Raising Jewnitarian children means working hard to balance the outer culture's overabundance of Christmas music with alternative seasonal sounds. This is sometimes harder than it sounds, especially when it comes to covers. Though there have been a few originals over the years that would fit the category, most notably a recent spate of Hannukah music from the fringes of the indierock world, it's harder for these songs to enter the canon, driven as it is by the tick and tinsel of gift-giving and public holiday display in a predominantly Christian culture.
In some ways, it's surprising, given the national push towards multiculturalism over the past decades, that there aren't more songs of not-just-Christmas. There are plenty of modern, entirely secular songs about Christmastime, it's true -- common themes here might include "I miss you more this time of year", "I want stuff", and, more recently, "crass commercialism is getting kind of evil, isn't it?" But ultimately, these songs are still about Christmas. After all, it's not like I miss people more this time of year just because it's cold.
Still, there's a small, stellar selection of nonedenominational songs that have crept into the songbook over the years, many lying unnoticed among paeans to Christmas trees, Jesus, and holiday celebration. And a few great, well-covered songs out there which are appropriate for a snowy December day, even if they'd never make it on a holiday sampler.
Today, as an antidote to the already-overfamiliar Christmasmusic that fills ears and airwaves this time of year, a few select songs of solstice, snow, winter, and other alt-seasonal delights from the world of folk covermusic. Plus the usual bonus covers, just for kicks.
- Gordon Lightfoot's mellow Song For A Winter's Night fits the folk mindset perfectly: the hearth, the snow, the story of us in a house. A spare cover from Erica Wheeler and the rich harmonies of Canadian folk supergroup Quartette do it justice, twice over.
- The cover of snow becomes a metaphor of darkness and loss in Robert Earl Keen's latenight honkytonk cover of Snowin' on Raton, and a mantle in Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem's light, swinging version of Elvis/Anne Murray classic Snowbird.
- Three vastly different versions of a jinglebell sleighride carol you forgot wasn't about Christmas. Widely divergent possibilities of glee from the mistress of authentic kidfolk, the king of weird holiday indiefolk, and the unique harmonies of The Roches.
As always, all artist links above go to artist/label storefronts -- the best way to give artists the most bang for their buck. And remember, kids: music is a present that fits any occasion, any season, any connection between you and your family and friends, no matter what you celebrate.
Today's bonus coversongs:
- Okay, so it's not nondenominational. Folkpopstar (and Jew) Jill Sobule covers this drunken anti-spiritual paean to dysfunction with such aplomb, it transcends the holiday setting.
- This one's not technically about winter, just cold. Lightfoot was Canadian. I guess it gets chilly up there. From coveralbum Other Voices, Other Rooms.
- Two more familiar, playful, tongue-in-cheek "traditional" songs of snow from The Roches' mostly-Christmas album We Three Kings.
Haven't had enough of Christmas coverfolk? Never fear! Stay tuned over the next few weeks for a plethora of acoustic holiday cheer still to come!