Songs of Christmas

Songs of Christmas

Songs of Christmas

from the Alan Lomax Collection


This could be one of the most exceptional and heartfelt Christmas records in my collection. Composed of traditional music, taken from English, Spanish, Italian, and Caribbean field recordings made in the 1950s, the thirty-one tracks on here show a rich musical tradition inspired by the holidays, before everyone’s knowledge of Christmas music ended at “Jingle Bells,” “White Christmas,” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Most of the material on here comes from single people or smallish groups performing music and folklore that’s been handed down from generation to generation. For example, Vera Ward Hall recites a mixture of storytelling and singing that details the story of Jesus’ birth, in “No Room at the Inn/Last Month of the Year.” It’s not necessarily what you want playing as you open your presents, not if you want your memories to be like those on TV, but it certainly conveys the significance of the season a lot better than “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.”

This isn’t necessarily for those dissatisfied with the current state of the holidays, nor for those who seek cruel and unusual music for seasonal relatives (guilty!). It serves as a permanent document of nearly vanished traditions, as everything converges into a Kodak Moment Kristmas, and it has the power to refresh your faith in the goodness and simple joy of Yuletide. Rounder Records, 1 Camp St., Cambridge, MA 02140;

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