Chris Smither: Coventry Carol
As I wrote about earlier this month over at Cover Lay Down, the conceit of the Holiday Classic is confounded a bit by the existence of several historical waves and source-period songtypes which, together, comprise the current spate of familiar tunes for the season, as heard on the radio, in the mall, and at the hearth itself.
But though my own tastes generally run to the modern folkworld during the rest of the year, and though others tend towards the mid-20th century pop canon when citing their holiday favorites, my own true preferences for this sort of music trend much earlier - all the way back to the early wassails and church songs, and to the hymnal which collects them.
As such, even as I blog the new and the novelty, my secret household Christmas mix is mostly full of centuries-old songs done up in a modern and mellow folkstyle, from Cindy Kallet's Cherry Tree Carol, Brooks Williams' I Wonder As I Wander, Shawn Colvin's In The Bleak Midwinter, and Mary Chapin Carpenter's Sill, Still, Still to Sufjan Stevens' indiefolk takes on O Come O Come Emmanuel, Lo How A Rose E'er Blooming, The Friendly Beasts, and more.
And then there's this: a mellow, rich take on an old, unsourced traditional carol from the oft-blogged catalog of Chris Smither, originally released on a 1996 holiday sampler which - like so many other such Christmas treats from a pre-webbed world - was only made available for that one year, and has since become a rarity. As with so much of my late 20th century folk treasures, it comes direct to us from my father's CD collection, making it especially dear to me. And so I offer it in the spirit of the season, from my generations to yours. May it serve you well.