A state of musical heritage! Now we’ve got some choices! Okay mostly bluegrass…
Chuck Picklesimer is so cool. His rambling country elf routine never wears thin. Remember that bit about the cartoon show host who tells you dumb kids what’s really going on grownup style? (It’s abit older than time… not just Kentucky Fried Movie, you know like the overdone crusty old joke a la The Simpsons.) Chuck’s your guy. His “West Virginia Credit Card” will get its own entry later from me. It’s WV enough in tone and tenor, but it’s just not holidaisical enough.
The Weber Brothers whisper out the haunting “Christmas Time in West Virginia.” The percussive jingling and chiming, the high harmonies, it sounds like angels singing over a snow covered valley.
Brrr, we’ve got to spice up the mix; so we’re finally going cross-culturally to the Festival of Lights.
Scott Simons is another struggler. After he got credit for writing the music theme for his weatherman dad on local tv, he ran around the country minstrel-style finally starting TeamMate with his gay-ex. Maybe you saw him piano-ing on XFactor or America’s Got Talent. He champions rights for all, and he’s funny. Check out one of his favorite topics, growing up Jewish in the Very White West Virginia. I love the nostalgic canned audience responses paired with the intimate small-lounge vibe.
Since all the cool stuff goes on in D.C. or Bawlimore, the Christmas songs go there. Not statewide.
“Christmas in Baltimore…Hey, you know it’s gonna be great!” sings Milkshake, a kids’ rock band (nominated for an grammy in that category (did you know that was a thing?). It makes me sing along, but i don’t feel good about myself afterwards. (It’s a lotta D.C. stuff anyway.)
David DeBoy hit big in Charm City with “Crabs for Christmas” nearly three dozen years ago. As to be expected, he milked his media darlinghood into an album–or several. I’s a big fan of his comic Christmas album. DeBoy captures the drawl and the pall of Chesapeakians, all fatalistic and smirking… you know, like that Richard Belzer guy, or that John Waters guy.
“O Little Town of Baltimore” as a play on namesakes is a bit obvious and some death metal dudes (Reigndeer Revolt) (Really? Is that a corporate take on what the kids want, or is it younguns with more talent than creativity?) have chortled out all the lyrics of the 1868 original, with that single word replacement–and a lot of attitude! But DeBoy walks us through his town lyrically, nostalgically, recalling his childhood in a way that doesn’t make ya wanta clap to the rhythm, but remember Christmas the way it ought to be: innocently.
Now, as i canna find a lovely ‘tube for this masterpiece, here are the lyrics (‘sfar as i can discern through the accent):
O Little Town of Baltimore
O little town of Baltimore
How still we see thee lie
On nights like this,
Of Bawlimore things gone by
For in my memory shineth
Traditions all long gone
Like Natty Bo
Their spirits still lives on
We’d all go down
And catch movies at The Grand
Or on the block
We’d give Le Star a hand
Then to The Little Tavern
Where everything was fried
We’d leave that joint
Go down the Point
Yeah–but that was before “Homicide”
If you grew up in Maryland
On your TV you’d see
Miss Nancy Lump,
And Miss Rhea and J.P.
You’d sail with Pete the Pirate
While Captain Fury flew
Stu Kerr was there
With Bozo hair
(And I think he was Mr. Fortune, too
And Professor Cool,
Yeah and the Early Riser)
O, little town of Baltimore
What pleasures you did bring
Like Hochschild Kohn
The Colts end zone
And Haussner’s big ball of string
These sights and sounds are gone now
Dissolved in history
But all of these great memories
Live on inside of me.
Now, one of the most inappropriate Christmas songs ever, “His Favorite Christmas Story” by Capital Lights, begins ‘He meet her up in Delaware in 1937…’. But–despite the shivers it sends up and down my spine (the Christmas miracle is… an ironic death!!), it’s NOT a Delaware song!
I originally settled on “O Little State of Delaware” by Todd Chappelle–a funny travelogue parody, but one of my all time favorite localists is David DeBoy whose ‘O Little Town of Baltimore’ needs to be heard for good ol’ Maryland. No dupies, friends.
Then I stumbled on Jim McGiffin singing “Christmas for Catholics in Delaware,” a basement tape of questionable irony/hostility. It’s so clumsily amusing and earnestly divisive that I can’t stop listening to it. McGiffin looks like Santa and he anchors Celtic Harvest, a Scottish/Irish band that plays private parties and church events with centuries old reels and ballads and all I can say is: are ya honestly Papist yourself, Jimmy, or what? Does the Pope tap his shoes of the fisherman to your little ditty here? What would DJ JC sing?
Washington D.C. gets loads more attention than anything around it, but still has taxation without representation. (Once again, Brit John Oliver exposes our federal faults!)
Most of the caroling around this neck of the woods assassinates characters and has a shelf life of four years. Blah and yawn. But in tracking down a celebration of our Capitol i came across one of those Paul Harvey gems:
Maura Sullivan wrote songs with Jim London for WMZQ based on listener call-ins. It was some fun competitive maestro thing. In 1982 they wanted to get serious and reeled off “Christmas Eve in Washington” in 20 minutes. I wouldn’t call it soft rock (a castigation more than a category), and i wouldn’t call it pop (skews a couple decades past that), in fact i wouldn’t call it if i could find something else. But it fulfills that need people have for catchy chauvanistic radio jingles, mall opening galas, and evening news playouts. For Washingtonians this was an instahit! –and you can continue to buy it via this site (it’s for charity, yo!)
On the sentimental homefront Billy Franks comes out all heartfelt and stuff with “Christmas in Jersey,” Smith and Burrows have a song the story of which is set around Christmastime: “This Ain’t New Jersey.”
But I’m gotsa go weird on youse.
There’s this funny Jewess name a Lauren Mayer. Getta load of this: Yale summa cum laude, cabaret awards from San Francisco, published kids’ musicals… This is why I share, so you’ll know about these fringe artists what survive when only you book ’em for your Elks Lodge Holiday Smoker. Her ovecooked showtune here is half Halloween, half Chanukah, half wish-to-be-played-on Dr. Demento in the ‘Sixties. But she’s in character and having a great time. So give it up for “The Fruitcake That Ate New Jersey.” (No Garden States were harmed in the playing of this ha-ha-holiday song.)
Pennsylvania does not boast much proud local Noel, novelty or otherwise. Double Shot A capella has a heavily Pittsburgh accented Santa song on the ‘tube with a pronunciation gazetteer and a glossary.
(And , sigh, oh yes, the Steelers sing carols badly. But, take it from me, all sports stunts songs are the briefest of curiosities. If you need some hard to understand poorly punned Twelve Days of Christmas, just ask me. I’ll find you better… Oh, okay, and the Flyers.)
Some children’s group sings an original holiday paean to Philadelphia sweetly. Like little angels, although unlike most elementary assemblages that i survived i can understand them. Joyeaux.
And here’s an odd tangent: Jim O’Connor sings “Christmas in Pittsburgh, 1943” as a tribute to his WWII sailor dad. It’s mournfully memorable Irish folk with sailing vocals. Beautiful. Not Christmas. Not really.
But, for me… I gotta go Bobby Rydell. Robert Louis Ridarelli was a wunderkind of the ’60s with hits like “Volare” and “Wild One.” He starred in the stage show “Bye, Bye Birdie” as a teen idol, wink wink. In the show “Grease,” the high school is named for him. “A Philadelphia Christmas” is a cry for help from ’03 signalling his past due date. It says nothing but cliche about Christmas or Philadelphia loudly with much lounge cheese (the personal pronoun ‘I’ is tortured to five or six syllables). At the present he is no longer recording, but he is still touring casinos closing his eyes and leaning back rather than hitting the high notes. Please visit his fan sites and let him know his hits will live forever.
Then listen to this crooning catastrophe and remember the moral of Ozymandius.
Oy. There are not quite as many songs about New York Christmas as there are denizens of The City. Apart from one ditty I discovered about Christmastime in Syracuse, the rest of the state is hardly considered. Certainly boroughs get some due: I hope you’re familiar with Run DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis.” Classic. Kanye has a “Christmas in Harlem.” Master P’s is “Christmas in the Ghetto,” also by Gary Barner and O.F.T.B. Dnasty lays down some rhymes over the ‘Christmas in Hollis’ beat karaoke style with his “Christmas in Compton.” He tries but seems to run outta breath. Or–even better: “Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto.” I’ve got that by Snoop Dogg, James Brown, and Mojo Nixon –plenty more cover that old chestnut! And hey, remember ol’ Bootsy Collins? “N-Yo-City” is mostly a seasonal party song (from Cincinnati). Trying to get upbeat and ’70s style pop is Jim Indell with “Christmas on Staten Island.” (He rhymes ‘smilin” with ‘Island!’ and ends with a ‘…yeahhhh!’) Abigail Breslin and Rob Thomas have interesting, earnest entries on Gotham as well, if you want to feel lost and alone. NYC’s got an overstuffed cornucopia of Christmassing. One of the most overplayed big apple holiday haunters is alt rock The Pogues’ piece: “Fairytale in New York.” It’s so seminal I’ve got a couple covers on that, too. Listen to it, laugh and cry over it. It’s even got at least one parody (a Minecraft Parody, i’m sorry to say): “Fairytale of Spisco.” But the, you know, get over it.
Funnier caroling includes “Christmas in Brooklyn” by Erik Frandsen. It’s the usual fugeddabowdit kinda stuff.
My official offering is from a group called Marah, off an album entitled A Christmas Kind of Town, and later collected on Oh Santa! New & Used Christmas Classics from Yep Roc. The band has been alt-country-ing for 20 years and have a following which includes self appointed Pop of King, Steven King: “These guys are either the American U2 or close enough for government work.” This particular strummin’ bit of fun was inspired by and played on This American Life ’05.
As a special Columbus Day insert to FIFTY DAYS OF ‘MERICA-MAS, let us reflect on the beaches where Columbus’s footprints were the only ones. You see, at least one conquest of good old Christian Christopher is ‘Merican (since 1927).
Now you can pretend you don’t know about the taxation without representation of our territories and commonwealths beyond the fifty tried and true, but i refer you to the wonderful wisdom of outrage John Oliver to learn more about this American heritage.
While some of the Virgin Islands are British and they do get a pretty good Xmas spiritual by William Perrins and James Haywood, don’t be fooled with all the tinkley piano morose ‘miss-you’ mishegas… “Christmas on the British Virgin Islands” is warmed over Beatles love song with the lovelorn whining about being stuck in paradise. Put the lime in the coconut, dude.
Now The Great John L. knows how to swing Caribbean style. His “Christmas in St. Croix” jazzes up the joint all brassy and sassy. He’s rather be dead than miss Christmas in Fredriksted, ya know, mon. This is festive and fun stuff, like opening presents from behind the tree that you didn’t even count in your tally of booty.
Connie Howard, a winner of some Nashville songwriting award, has a syrupy “Connecticut Christmas” confection you can find on line. A fun trifle.
John Cog also has “Connecticut Christmas” on his Bay Blues Fools album but the growly blues voice and lounge laid back beat and liquid electric guitar riffs makes me wonder if this is a hoax.
Ross Altman, however, has a tribute song for Sandy Hook School after the shooting tragedy in ’12, “Christmas in Connecticut”. OMFG that is not Christmas song to dance to. I am not kidding, the graphic details of this horror do not make for a folk hit, or even a tolerable narcocorrido. Do not dare yourself to listen to this.
But let’s get our sense o’humor back. Please. “Christmas in East Haven” is a fine parody song by Vinnie Penn. Originally part of a Glenn Beck Morning Zoo top 40 gang, this guido DJ from KC101 did a funny for his fans from his own show. He’s still got a morning talk show and if you go to his website you can buy his comical books. As far as the tenor of this offering goes, remember CT is just a ‘burb of the Big Apple, knowhutahmean.
(A few vidsters have played with this song, and you might also check out the funny yopauleee version.)
You might need to skip this one. I nearly gave up on Rhode Island. I mean: Family Guy–where is it?!
But I found a tangential Wintery kind of thing. In early 2015 the Moses Brown School outside of Providence was closed for a snow day or two or ten (that was the East Coast Super Storm, remember?)… and not going to school is a Christmas-type activity, right?
Well, the announcement for the closure went out as an attachment on e-mails and everyone loved it. It played the national morning shows as an Awww, Look At That moment. So here is Head of Moses Brown School, Matt Glendinning, singing “School is Closed.”