Take a Card: country sort of

Something as primal as ancestral (European) music evolves with our changing needs to feel crappy. Cue the steel guitar!

Someone decided that the scratchy screechy vocalists of yore could be replaced with boys with the pipes of angels. Doug Stone tenors tenderly into the sad regret of “A Christmas Card.” He wishes you well, wherever you are.

Steven Curtis Chapman might be country but his reassuring “Christmas Card” is soapy boy band pop. Cool song, irritating delivery.

Taking the John Denver approach, Brad Parker plays up our hopes (not a country trope) with a “Christmas Card.” But, i think he’s sending it home from prison. So that’s better.

Frolicking fun from Phyllis Sinclair switching up to pop music time beating on her guitar with “Handwritten Christmas Card.” The pickin’ bridge is wonderful. I’m dancing.

Take a Card: bluegrass pop

A pure form of country is down home bluegrass, which loves the pickin’ and strummin’ over the speed limit more than the surly sentiment. It’s hard to be sad with bluegrass!

Lugubrious gospel bluegrass from Kelly Nolf & Wyndi Harp harking back to the posing for the picture of “Our Family Christmas Card.” It’s not good news, but–hey–bluegrass.

Mark Best swings and sways with Sunday school rhythms for his blue grass special “The Christmas Card.” He wants you to know why he signed your card. It’s ‘cuz o’ God.

Take a Card: country

Actual country music is much like folk music, hard living, hard loving, hard hardness. But more violins.

The Corn Fed Girls focus on that detail (those “Christmas Cards”) posted on your wall, which stands for something sad (and angry), so shove off. (But with a sweet mandolin sendoff.) And that’s country.

Take a Card: folk rock

Mountain songs honoring the Old World (he means Europe, dude) of immigrants span centuries and inform our country, rock, and their offspring.

The message of good old folk music (poetic details of scratching meaning out of a lowly existence) leans nicely into protest rock. “Christmas Card” by Jon Latham is more modern than all that, but coulda been a contender around 1967.

Prison harmonica feists up Stephen L. Kelly’s “A Christmas Card.” This is a deadly serious love letter to the trappings of the holidays. He. Loves. It.

Nosie Katzmann pollutes his folk with flute and finger popping. But his “Christmas Cards” is alt folk, a modern emo unplugged whimsy about keeping in touch.

Scandinavians like our Wild West and cowboys and have contributed some interesting cowboy songs. The Ballroom Band plays sad moaning old timey folk like Dylan. “The Christmas Card” tells the story of loneliness and loss and that little ‘ol piece of paper.

Take a Card: mor

Middle of the road music (for programming ‘beautiful music’ radio stations back in the ’70s) became a way to appeal to the corn belt without rocking the boat. This was less exciting than popular music, and less artistic than classical. It plain lacked talent so as to fill in the background and not arouse attention, and became known as ‘elevator music’ or the brand name Muzak.

Professional MOR-on Pat Boone (sadly past his prim prime here) embodies our message with “Christmas Cards.” Cliched, but mellow.

While not aged or old, Gregg Charmly resuscitates MOR with “My Christmas Card to You” song. It’s not about anything. Don’t listen except ironically.

Also beating the dead horse, Don Adams sends a melodramatic melancholic “Xmas Card form the Other Side.” It’s quavering blues, but without authenticity. Blahs-ville.

I count epic orchestration as show tune, and nothing fulfills my requirements more than Jerry Becker’s “The Man Who Writes the Cards,” with notes of Gilbert & Sullivan, Lerner and Lowe, maybe a touch of Irving Berlin. Wow.

“My Christmas Card to You” from faded Broadway chanteuse Marni Nixon tests the definition of ‘song.’ Uncontrolled warbling about what she’d write on your card is what will be playing in the waiting room of my hell. [This version comes with voice over instructions for the elderly.]

Take a Card: big band

Let’s roll this old concept thru the decades of musical evolution and see how much steam we can build up.

(To be fair, musical categories become updated, revisited, retroed and otherwise played again in later decades. A most recent ‘big band’ tune–full of folk, country and jazz–hails from Andrea Carlson. Her “Christmas Card” is all the lounge diva with all the orchestration necessary to fill a homefront ballroom. Worth the tangent.)

Let’s play it orchestral way back in 1954 with Petula Clark and “Christmas Cards.” She’s only 15 at this point so her cutesy singsong chirping against the big band backdrop is cause for comfort and joy amongst almost all Americans.

(Alma Cogan does this with more adult assuredness the same year. Who needs it?)

Take a Card: listed

Did i mention how important the Christmas card list was? Who’s on it, who innit, it’s a horserace of favorites and disappointments.

Peter Ward sloshily rides the rote “Christmas Card List” with yelling folk and boinging sound effects. And a laff track. Roll with it.

Dick Dedrick does that weird country music thing where he lectures out his song “Cards that Count/My Kind of Christmas.” It starts with the importance of who’s on the list. Then… well, take notes, aliens, if you want to recreate this fantasy no one ever lived through.

Narrowing down that list to that one special name, the person you only have “A Christmas Card Relationship” with reveals an important purpose of the list: casual regret. The last vestige of contact you have with someone who may have once been instrumental in your life is that address and name–still current? Chris Davidson flies this flag with alt pop sincerity and tugs some heartstring. Thanks, man, now’m sad.

Take a Card: letter perfect

Not quite deceased around the holidays is the dreaded copied family letter ‘catching you up’ on all the news, but more often bragging and shaming without pretense.

Previously posted (AS MY FAVORITE XMAS NOVELTY SONG) is Jonathan Coulton’s “Chiron Beta Prime,” a science fiction take on the merry missive. Didn’t see that coming.

Disturbingly emotional, “Christmas Card” by Terry Kitchen gently folk-jazzes the story of reading that family letter and remembering what he used to have with you when it was too early and he wasn’t ready. No! You‘re crying!

Let’s get laffey making fun with Ray Stevens and “Xerox Christmas Letter.” The humor involves white trash frontin’. They got nothing, see, and they want you to know it. Go ahead, howl at their misfortunes!

College Humor updates with open admissions of sociopathy and perversion in The “Honest Holiday Card Song.” Laugh at them. Do it, they’re fictional.

Take a Card: oh boo hoo

Got your cards bought yet? Dealing out a deck of commercially printed hastily signed holiday observations to select family and friends has gone outta style what with the electronic age. The old insult ‘snail mail’ to indicate paper posting is so past it as to seem quaint. But there was a time, kiddos and kiddettes, when the measure of social value was how many cards you sent and how many you stacked on your mantel. Why, it was a form of decoration in and of itself. Being ‘cut from the list’ just about began feuds and vendettas to last generations.

[Confusingly, many ‘Christmas Card’ songs are themselves the sentiment that you would see transcribed in the card. Those are way too schmaltzy for this irony man. Only songs that mention, describe or feature cards may be permitted herein.]

Let us not fret about the wheres and whys of this passé pose, but instead celebrate the choosing, signing, and stamping in song.

No more fitting tribute than the creaky old reminiscence “An Old Christmas Card,” about that folded fragment of your love found on the floor–from before you left! Ray Smith first (1949) got cornpone cowboy about it. Jim Reeves most famously sealed the sadness.  But let’s get even more emotional–Severe gushes punk all over. Now that’s a cover.