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.
Record Store Day (RSD) has become an audiophile’s Christmas since its inception in 2008, celebrating independently owned record stores with exclusive titles and limited-edition releases from everyone from The Beatles to Arcade Fire.
Few 20th-century figures were more influential than Woody Guthrie.
The folk icon and Oklahoma native has a legacy and scope that span the
musical stratosphere, predating and inspiring genres from country to
Tribute albums like this can be tricky, however. So often these things become more about those covering the songs than the one who actually wrote them, and there are definitely moments here where the re-imagining of a Guthrie classic distracts from the weight of its original.
That said, there are some really beautiful updates: Ani DiFranco’s “Deportee” cover and Roseanne Cash’s take on “I Ain’t Got No Home” are tenderly bare-bones, much like Guthrie’s were. Joel Rafael’s “Ramblin’ Reckless Hobo” sounds almost exactly like pre-electric Bob Dylan — a testament to the profound influence Guthrie had on the voice of a generation.
Likewise, Woody Guthrie at 100!is, for the most part, careful not to forget the reason it was assembled in the first place. Even with such a reputable ensemble, the deep-seated impact of Guthrie’s legacy is its ultimate takeaway, succeeding as a portrait of the consummate American artist, both in sound and perspective. —Zach Hale