Waitrose and Partners Weekend Issue 579

45 25 NOVEMB ER 2021 WEEKENDING Shopping, eating out, school run, Christmas markets or on hold to the bank. At this time of year, it’s di cult to avoid festive songs wherever you are. Even the best tunes (and you will have your favourites) can lose their charmas you are forced to listen to them for the umpteenth time. Here’s my selection of seasonal songs that familiarity has not yet rendered contemptible... Back in the 80s, a very cool American label called ZERecords put out a Christmas album, themost famous cut fromwhich is TheWaitresses’ ChristmasWrapping . But tucked in the bottomof this stocking is an absolute treat fromDavitt Sigerson called It’s a Big Country . Essentially, it’s a road map of American places and a wry, flustered summation of both the impossibility of all being together at Christmas and the ties of love that bind. The lines about the auntie in Oklahoma he’s never visited sending him home-baked bread gets me every time. If you’re dreading the endless round of familiar festive tunes, you’re not alone. BBC 6Music’s Stuart Maconie has the solution, with some lesser-known tracks for your December playlist Another compilation worth seeking out is It’s a Cool, Cool Christmas , an indie pop selection whose highlight is the charming Alan Parsons in aWinterWonderland by Grandaddy. The classic holiday song is tweaked into a festive tribute to the legendary British prog rock producer and the result is funny, sweet and kooky. If your tastes run to somethingmore country, try I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by Johnny Cash or EmmylouHarris’ Christmas Time’s a Comin’, where legends of the genre o er their own warmly homespun takes on the holiday season. As for giants of blackmusic and soul, Smokey Robinson’s version of The Christmas Song is as warming and sweet as a cream liqueur whilst James Brown’s Santa Claus go Straight to the Ghetto has a bit more bite. My favourite reading of the standard Feliz Navidad is by El Vez, whomerges the traditional Latino Christmas tune oddly but brilliantly with Public Image by Public Image Ltd. (There’s a YouTube video of himplaying this live in Vienna, topless and in plastic Santa Claus trousers if that’s your thing!) It just isn’t Christmas without the indispensable ACharlie Brown Christmas and its soundtrack which features Christmas Time is Here by the Vince Guaraldi Trio. Themood is wonderfully sleepy, soft as snowfall, and the faint wobbliness of the kids’ voices is wonderfully touching. The song Some Children See Him feels mildly problematic now in its description of how kids of di erent races across the globe view the infant Jesus. But there is no doubt Alfred Burt andWihla Hutson intended it as a gently powerful hymn to racial tolerance. The very best version is by siblings Rufus and MarthaWainwright. It trembles perfectly on the very lip of sentimentality but remains so heartbreakingly beautiful I confess that this does me in every time. And I just had to play it to remindmyself. So I’ll leave it there, as I have something in my eye it seems. Merry Christmas. @StuartMaconie FESTIVE JOY Listen to Christmas songs from James Brown (top) and Johnny Cash heard before Christmas songs you’ve never Illustration: Peter Crowther Photography: Al Bello/Getty Images, Rolls Press/Popperfoto via Getty Images