Holiday Coverfolk 2010, Vol. 1: Christmas, (Re)Covered
(New and newly-found holiday songs from familiar faces)





Every year, I find my struggle to stave off Christmas Creep stymied by the drive to provide the meaningful and new before early-season eagerness can be replaced by weary resignation.

Oh, sure, I wish it were otherwise - after all, December has so much more to offer, from Hanukkah to the very real possibility of an early snow day. But being the last blogger on the block to cover Christmas risks hitting folks when their patience for the songs of the season has already been exhausted. And dropping the best of what we have to offer into an unwelcome lap frames fruitful artistry as fruitcake, heavy and unwanted, when it should arrive fresh and new as the December snow, sparkling and light with joy.

So yes, it’s early for the holiday samplers to begin in earnest. But then, we’ve but a month before these songs get shelved again, and all competitive urgency aside, giving artists their due time in your worthy ears does seem to warrant the immediacy.

In the spirit of the modern season, then, and in the interest of giving the people what they want to hear, here’s the first of what will surely be several holiday-themed features this year. We’ll start with ringing in the new, so that this year’s top crop can be given their full potential, with new work from familiar faces this weekend; stay tuned for old favorites, carols and coverage from young and newly-discovered artists, and more as the weeks progress.



The Indigo Girls - who we covered in full way back in September, 2009 - have waited a long time to take on the holiday spirit, perhaps because their early work, so heavily steeped in raw depression and rage, was anathema to the tone and tenor of the season.

But the long-standing duo has broadened their perspective since then, finding comfort and joy in creating anthems and courting hope where once they spewed forth only anger. Now, in keeping with their long-standing commitment to diversity and social justice, they present new seasonal record Holly Happy Days, a diverse set of songs from various sources and traditions, which yaws from sparse yet cheerful pop to dark folkrock. And though the synthesized production causes a few tracks to come off as cursory, the underlying pain of their earlier work still lingers appropriately in such tunes as Peace Child and the album-closing piano-led hymn There’s Still My Joy - providing balance to the larger mass of upbeat and hopeful numbers, including both their fast-paced take on a Klezmer Hanukkah tune, which would have fit easily into our midweek feature on the Guthrie family, and this mellow cowboy take on O Holy Night.



In his new holiday EP Christmas Gift, alt-country fave Scott Miller, who we’ve not yet covered, takes on John Prine, who we have. I don’t know as much about the Southern-based one-time rock star as I apparently should, though several Americana bloggers I trust seem to think he’s at the forefront of the modern canon. But the gentle gospel lilt he lends to Prine’s old chestnut makes for a pretty stunning transformation of an oft-covered favorite, while other cuts, from a “dueling banjos” arrangement of Joyful Joyful to a slow twangy cover of Neil Young’s Star Of Bethelem, along with several well-crafted originals, shine as well. If the Christmas Gift EP is typical of Miller’s work, he’s got one more fan in me as of right now.

For comparison’s sake:



Just One Angel, a new project spearheaded by Christine Lavin, is predominantly a collection of originals, from many of the same crowd that brought you the In My Room tribute album which we featured earlier this year. Lavin’s lighthearted spirit and tender nature are easily evident, with songs ranging from irreverent to holy, and like the aforementioned tribute, this one comes recommended especially for older folkies, who will recognize the names of many artists here.

Among the gems on Just One Angel, I found a Dar Williams cover from Darryl Purpose, who we first took note of in our July 2010 tribute to the Dave Carter songbook; a quick search of the archives brought me to the softspoken folksinger’s self-released 2002 Christmas album The Gift of the Magi (And Other Seasonal Stories), a delightful set of modern folk coverage which includes both the Dar tune and a second Carter cover. Head back into our own archives for features on both Dar covering and Dave covered, but don’t forget to pick up both Darryl’s holiday record and the Just One Angel compilation first.



Bonus points for Kate Taylor’s take on Auld Lang Syne from the same compilation as above, originally released at the turn of the century as her very first single after a 20 year hiatus from musicmaking. We hit a few of our favorite covers of the perennial New Years tune last year around the turn of the calendar, but there’s a hidden secret bonus traceback here, too, for those who recognize the harmony vocalist on the track. Yes, that’s Kate’s more famous brother, alright. Uncredited here, but unmistakable.



Like many labels this time of year, Bedroom Community - that’s Sam Amidon’s label, for those without encyclopedic recall - will be releasing its own collection of seasonal tunes, aptly entitled Yule, which in the case of the tiny Icelandic outlet in question means remixes, exclusive tracks, unreleased album outtakes and scores which trend towards the fragile, icy extremes of the indiefolk world, all available free to download exclusively with every purchase made through their web store until the New Year. The collection includes an acoustic version of Kedron, Amidon’s contribution to the 2008 nufolk spiritual gathering Help Me To Sing: Songs of the Sacred Harp; the tracks from Yule haven’t been released yet, but here’s the original release to warm the heart a bit before it drops.



Finally, and in other news: Sam Billen, whose kickstarter-funded holiday project we wrote about several weeks ago, reports that the album has been sent along to the printers as of last Friday, so expect the freebies to be available pretty soon; in the meanwhile, here’s a pair of delicate, sweetly soaring tracks from his 2008 holiday collection Merry Christmas, now available free to download from the website.


Oh, and in the interest of not repeating myself this year, while also providing fodder for those once again searching for just the right mix for the holiday season, here’s the full set of last year’s Christmas posts:



Cover Lay Down posts new coverfolk sets and features twice weekly without fail, come snow or unseasonal warmth. Coming soon: new holiday covers from new artists, acoustic favorites from yesteryear, and more holiday cheer!

Category: (Re)Covered, Holiday Coverfolk

7 Responses to “Holiday Coverfolk 2010, Vol. 1: Christmas, (Re)Covered
(New and newly-found holiday songs from familiar faces)

  1. Twitter Trackbacks for Holiday Coverfolk 2010, Vol. 1: Christmas, (Re)Covered (New and newly-found holiday songs from familiar faces) — Cover Lay Down [coverlaydown.com] on Topsy.com

    [...] Holiday Coverfolk 2010, Vol. 1: Christmas, (Re)Covered (New and newly-found holiday songs from famil… coverlaydown.com/2010/11/holiday-coverfolk-2010-v…d-newly-found-holiday-songs-from-familiar-faces/ – view page – cached Folkfan since childhood, coverfan since my teens. In my other life, I teach. In summer, I staff folk festivals. Tweets about this link [...]

  2. Fitz

    Folk covers of non-folk songs have always been interesting to me. But the song - The Christians and the Pagans by Darryl Purpose - just made me smile and think. It’s not a traditional song by any stretch - and yet it sums up all of my goals for the holidays. Let’s put aside our differences and simply enjoy each other’s company like gentlefolk.

    Makes me wonder where the civility in the world has gone and how we could come so far from the WWI Christmas truce of 1914 when the Germans, French, and British forces put aside the war for a moment of peace in the madness. I can’t imagine that happening in Afghanistan or between the Koreas. And yet I can hope.

    That doesn’t make me naive and it isn’t wishful thinking. I’m a pragmatist at heart, but I still have to have hope in mankind occasionally.

    This song (originally from Dar Williams) made me hope again.

    Thanks for the great post and please keep up the great work. Your blog and posts are one of the bright spots every week!

  3. ScratchDad

    Indigo Girls also cover “River” on the 1200 Curfew live album (I think you posted a Neil Young cover from there previously).

  4. Chanukah Coverfolk, 2010: New voices and familiar tunes from a growing canon — Cover Lay Down

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  5. Owyn

    404 for Amos Lee: Christmas In Prison(cipal.mp3)

  6. boyhowdy

    Thanks for fact-checking, Owyn. The cause is actually a mass dump of old files due to growing bandwidth abuse on archived posts - guess I forgot that some newer posts included reposted songs w/ older links…

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