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.”
FIFTY STATES OF ‘MERICA-MAS
Okay, Mass-holes, where’s your carol? You got, like one–and it’s awful, that’s what you got.
The song: “Christmas in Boston.” James Melody was huge (nearly 400#) on the local TV circuit a few years back singing and re-singing his X-mas anthem for every talk show and news crew all about what made Beantown beam with pride. Mayor Menino gave him a proclamation in ’08 for representin’ and pronouncin’ all his words without that accent. I kid, but I love the middle-of-the-road showtune bounciness here… the ceaseless references to every traditional carol… the roster of where to go… It’s like a wordsearch for the season! It’s actually too big a song for my liking… it’s got it’s own website.
P.S. There’s a “Christmas in Gloucester” song on youtube as well. It’s an ’11 original song by Paul “Sasquatch” Cohan celebrating America’s Oldest Seaport, Gloucester Massachusetts. But it’s lower class and downbeat. So screw him.
P.P.S. There’s a better “Christmas in Gloucester” by The Souls of the Sea ‘tubing as well. This is loads more fun, drinking and laughing and falling off barstools… all in honor of those lost at sea during those terrible Winter storms. In order to suffer that loss, this particular video begins with the more somber (less holiday) “The Bella Figlia” about The Eternal Voyage of fisherfolk. Wait for the oompah and you’re nearly there.
Let’s continue through New England to find specially state-dependent Christmas songs of a novel nature.
FIFTY STATES OF ‘MERICA-MAS
The Green Mountain State is no Ho Ho Holiday for seasonal spirituals, but rather a stingy Scrooge of unimaginative traditional carols sung in small private poorly lit areas.
Okay I did find a song called “Christmas in Vermont.” Just what i was looking for! But it’s one you’ve heard already. This is a bastardization of “Moonlight in Vermont” with some Christmas words subbed in. That’s just what you’d expect from Prairie Home Companion. Despite the predictability, Heather Masse lays it down smokey and jazzy, though. Like a welcome fireplace out of the cold….
So let’s find a weird one. On the Guiseppi Joe label, Dave Hall has dropped an odd album of old folk and slave carols (you read that right) including this one he wrote himself. Sweet–at times too sweet–it recalls the rural melancholy i keep in my heart from my own time in VT. Hard-wintered but hardly complaining, self-suficient though racked with poverty, fiercely loyal if not out-going, these are peoples who chainsaw a living off the land despite the leaf-peepers, fast-driving on-their-way-through Canadians, and looking-for-a-bit-of-relaxation-transplanted Lowlanders. Dave Hall is in fact one of those New Yorkers, but he’s so indie folk rock that you forgive him. He’s kinda low key, having only a couple children’s musicals published and performed. Still I’m a sucker for a love song, even a sad one (wait, is the wife in this song dead?).
Let’s continue on our adventure to find amusing Adent-tunes which celebrate specific locales throughout the USA, or what i like to call
Fifty States of ‘Merica-mas
New Hampshire has that small state problem of just being another part of New England, too. No great Christmas songs that make you wanna hang out despite taxless living free and dying. So, like Maine, NH breeds tough, caustic men who complain comically about that time of year (to harmonica music).
Except today’s special, Red Gallagher, is out of the Midwest and only married into the Granite State. Red is the kind of guy I find while ferreting out great novelty Christmas music: the troubador/bard/jester, that clever, witty guy who (fighting tooth and nail) lives off his ability to make you smile. Despite never getting national attention. Red (solo or with the missus as Redbird Duo) plays parody song sets for malls and retirement homes (“Not For Kids”) and has a small handful of albums and following throughout the Twin Cities and beyond. His website sells his few albums.
I wish his talented tuchas all the best. You a funny guy!
Here is his “New Hampshire Winter.”
Okay, here’s my latest project: While riffin’ through my yule tunes i paused on some totally local Oregon (my neck o’ the woods) Christmas cataloging: Christina Eastman’s “Merry Christmas from Oregon.” I have loco-centric celebrations from Baltimore (David Deboy) and Louisiana (Benny Grunch) and i treasure the in-jokes, the in-the-know references. These are not easy to find for far away places, even on line. So I had to wonder… does every state in the good ol’ USA stand up and say (along the lines of) “Nebraskan Christmases are the best!” and “Don’t you wish you were spending 12/25 in Florida?”? So, i began ‘tubin’ to find 50 songs that named the state, celebrated the winter holidays, and perhaps showed a little local flavor. Couldn’t do it. I been wrasslin’ with this for weeks now and the best i got is: cool/odd/funny song; title has a state/city; it’s Christmas-themed, or Chanukah-ish, or Kwanzaa-able, or at least Winter; and it might serve the Chamber of Commerce for tourist trade or maybe run under nightly news show credits right around the Solstice. Now I have to admit something: this is not a new idea and some people have been making $$ by recycling music with DIFFERENT NAMES subbed in. This crass cashmercialization will not serve my purposes, even when there’s little else of state pride to pick from. For those curious to see how low such sunken depths of grinchy depravity fall i will at times ID these corrupt copycat carolers. For now, let me ask you to please NOT look up Personalisongs. Or Say It Messages. The same song for every state, major city, foreign nation, and niece and nephew…. erraghouy! On the other hand Dan Schafer and a stable of talented country singers have cobbled together Christmas Across America in four volumes. While bluegrass for Oregon is odd, and most of the songs work Christmas in circuitously, I will be relying on a few of these great works when homegrown don’t help. I call my collection FIFTY STATES OF ‘MERICA-MAS (which is a sad tortured play on words that i won’t further elaborate on) Now I do include D.C. And I’m looking for Puerto Rico, Guam, Samoa, Virgin Islands, and maybe the Navajo Nation. Those will be postscripts. So, more than fifty…. I’m not going to map you out a road trip, but we’ll start upper right and end up upper left (me), swooping N-S-N-etc. So, State One: Maine. New England Winters are in a class of their own, but Maine is not a strong contender in our Best of — competition here. Nobody’s holly jolly-ing lobsters and Stephen King. There is a Chamber of Commerce pick that creates a saccharine crust in mine ears: “The Maine Christmas Song.” But I can’t tell who perpetrated this. My eventual pick for weirdest Maine Holiday Song is a beat poem hip hop harmonica stand up routine by Bob Marley. No, Not THAT Bob Marley. (He claims his dad did not know there was a famous person with that name.) He’s a local comic made good, been on Letterman, Conan, etc. And he holds the world’s record for longest standup. (I thought that was called filibustering.) (It was 40 hours.) His comic occupation has been going strong 20 years and he’s dropped more than a couple dozen albums. This holiday homage to home does what many natives do: complain, with love in the heart about their darned old home.
Colorblind James Experience saluted “weird America” with their polka/swing/rockabilly/etc. fusion. They bobbled with fame in the UK through the ’90s until headman Chuck Cuminale passed away suddenly 2001.
I love the compilation album The Tarquin Records All Star Holiday Extravaganza from which i found this gem (more off their stable later). These indie characters are a comforting quilt of kookiness that begins with real music and ends… you may never know.
Also, this may be JC’s birthday (3 October). We don’t know. I mean shepherds don’t lay down with their flocks Mideasternly late Dec. (too rainy). Calendars have been messed up for too many years, then started over. Scholars debate Mar. Aug. Sept. Oct. for that singular point in time. I guess I side with most that 12/25 is a time of rebirth and spiritual hoo-hah ’cause we need something to look forward to in the lingering dark and the ceaseless cold. So please take “A Night Like This” by Colorblind James Experience in the spirit in which it is given: DANCETIME!