Thursday, December 10, 2020


A leftover to encapsulate both ‘empty’ and ‘spirit’, as in I am in danger of being drained of all celebratory Christmas spirit. OK, it’s true, my score on the humbuggery meter has always been on the higher side of stripey, but whither my goat? It’s bloody Christmas songs. You’d think, what with tiers and lockdowns, that exposure to seasonal dross would have been reduced, but no, it is as if this plague year has given folk carte blanche to wheel out their own version of any old warmed up fare from years gone by. And even, in those rare instances of when a Christmas hit does other than make you want to hit someone, most of the rebakes are so soggy as to insist you do. Or yourself, or the wall, anything to block out their ceaseless epiphanies. So, for your delight and delectation, here are some of this year’s turkeys.

Fairytale of New York is (was) a pretty good song by any standard, and one, in the original, I still enjoy. But it does not translate, and I don’t even mean the fuss and nonsense about the language used. There have always been dire versions, but this years offering takes the proverbial tin of shortbread. What were you thinking, Jon bloody Bon Jovi? Just because it’s for charity dose not let you off the hook for excreting this pot-pourri of scented manure. It’s supposed to be a duet, FFS, at least try to get that, but the arrangement, the distorted vowels, the all of it, it’s awful. (One tiny weeny positive, in that the replacement lines for the term of foodstuff abuse highlighted above, is a little more inventive than many of the other bowdlerisations out there.)

I should here add my disclaimer, I never was that much keen on Slade, and was always more of a Wizzard man in the day. OK, it was good the first million or so times I heard it, but that still only takes it to about 1975. But, when you might fear it may be its own nadir, along comes bloody Robbie Williams and Jamie Cullum, the Puck and Bottom of Christmas, and, by heck, don’t they look pleased with themselves. Apparently it came out last year, but, being then spared that joy, they are now giving it an extra boost this year, clogging up all the cosy TV magazine shows with interviews and performance. (Apparently they each also have new songs apiece for this year, but I have suffered enough already, so you don’t have to either, if you are wise.) From the gurning and mugging, to the smug complicity of the horn section, aaargh. Simply aaargh.

Call me out of touch, as I understand this one is nearly a decade old, but, forgive me if I haven’t kept up with the Bieby and try to avoid the wretched Busta Rhymes at all cost. And, whilst it could be said the Bing’n’Bowie version, probably the template for odd pairings everywhere, is the best known of this venerable tune, as well as growing on me, year by year, this abomination is one I could cheerfully never hear again. If the odious vocalisaions aren’t enough, the rap, like many, it’s true, plumbs all known depths in search of a sickly slickness that will burn equally, whichever direction it explores your gut.

Had enough? I could go on but I think that is enough for one sitting, and clearly now what is needed is something soothing to bring in the new dawn of a new year. One for Robert Burns, clearly, but, sadly there being no recordings of his own renditions for posterity, instead we must make do with sweet baby James, his voice itself like a hot toddy sipped as the pipes skirl and the clock chimes. What’s that? Too much sugar? Damn right, too much sugar. I’m off to the pub. 

(They’re still closed.)

Happy Christmas!

Monday, December 7, 2020

Leftovers: Crowded Table (Looking Forward)


I guess this is sort of related to my “No Thanks” post about Old 97’s “Lonely Holiday,” but back in June, when I think that we were really coming to grips with the changes that the coronavirus was causing to our lives, our theme was “Looking Forward,” as in, things we were looking forward to in the After Times. I wrote about seeing live music, which I continue to miss terribly. 

But, as you know if you’ve read my “Lonely Holiday” piece, not to mention some of my other writings about family and friend-filled meals, I miss getting together with people to eat. Whether it is a holiday meal, or a backyard BBQ, or even if there’s no specific reason, I love to cook for a group, and I enjoy eating with a group. So, yeah, I miss having a crowded table. 

Now, the song, “Crowded Table,” by The Highwomen, seems to me about more of a big nuclear family, but the message still fits. 

I want a house with a crowded table
And a place by the fire for everyone
Let us take on the world while we're young and able
And bring us back together when the day is done 

And, to add to the inclusivity message: 

The door is always open
Your picture's on my wall
Everyone's a little broken
And everyone belongs
Yeah, everyone belongs 

If you don’t already know, The Highwomen are an all-female country/Americana “supergroup” created officially in 2019 by Amanda Shires, Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris, and Natalie Hemby, all of whom have varying levels of fame in the business. The idea was to pay homage to The Highwaymen, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson. So, they didn’t want to put much pressure on themselves, right? Their first live appearance was at a show celebrating Loretta Lynn’s 87th birthday at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville (go big, or go home, I guess). 

The project was designed to include other musicians, so that their first single, “Redesigning Women,” had a video that included, among others, Tanya Tucker and Wynonna Judd, and their self-titled debut album featured a re-write of Jimmy Webb’s “Highwaymen,” other co-writes with, among others Jason Isbell (Shires' husband), Miranda Lambert, and Ray LaMontagne, and appearances by Yola, Sheryl Crow, Isbell, and members of Carlisle’s and Shires’ bands.

“Crowded Table,” was written by Hemby, Carlile and Lori McKenna, and features vocals that weave in and out of unison and harmony. Rolling Stone considered the song to be the Highwomen’s mission statement noting that it is "looking for a world where everyone is given a chance to fit in. This isn’t about leaning in or fighting for the top chair. It’s about making room." 

Which is a good message, both as I look forward to someday sitting at a crowded table for a big meal, but also as we look forward to the post-Trump world.