Christmas is almost here (hooray!) and by now, you’ve probably heard “All I Want for Christmas is You” more times than you can count. It’s not too late, thankfully, to add some new material to your holiday playlist, thanks to a few generous artists who are giving away free, legal downloads of seasonal music, both original and new twists on old tunes.
A small Christmas gift from them (and me) to you, with best wishes for a wonderful winter and a happy new year!
1. The Walla Recovery is a melodic cello-driven folk quartet from Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas led by singer/songwriter Zack Smith. Since 2009, Smith has recorded a holiday song or two every year as a present for the fans. This year marked the final year of the series with two new songs – the familiar classic “Joy to the World” and an old hymn, “While Shepherds Watch Their Flocks.” You can get a free download of all 13 songs as an album entitled A Star, a Star (Vols. 1-7). It’s a lovely, quiet album of acoustic charms and other accents, like an electronic instrumental of “Carol of the Bells/The Holly and The Ivy” and a playful version of “Angels We Have Heard on High” which offers (if you listen closely), Smith’s dog providing some percussive barks.
2. A Canadian treasure who’s not so well-known in the U.S., Jane Siberry has been making sensitive, sometimes provocative albums for over 30 years. If you’ve never heard her, the two free holiday albums she’s offering for the holiday season leave you no excuse to remain deaf to her talents. Get each one directly at the links below.
a. Shushan The Palace (Hymns of Earth)
Siberry’s 2004 Christmas-themed album is a collection of mainly classical and traditional sacred songs from Bach, Handel, Mendelssohn and others, interpreted and transformed. Strings, horns and woodwinds are featured in beautiful arrangments for songs like “Sheep May Safely Graze” and “In the Bleak Midwinter,” making this a perfect accompaniment for a Christmas brunch.
b. Child: Music for the Holidays (pt iii New York Trilogy) is a double live compilation for the Christmas season recorded during a series of 1996 concerts at New York City’s Bottom Line club (alas, since closed). Various onstage guests trade lead vocals, and there’s a mix of secular and religious styles (although most of the songs are near-spiritual in tone, “Hockey” glleefully drops a few f-bombs). You may occasionally feel left out, hearing laughs at onstage antics you can’t see, but the overall party vibe – as in the Cajun-flavored version of “Twelve Days of Christmas” – is contagious and the extensive liner notes in the PDF booklet will fill you in on some of what went down.
3. XO For the Holidays, Vol VIII is a compilation of truly alternative rock tunes. For the eighth year in a row, the small and scrappy PR firm XO Publicity is putting out a free holiday compilation by its roster of artists. It’s usually a raucous affair that includes both tender ballads and untraditional freakouts, and this year is no different. The winsome Piney Gir does a child-friendly, whistle-laden “Rootin Tootin Santa Claus,” and The Winter Sounds do a power pop tune called “Mas X.” Meanwhile, REVOLT REVOLT, true to their name, put an ominous spin on “White Christmas” and Câlisse insist theirs is “Not A Holiday Song.” This is not your grandfather’s holiday music (unless he was a hipster back in the 80s).
Being the generous souls they are, the XO site still includes linke to all seven of the previous holiday collections as well, so you can binge on new beats without feeling in the least bit greedy.
Have a safe, happy, musical holiday!