New Artists, Old Songs: 2011 Holiday Edition

I’ve been wearing my actor’s hat most of the week, treading the boards and wearing the greasepaint, out of the house at all hours prepping for tomorrow’s opening night of Godspell. But though I probably should be going over my own lyrics on the ride to and from dress rehearsals, the bright and oft-garish lawn displays that pepper the otherwise-darkened streets have been inspiring quite another modus operandi.

Which is to say: the holiday soundtrack has been singing in the wires and the air, and I’m not talking about the same-old nostalgic popstuff that’s taken over the rado waves. Here’s some great new discoveries from the mailbag, the blogs, and beyond that have been keeping me in the holiday spirit.

Young Halifax-based folkpop songwriter David Myles is a wanderer, musically speaking: his path includes several collaborations with Canadian hip-hop artist Classified, and a recent world music album heavily influenced by Brazilian and African rhythms; his awards for songwriting and studio albums are predominantly in the folk category, though multiple artist/single of the year recognitions suggest a broad popular appeal. His simple, sparse holiday single comes in uptempo and slow versions, but to be fair, neither one’s a scorcher. Still, the uke’s got a solid range: Hawaiian swingjazz and gentle blues leave us wanting both to keep. Stream, then buy.

We featured Joshua Hyslop here this summer, after we caught wind of Cold Wind, his mesmerizing, dreamy folkpop debut; though it predated his studio recording by several years, the Leonard Cohen cover we dug up at the time was more than ample evidence for naming this young Canadian singer-songwriter a star on the rise. Now comes more proof: an acoustically driven popfolk gem that just explodes into hope and gentle joy just before the one minute mark. The track has already traveled the blogs a bit, but it’s well worth passing around.

  • Joshua Hyslop: Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Matt Douglass is a woodwind player, songwriter and teacher from Raleigh, North Carolina who brings a penchant for echoey, glitchy electrofolk and an odd sense of rhythm to his new holiday album Christmas On Lane Street, a studio solo craftwork being sold to benefit Kids Peace. The resultant carols are slightly unsettling, in need of their own peace, their layers not quite cohered. It’s a nice change, and worth the experiment, from the flooded, staggered cacophony of The Holly And The Ivy to the Judy Garland tribute that ends the album, wearier than hers by far.

According to his publicist, newly-signed Nettwerk artist Liam Titcomb is a Toronto-based “folk festival rug rat” with a heart and a history that begins with a signing to Sony Canada at the age of fifteen, and a subsequent life on the road with Great Big Sea, Tom Cochrane, and other folk greats from above the border. In 2009, at the age of 21, the acoustic folk-rocker raised over $50,000 for War Child on his Coast to Coast Busking Tour, suggesting a strong following and a solid commitment to the future. His newest single Silver Bells begins with an alt-country slide wail and a gentle pulse that blossoms into air, a slow, pensive look at this seasonal favorite.

  • Liam Titcomb: Silver Bells

Fellow coverblogger Ray Padgett of Cover Me fame first introduced us to the dark, troubled “slit your wrist” folk coverage of Josh T. Pearson over the summer, and we were instantly smitten with the brooding artist who pulled a knife on a crowd member at this year’s SXSW. Today, they bring us a ragged, broken-down O Holy Night, off a new Christmas EP being sold as an exclusive bonus for those who buy Pearson’s Last of the Country Gentlemen, which label Rough Trade named their Album of the Year for 2011. It’s worth it.

  • Josh T Pearson: O Holy Night

Beta Radio sound a little too like the Avett Brothers, as if they had swallowed wholesale the neotraditional indiefolk modularity. But brighter, as befits these humble carols. The Song The Season Brings, the single, stunningly sparse original which gives the tiny four-song EP its name, is more than majestic enough to meet the season. And the entire set is free, a gift to the world.

Andrew Ripp is similarly polished, but in the bluesfolk vein. Think Lightnin’ Hopkins with the voice of modern youthpop and a stompin’ beat: electric, and the rest of Light Of Mine, his new six-track Christmas EP, is equally solid. A search reveals a growing body of work with a strong acoustic country bent and a touch of Ben Harper in the mix, too – nice stuff, all ’round, and well worth watching for.

Andrew Ripp: Joy To The World

Last, but certainly not least: the particularly subequatorial phenomenon of a mid-summer Christmas on the water isn’t in my frame of reference, to be sure. I’d never even heard Tim Minchin’s wry Christmas musings before this cover popped up on Timber and Steel’s holiday best-of list last year. But in spite of the religious right protest which it inspired, the universal sentiment in this doubter’s honest homestead holiday hits right at the true meaning of Christmas for much of the post-Christian world, myself included. And young Aussie singer-songwriter Kate Miller-Heidke‘s version is so tender, so soft and earnest, so safe, so full of longing, so utterly, crushingly powerful, you’ll have to listen to it more than once to get the full effect.

Kate Miller-Heidke: White Wine In The Sun (orig. Tim Minchin)

Looking for more holiday coverfolk from Cover Lay Down features past and present? Use the Holiday Coverfolk tag below to peruse more seasonal songs and features…and stay tuned for more as the season progresses!

Category: Holiday Coverfolk, New Artists Old Songs One comment »

One Response to “New Artists, Old Songs: 2011 Holiday Edition”

  1. Birgit

    Though I’m not in christmas mood yet
    and live in the northern hemisphere,
    the Tim-Minchin-song / Kate-Miller-Heidke-cover
    is great! Thanks.

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