State Forty-Five: New Mexico

It’s not Mexico, but who can tell?
There’s one big NM song for Feliz Navidad, so no one else bothered.
Because i’m desperate, i’d like to include “The Abluquerque Song” by Mr. Burns, not the bird-shaped one, but some teacher some kid recorded (surreptitiously from aught i can tell). This is a holiday hymn to the homeless and other social ills from that metropolis.
KOB4 Action News Albequerque has a ‘tube “Twas the Night Before Christmas in New Mexico” and it’s talky and futzy and ethically white. Not a song at all. Desperate, too.
So let’s get to it. “Christmas in New Mexico” by Jerry Dean has that local flavor i been talkin’ ’bout. Jerry Dean is the son of Al Hurricane and has been serenading Alburquerque for decades. This is one of his few songs in English. If you are not sure how important an Advent anthem as proudly local as this can become check out KOAT Channel 7 Action News Albequerque’s news story about it. This is the one yule tune that will admit no other. I mean, it’s fun and educates non-bilingualists pretty gently and, is it yummy! Check out the festive feasting these Land of Enrichment-ites indulge in at that time of year! Ole.

State Forty-Four: Arizona

Well, i can’t find any Grand Canyon sized Nativity scenes sung about for the AZ, so let’s settle for hokey-folk.
The White Family (Mr. and Mrs. White, and White Jr.) melodize all your favorites for “2010’s Another White Christmas (In Arizona).” It’s a break from all the oddities i’ve collected to watch a home movie of Arizonians play-acting for all their friends. Okay, that’s pretty odd, too. Maybe not.
Vic Sorrell is included in Christmas Across America with “The Gift of Arizona.” This is corrido-style, all spiritually sad and didn’t-get-what-he-wanted-for-Xmas-Eve-from-Mexico (it was love).
While we’re on the subject of the neighbor to the south, let’s give a careful listen to “Christmas Time in Arizona” by Aaron Parr & the Hereford Boys. Hey look, the border patrol checks out Santa! I guess AZ identifies with illegales so much that the whole state celebrates the holidays with official papers, not xmas cards. With such an insistent guitar beat and campfire hoarse harmony, it’s hard to judge how humorous this is supposed to be. Are hot dogs and pie traditional yule fare down there?

State Forty-Three: Colorado

The big one you’ve probably heard in this department is “Colorado Christmas” popularized by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.  This is the classic homesick hallelujah that puts L.A. in its place (damn you to hell, comfortable climates!) and elevates the Rockies to Heaven (‘cuz the air’s so thin, i guess). I honestly prefer many of the female versions (like Meredith Grenfell-Bird‘s vocals for The Clear Creek No Name Band’s cover) of this tune to these gritsters. Been there, don we now our cliched ugly sweaters.
Now i am not going to count most of John Denver’s ouevre, including “Aspenglow,” as it doesn’t really yell The Nativity in The Centennial State. I need the words said (preferably in the title). But please listen with half an ear to these lesser known songs i found and see’n iffen you can’t detect a trace of that spherical-headed troubadour’s influence.
More homegrown (if awfully familiar in that way) is Melinda Trondson’s “Colorado Christmas,” a young, happy strummer of a song with old country harmony and comfortably worn (out) literary devices.
Steve Martin has observed that nothing played on the banjo can be sad–it’s so chipper! Working hard against this hypotheis is Ashleigh Caudill’s “Colorado Christmas Eve” about new love snuggled indoors during the holidays. This mournful maundering muzzles Joyeux Noelle in all its glee.
Christmas Colorado Cowboy” by Jill and Allen Kirkham also measures the season in its severity by the hard labor of the keeper of the herd. But the guitar/fiddle gravitas here seems earned and reverential. Like one of those prayers where you keep your head down just an extra minute
Contrarily, Mark Putt Explosion plays with the whole legalized pot whoop-de-doo for Colorado with “Mile High Santa,” Ha ha, Santa’s in trouble with the police. Ho ho… hum.
Naw naw naw, I’m going to stay sticky-sweet sincere here. “Colorado Christmas Cowboy,” by Dan Schafer, plays that 1970s country styling… you know, the kind that had a story unfold so that the refrain changed its meaning a little bit after each verse, but the melody was a bit more pop than it shoulda been… you know? Remember when ‘loving country before country was cool’ was actually a pop song that was hardly country at all? Good times. Oh yeah, and near death experiences are pretty relatable this time of year.

State Forty-Two: Utah

Michael Foster Mehl, a Utahn, brings out the pioneer/cowboy spirit with his “Christmas in Utah.” He’s that kind of rugged individualist that has a youtube channel with only a couple of his songs on it–nothing else. So let’s give the guy his privacy. Pretty pop country song though, almost a bit of a yodel there. (Is he tracking harmony with himself? Cool.) And i love those place names placements.
Time to break some rules, then. I can’t stand ’12 Days of Christmas’ parodies. After Allen Sherman and ‘The Great White North’ they were so over! (Yeah, I’m looking at you, Bob Rivers!) The worst of Zoo morning shows, NFL, and NBA team fund-raising jokey witlessness drains to this level of unimaginative fan-pandering. Some day when i’m very unhappy with life, i will share with you the best of the worst of 12 Days.
Despite all that wreath-wearing railing and ranting, I do like Robert Lund. Lund is a parodist (does he list that on his  taxes?) for radio shows in Salt Lake City and around the entire nation. He is nonpareil in the art form of “Parodeus” (that is, to take a modern day pop tune and solemnize a Chistmas subject for the lyrics). (Okay he puts the humor to all manner of subjects.) But, for today, we will explore the converse, the “Caroldy” (a Christmas carol with contemporary application of lyric, natch). In “12 Days of Utah Christmas” Robert Lund, another Ute, explores the complicated life of the Mormon. Though I’m not a fan of stereotyping all of Utah as LDS, i gotta say Lund has done something the members of Temple can chortle at… something rare in our current state of restless intolerance. (Oddly, the only Youtube selection i can find is repetitive and less referential. The cut off his Excellent Album Elves Gone Wild has all the great inside-joke lines.)

Elves Gone Wild

State Forty-One: Nevada

I lived in the Silver State for a bit. Never regretted it, ’cause i was in my twenties. Never again though.
Meet Me in Nevada” by Gary Oleyar comes from that pretty great album Christmas Across America. This musician violinist (currently on tour with Loggins and Messina) treats us to travelogue with sleeze. The bubblegummy retro ragtime flounce its way through the state at Christmas time, but leaves me a bit lost.
The Willard Grant Conspirancy’s alt country “Christmas in Nevada” tells it like it isn’t the holidays. Christmastime is a mark on the calendar while traveling through the blasted alt-countryside. (Nice electric keyboarding–puts me in a Dire Straits kinda mood.)
Hey–guess what’s funny? The sincerity and purity of the Christmas spirit contrasted with the excess and depravity of Las Vegas! Get it? Ho ho, ho? –okay, not that funny.
Some songs are just about that irony: no Jesu Christo, no St. Nicholas, no hall-decking. Just–damn, stuck in The Gambling Capitol of the World at this joyous time: isn’t this ridickio!
Odd Limey Marc Almond complains about needing love and time fleeting and ‘The City of Steel’ in his “Christmas in Vegas.” But I don’t get anything seasonal or Nevadan here. Synth when are we expected to get this music?
Heavy metal guitarist Paul Gilbert bangs annoyingly on a piano and wails about the pointless glam of Vegas during a time of love in “Las Vegas Christmas.” He comes across as having something to say here, almost Elvis Costello-ish. I give it a thumbs mostly up.
Since Vegas is an international play land, you might also consider the Persian version, “Xmas in Las Vegas” by Tara. Apart from a couple of Strip backgrounds, i’m not sure why this is Vegasibly Holly Jolly.
On the other hand, LV XMas is all inappropriately contradictorally comic, so the chuckling choisters just gotta give it the old double down do-it-to-it standup sing-a-wrong.
King of the Fa la la lounge singers would have to be Richard Cheese (& The Lounge Against the Machine). His “Christmas in Las Vegas” deals out all the double entendres you’d expect, and a couple more. His whole album Silent Nightclub is worth the trip.
Rick Poppe and others celeb impersonate the Rat Pack (& der Bingle) doing Nancy Hawthorne’s “Christmas Strip.” It’s four the hard way.
Also talented, but barely Vegas; nearly Christmas, is “A Vegas Lounge Christmas” by the Five Card Studs. I likes me some parody, and this take on ‘My Favorite Things’ (how is that a Xmas song?!) a la “My Favorite Drinks” swings hard. (Don’t stay for the morning show chitchat after the song.)
More modern carols redone: Hope Spin rewarms ‘Christmas in Hollis’ as “Christmas in Las Vegas.” It’s not as clever, and her repetitive dance move makes me a little sea sick.
Rocky Zharp’s “Christmas in Las Vegas” is appropriately full of yearning bluesy harmonica and screechy violins and wheezing vocals. He’s a funny guy more than a musical guy.
You can’t win if you don’t play. And Daniel Po-in-yea does play–or at least bust(le) a rhyme–his way through a strange, addled (tambourine afflicted) soul song: “Merry Christmas to You, Las Vegas.” Jesus saves… so he can gamble on your soul, sinners!
An actual plea to outoftowners (who own Lost Wages) going for it would be Sin City Sinners staging a UK Invasion-style rock anthem to Merry Vegas: “Christmas in Vegas.” It’s awful fun and makes me miss the (naive part of the) ’70s. Starting out as tentatively as a tourist, this earnest euphony rocks the spirit in which Vegas is given… just don’t forget the sarcastic Scrooge sermon, son!

State Forty: Idaho

Gem State? More like Tater State!
Many have heard “It Happened in Sun Valley” (at least from the South Park Christmas album). It is NOT a Christmas song. It is a Winter-time have fun in a ski lodge song. It appears on a dozen or more Christmas compilations from The Glenn Miller Singers to Mel Torme to Jo Stafford. But no, not going to address it here.
Melissa Nielsen sings about how geedee cold it gets in the winter in Idaho with “The Idaho Song.” It’s yet another parody off ‘Frozen,’ if you collect those. I admire her homemade spunk and vocal power despite the amateur tech here. But it’s a ‘Let It Go’ parody and those are so-o-o long.
How ’bout some Country Swing with those Braun Brothers (Gary, Billy, and Muzzie–who has many more albums to his name)? “Christmas In These Idaho Hills” captures the laid back, effortless music picked out by these strong-willed hearty folk (i’ve got in-laws from Nampa–they cool). This album, When the Cowboy Sings, came out nearly thirty years ago, on cassette. To get airplay, these entrepreneurial bards sent copies to radio stations in sacks of taters. Hope you get one in your stocking!

State Thirty-Nine: Wyoming

The Equality State says nothing more to me than solid rock at mountainous altitudes where no one should be expected to survive. Like Santa.
But if you wanna get all hand-holdy and Kumbaya i suggest you listen to “Wyoming Winter Wonderland” by Dan Schafer (from his wonderful Christmas Across America collection). The unconcerned banjo plinkling in the background, the group harmony like it’s an Old Navy ad, the metaphorical weather observations… it’s that late in the party drowsy sensation. Netflix up the “Charlie Brown” somebody!
I’m confused by the inappropriately light-hearted “Free Frosty (From Wyoming)” by Amie Vandevrie. It posits that unless our famous mobile molded snowman leaves cowboy country, he’ll melt. You mean like it’s warmer in New England? And don’t get me started on the “dance version” embedded in this song. I’m not ready to rave over Frosty’s remains.
I’ll settle for a nice quiet fireside reflection on the season with “Wyoming Christmas” by John A McCallum. This Canadian cowboy complained he ran out of songs he liked to play, so he started writing. It was because of that love for music that he named his Youtube channel “Tune Smitten.” A homegrown British Colombian boy he credits the sound of ‘Cheyenne, Wyoming’ as the inspiration for this pretty winter romance: “no time to be alone.” Bonus for lyrics included in the video. It’s like a little gift for me.

State Thirty-Eight: Montana


Big Skies, fly fishing… okay, ever since Jared Diamond’s Collapse all I can see for Montana is poisonous, poorly planned pollution and poverty. Hey it IS kinda like the American Christmas!

John Denver had a 1991 Christmas TV special entitled ‘Montana Christmas Skies‘ but i can find no Xmas songs about MT. Can you? (Just ‘Wild Montana Skies’ about the pushpull of countrycity on a poor boy’s soul. No redemptive births here, son.)

Have you met my favorite musical activist, Krista Detor? Detor is a song writer that has charted around the world and also stirred up humanist thoughts with her raucous poetry. From her album Silver Wood: Winter Songs she gives us “Sheriff Santa From Montana.” This ‘humor’ is a bit of cartoon fun with 21st C darkness. I suggest someone post-haste make a Plympton-style animation to go with this epic tale of kiddie moralism.

State Thirty-Seven: North Dakota

State Thirty-Six: North Dakota
Peace Garden State out!
If ND begins and ends with family for you, please consider the following: “North Dakota Christmas (Remembering Larry Gaudreau)” is a song in which Rosie Gaudreau, looking not-quite-five-years-old, sings (her own song) solemnly about God and Love and Christmas and Grampa Larry (who it seems has recently passed) AND North Dakota (it’s there at the end). Now you can get all snarky and sneer at these middle-class values, but you wish you had a video album/home movie like this for the holidays. Wow. Wait, i got something in my eye.
Less well done is the home movie/music video by Randi Perkins “If Its Christmas, It Must Be Home In Dakota.” This schmaltzena-tor actually hails from, loves, and writes about N. Dakota. (Fun fact: John Denver knew his first producer.) He teaches music in Colorado now. If you’re not familiar with big family get-togethers crammed into front rooms for pictures, food, picking up wrapping, tending to the wee ones… this cherished dance is a an overwarm reminder of what the holidays really mean: people (for good and bad). And don’t miss the footage of… all… that… snow. (But don’t tell Brad Millison this guy used his melody from “Christmas in Kansas City.” Please. No one needs that sort of unpleasantness.)

State Thirty-Six: South Dakota

The Dakotas are easy to tell apart because one has Mt. Rushmore. I just don’t remember which one.
Gary Hunn’s “Christmas in South Dakota” connects the dots of holiday homelinenss town to town and who out-hospitalizes the other. He’s as sincere as throat cancer… erm, uh, try not to focus on his troubled vocalizations–look at the Marlboro Country backgrounds instead.
While we’re near the rez, let’s talk Manifest Destiny just a bit. Native Americans have learned (or been force fed) Christian customs since whites got here, so their take on Christmas singing is sadly the same: uncomfortable young people lined up to pretend-harmoinze lyrics the elders beam at in appreciation inside of community centers the grownups wouldn’t be caught dead in otherwise. Sing for the Lord, ya goddam ungrateful punks!

Okay, some of the Amerinds take pity on the genocide-curious and sing our trads in their language so we can have some kind of pity/guilt annunciation. Jana Sampson, a North Carolinian with a psych degree, has become a pop/R&B singer of some note. I’m not saying she cashed in on her Lumbee and Tascarora heritage to make an album entitled American Indian Christmas, but I am saying I don’t know how good her Cherokee (“What Child is This?“) or her Apache (“Joy to the World“) accents really are. But The Plains were once the land of Lakota, so you might consider “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” in that language. And consider Jana (now) Mashonee, too. She’s an absolute babe.

The Rockford Mules line up next with “Merry Christmas, South Dakota.” Finally “loud rock music with a dash of Gospel, Southern, and Stoner” (says their Facebook page). These are fine Minnesota boys with one album. But you can tell they’ve toured through the Coyote State (suffering, missing loved ones, barely tolerating the road and weather conditions: as depicted on their ‘tube view). (I can’t think of too many music videos that cure you of ever wanting to strap on a guitar, but this one–boy howdy what a drear existence!) Christmas is often depicted as depressing (not JUST because you’re in SD), which is why we try to cheer you up so much. Don’t worry, have candy!