Though if I had to pick one song off it it would be “Christmas in a Honky Tonk” sung by Bill and Bonnie Hearne. I’ve heard that album on repeat every Christmas I’ve been alive for, and it doesn’t quite feel like the holidays without it!
Shane Perlowin (Ahleuchatistas):
“Seasoned Greetings” by The Residents. A bittersweet and nostalgic number that captures a joyful holiday sentiment and the sincere love of a strange boy towards his sweet family.