Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday Classics: Christmas Time’s A-Coming

Emmylou Harris: Christmas Time’s A-Coming


Country music Christmas albums: Bah, humbug. They are almost all forgettable, often featuring the same couple of dozen songs, ("Little Drummer Boy," anyone?), philharmonic-style string arrangements and overly solemn vocals.

But there's one I will defend: Emmylou Harris’s first and only Christmas record, "Light of the Stable." And not just because it's the only Christmas record I know of with a Neil Young song as the title track. It's a significant record because it heralded (hark!) Emmylou's neo-traditional stylings of the early 1980s. Released in Europe in 1979 (It became available in the U.S. a year later; the cover above, showing a pregnant and not particularly comfortable Emmylou, is from the original English release), "Light of the Stable" came out a half-year before "Roses in the Snow," Emmylou's traditional country/bluegrass standard bearer. "Light of the Stable" also featured the first officially released "Trio" track, with Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt providing supporting vocals on the title song. Thanks to the bright, acoustic arrangements, "Light of the Stable" still sounds fresh today. Even "Little Drummer Boy." Though, in deference to the Facebook "Little Drummer Boy Challenge," the album's opening track, “Christmas Time’s a-Coming,” is offered here instead.

Guest post by Mt. Vernon Mike

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