A Very Kidfolk Christmas Mix
(A seasonal starter kit for hip moms and dads)

Unless you’re living totally off the grid, it’s hard to ignore the signs. Church Christmas bazaars and crafts fairs pepper the New England landscape, their wreaths and wraps and wooden ornaments a constant temptation. Television relationships get warmer by the fire; the commercials all begin to come in red velvet and white fur trim. Even the older family down the street has gotten into the act, draping the gutters with fauxcicles, topping the old stump with a glittering wire angel, trimming the lawn with white plastic snowmen and skeletal reindeer that blink furiously into the late November night.

I dither on this every year – far be it from me to provide the tipping point in a world where urgency for the next big event so easily smothers the authenticity of the here and now. But it’s not too early for the soundtrack to a season if people are already holiday shopping. And my tracking software tells me the hits for Christmas searches are on their seasonal uptick.

So here’s the perfect alternative to crass commercialism and the acquisition drive: a reclaimed set of songs to kick off the season in style, geared towards the family hearth but open to children of all ages, merry and bright with the joys and hopes of the year, perfect for those long drives to the mall or the holiday feast.

Most of these songs come from their own collections, so if the spirit moves you, don’t forget to click the links to share in the joy. I’ve also buried a few other holiday gift suggestions in the text this year, the better to guide your kiddie list shopping towards the earnest and honest.

Heck, I’ve even added a zip file, for convenient downloading – an early holiday gift from our family to yours. Enjoy.

    We kick things off this year with a gentle non-denominational sing-along from our favorite “all ages” folk songstress (and hubby Daniel). Her debut You Are My Flower still makes the best birthing gift I know for the children of folkfans.

    A touch of Burl Ives and a healthy dollop of good humor make this a rollicking good rendition of a familiar classic. Originally from a 2005 solo holiday album recorded in an Adirondack cabin, but like the Kate Rusby track that follows, found on A Family Christmas, Putumayo Kids’ wonderful 2009 kidfolk-and-more collection.

    You’ll probably have to explain what wassailing is (it’s a lot like caroling, but with more feudal class consciousness, and an expectation of food, drink, and gifts in exchange for the song). But the joyous bounce in Kate Rusby’s arrangement, originally released on Sweet Bells in 2008, speaks for itself.

    My six year old hums and wiggles along to this one as we sit by the fire playing Callisto. Both the game and the band come highly recommended for the bright pre-bluegrass set.

    Ah, the Rankin-Bass Christmas canon, now available in one great collection on DVD. Sure, the songs generally pre-date the TV specials, but why make them stand alone? As one of our most downloaded songs ever, this yearly favorite from Apple’s 2003 holiday disc has proven its legs.

    Something new to our playlist this year: the Sufjan original is a grungy rocker, and the Luke Flowers indiefolk cover quite slow and mellow; The Standalone hew closer to the former, dropping the electric guitar for an acoustic, covering the spread with great folk-rock and an anthemic flourish.

    A live-track gypsy swing revival (with a hidden hillbilly verse, and a fake slavic coda) for the bloodshot set. Off A Christmas Spanking, which provides about as much playfully upbeat fun for the whole family as we’ve come to expect from the band.

    Don’t be deceived by its synthesized intro – this bouncy banjo punk track from the mid-nineties has an urgency that kids can’t help but feel in their feet. Bonus points for more Grinchiness; buy a set with book and the original video for the full effect.

    Though technically out of print, early Jim Henson TV special Emmett Otter’s Jugband Christmas isn’t hard to find in an age of instancy, and its message and its artistic craftsmanship are still relevant today, able to compete with the shiniest of the new. Rose Polenzani – whose YouTube Christmas coverage is legendary – hits its opening number out of the park, finding new sentiment in a sensitive tone.

    Yes, it’s the Chipmunk song; yes, the original drives many of us bananas. But solo artist Run On Sentence makes it sparse and sentimental without losing a whit of the energy or playfulness of the original.

    We’re eschewing the overtly religious in this week’s playlist, the better to encompass the breadth of practice in our readership and your modern family. But the recitation of the beasts in this old hymn have always struck me as childlike, and Sufjan’s warm approach to the song is magical, indeed. Families with a willingness to engage in the full religious range will enjoy the progression of sound from acoustic to electrofolk that runs through the five EPs of Sufjan’s christmas package – it even comes with stickers, stories, and a sing-along songbook.

    One of Vince Guaraldi’s finest becomes a sweet ballad in the hands of singer-songwriter Rosie Thomas, whose sentimental yet predominantly upbeat holiday album won our hearts several Christmases ago and still rings true today.

    The Snowman has a stronger presence in the UK, but both book and holiday special rank high in our home for their silent-yet-magical storyline, their vibrant colors and lines, and the tale of warmth and friendship they extend to the world. A stuffed snowman toy from Gund that was the wee one’s favorite soft companion for years comes highly recommended, too.

Snag the whole 2011 Cover Lay Down Kidfolk Xmas Mix as a zip file!

Category: Holiday Coverfolk, Kidfolk 3 comments »

3 Responses to “A Very Kidfolk Christmas Mix
(A seasonal starter kit for hip moms and dads)

  1. Tom Wood

    Thanks so much for Walking in the Air. My daughter and I love The Snowman. We’ve watched it through her entire 17 years, and this is the part of the picture that touches me the most. I’d like to find the original.

  2. coopsmom

    Thanks again! Every year you introduce us to “new favorites” I would not have found on my own!

  3. Amy Konary

    Thanks for this! I have a three and five year old and am always looking for new music that we can all enjoy.

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