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!

State Thirty-One: Louisiana

What a bounty of delicious delta delights. LA knows how to make merry.
Everyone knows the man with the tenor: Aaron Neville and “Louisiana Christmas Day” (one o’ my albums lists it as “Louisiana Christmas Carol”). No need to document the rolickin’ good time here. (Or mention the covers by boy-wonder Hunter Hayes and girl-duo B’tweenz–what is it about this catchy bit of ethnic fun that brings out the children to audition?)
Johnnie Allen does a fine cajun “It’s Christmas Time in Louisiana” all in creole–that’s a spicy patois! Vin Bruce also has a “Christmas on the Bayou” in Papa Noel’s native tongue. For Anglaise, check out Michael McDonald’s “Christmas on the Bayou.” This music is like triple espressos getting your heart hammering!
Fellowship Church Zachary brings us Roger Hornsby’s “Louisiana Christmas Time” on the ‘tube. It’s a tasty slice of holiday homecoming that gets the congregation chucklin’ and swayin’ with its message of fun and family. The man’s a Deep South Garrison Keillor. Uhhh, I mean that in a good way.
When you’re overwrought from all that dancing like Wise Men are watching, mellow down with Louis Armstrong’s “Christmas Time in New Orleans.” It’s smooth jazz, if a bit somnolent. (John Lee Sanders, James Andrews, and Joan Osborne [hers is the sexy one] float that flat boat, too.)
I can’t leave the Pelican State without a salute to one of my faves: Benny Grunch. He celebrates Another dialect of American English from around New Orleans apellated Yat (disputed). His album (with The Bunch) The 12 Yats of Christmas is a must have for Yule regionalists. In our present context, I must praise most highly “O Little Town of Destrehan”
and “Christmas in Chalmette.”
Don’t expect to understand the lyrics, but roll with it, y’all.
After all this festivity, I will tell you my pick of the state is “Louisiana Santa” by Wayne Toups off the wonderful compilation Christmas Gumbo. Toups is King of Cajun Singers, decorated with more awards for that kind of thing than any of those other gator caterwaulers. Love the tune, love the backup, love Toups’s Santa beard. I mean it’s about time we had some Santa.

State Seventeen: Florida

Everyone knows Florida’s weird: hanging chads, clueless retirees, dumbubbas, impeding tourists, invading Caribeaners… what’s funny is the state’s obtuse lack of sense of humor about itself.
I’m saying: their parodies are plentiful and terrible–
Sandal the Sea Creature” by La Guardia Cross is an unfortunate kiddies’ Reggae take on ‘Frosty’ with a brief mention of Miami Beach;
Karen Scott has parodized ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ with “Have Yourself a Southwest Florida Christmaswhich is just as sadly banal as you may have already figured (1980’s obvio-humor withstanding);
Kulture Shock is a white gangsta rap club who wants you to get real with “Christmas in Miami“–it’s urban rhyming that’s both cute and oddly melodic;
Cynthia McGregor’s got a precious album celebrating her panhandle periodicity with “Florida Florida” (to the tune of Jingle Bells) and also (editorial sigh) “12 Days of Florida Christmas”–both heaving humor up to the level of The Match Game from the ’70s (face it, a dozen ’12 Days o’ FL Xmas’ are gumming up the ol’ ‘tube–steer clear);
more ‘Jingle Bells’ attempts at humor might be “Florida Christmas Song” by ‘a surgical tech’;
and David Siriano fooling with ‘Let it Snow’ via his own “Florida Christmas Song“–wow, they let anybody on this internet;
Bubba and Cooter sing about going to Gatorland in “Florida Christmas” AGAIN to the tune of ‘Let it Snow’ but the satire backfires and makes this a cogent statement on the decline of civilization;
we include on the younger side dear li’l Elizabeth C (handle “StellaCat”) rocking out “Christmas in Florida” but you might want to her to hold a bar of soap in her mouth after she reveals “it’s hot as he–ell!” (and turn up the speakers, this amateur recording is hard to hear);
The Gery Girls sing about the ordeal of visiting family down South in “Going to Florida (This Christmas)” which is super darling if you’re eighty.
The home grown stuff goes on and on. Mostly it’s missable, though–alt-folk alert!–3 Headed Stepchild’s “Christmas in Florida” wails country-style with a wicked chillin’ violin. Kudos.
Professionally speaking, Dan Schafer tries on some Carribean caroling with “Santa’s in Florida” which is all mellow and low key–even the “hot hot hot”s are whispered cliches;
Marc-Alan Barnette and Elizabeth C. Axford sing “Christmas in Florida” from an album entitled Music for TV and film, as if that portends listenable music (it doesn’t);
and even more seious musically is James ‘Sunny Jim’ White singing “Christmas Day in Florida” but he don’t have what the kids call talent;
Florida Christmas” by The Colaborateurs smacks of much more talent, but smells of wanna-be pop;
Chelsea Rene is unabashedly pop in “Christmas in Florida” so tune in 12-25 demographics!
At this time, i would like to share “White Christmas In the Florida Keys” by Livingston & Mile Marker 24. Mile Marker 24 is an all originals bar band, recording their own CDs and selling them out of their truck. Frankly, i contracted Keys Fever listening to this anti-seasonal Buffeting of The Bairn’s Birth. Everybody limbo under the mistletoe!

State Annex: Virgin Islands

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.