Ain't That America: Holiday Edition
Sunday Night Journal — December 24, 2006

Music of the Week — December 24, 2006

My Favorite Christmas Music

Music of the Week resumes because I can't let Christmas go by without recommending these albums.

Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band: A Tapestry of Carols

For reasons that completely escape me, not everybody loves this album as much as I do. How to describe it? A sort of high-spirited band with winds, fiddles, and percussion, rather medieval-sounding at times, and Maddy Prior out front. She has the most winsome way with an English tune of anyone I know, and the more folky or low-church carols here are deeply delightful. You can hear thirty-second samples at the eMusic page above.

Anuna: Christmas Songs

Not all the way, but definitely toward, the other end of the spectrum: an angelic Irish choir, mostly unaccompanied. Rich and sweetly dignified. Also on eMusic.

R. Carlos Nakai: Winter Dreams for Christmas

Traditional carols (and one original composition) played on Navajo flute and guitar, with occasional embellishments. Except for "Silent Night," this is an instrumental album. I suppose the idea might be considered a little cheesy. I suppose one might say that it sounds a bit New-Agey. I think it's lovely, though. Samples, again, available on eMusic.

And for a totally different sort of atmosphere: Frank Sinatra: A Jolly Christmas From Frank Sinatra (I'll have to let you locate it for yourself). Robert sent me a tape of this five or six years ago (at least). I didn't take to it at first--it's really pretty hard to argue that it isn't cheesy, at least when the '50s hipster Frank is more in evidence, as in "Jingle Bells." Ok, part of its appeal for a fifty-something is nostalgia--it speaks of a time when adults were more adult. But what a great singer he was. The first half of the disk--undoubtedly side 1 of the LP--is secular Christmas songs, the second carols, done richly and respectfully. If you can handle a jazz singer doing Christmas music, I doubt you'd do better than this.

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