Christmas songs are as big a part of the season as crowded shopping malls and spiked eggnog, but there are only so many times you can hear “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls” without wanting to wretch just a little. Here are some suggestions for compiling a Yuletide playlist that perhaps isn’t quite so musty. Much of the music can be purchased or ordered locally at Guestroom Records, Size Records and the like.
It’s been a long while since I’ve heard a work of Americana as sprawling and ambitious as Independence 76’s debut album, Magpie Parables.
Its imaginative storytelling qualities are effective at times and overwrought at others, as narrator g. Eddison — it’s unclear whether Mr. Eddison is an actual person or just a fictional device — cries woe over the generation his junior.
Woody Guthrie’s an obvious influence, as the bluegrass band tackles the taboo with obvious language and remarkably straightforward accusations against a Big Brother government: “And they tried to use Pat Tillman as his GI poster boy / 9/11 was a neo-convict ploy.”
Parables isn’t all eulogizing and complaining, however. A couple of catchier numbers are mixed in, most notably “Kickapoo Riffraff,” which is a ton of fun just to say, let alone sing. The songs that stick with storytelling are fun in their vivid descriptions; “For Worse” follows a “California cocaine queen” who’s “a 90-pound whore,” and an “overcaffeinated, undereducated generation.”
It’s not the most elegantly recorded album, however. No singer is credited, but if it’s Eddison, as we’re led to believe, his voice gets muddled a bit low in the mix, occasionally obscuring lyrical meaning.
Still, Magpie Parables is a worthwhile sociocultural study in song, available for purchase at independence76.com.