Because of his military duty and that little dust-up over in Vietnam, Dad was away from us for three maybe four Christmases in my earliest years. He sent boxes of gifts and Christmas greetings via lovingly recorded cassette tapes but I was foolish and, years later, taped over those cassettes in my quest to tape all my favorite songs off the radio. He warned me at least once that there might come a day when I regretted recording over his talking and singing and sure enough, that day came in May 2015 but I digress. Once he was back Stateside, I'm pretty sure we spent nearly every Christmas with either his or Mom's folks, my grandparents and, some years, we even managed to hit both of their houses though they lived hundreds of miles apart. This is the second Christmas that Dad has been gone and I miss him so much more than I did back then but if he were here, I'd share the following Christmas music with him, just like I have done for the past 25 years or so.
For me, modern country Christmas music started with "All I Want For Christmas Is You", a not so country song Dad first heard on his local country station back in 1990 or so. He tried to describe it to me, telling me I should get it but as many times as he had heard it, he never caught who sang it. I lucked into finding a used copy of the CD one day in February 1992 at PDQ and quickly dispatched a cassette dub off to him. Driving out to visit Mom and Dad in Missouri for Christmas 1994, we left behind a once-in-a-century blizzard in Tucson with It's A Cow Christmas playing in the CD player in our Grand Caravan, keeping all three kids (ages 7, 4 and 18 months) and me happy with our spirits bright. When I played the Cows for Dad, he was nonplussed. (He'd be surprised to find out how much money people are asking for that disc today!) A couple of Christmases later, I hipped Dad to Have Yourself A Tractors Christmas by Oklahoma's own The Tractors and followed it up with the similar-sounding Merry Texas Christmas Y'All by Asleep At The Wheel the following year. Then came Dwight Yoakam's Come On Christmas in 1997 and our stroll through history ends there, on a high note. Now, here we are some two decades later and Asleep At The Wheel has released their third Christmas album in three decades. There is no doubt in my mind Dad would have loved this one.
Though I just discovered the group this Christmas, they actually put out a four song Holiday album Markey Blue Christmas back in 2014 and followed it up with their take on "Up On The Housetop" for 2016. I've grouped the two together in the playlist below and would be willing to bet we haven't heard the last of Markey Blue Holiday music. Dad probably would have dug the Nashville-based band's bluesy sound, especially with Jeanette Markey's seasoned blues mama vocals. These tracks would also play well on another Dudesy Christmas compilation should the need ever arise. Would also pair well alongside the Eagles cover of Charles Brown's "Please Come For Christmas" and a few other choice Christmas cuts if you want to go a more rocking way.
Though I am fairly certain that their respective former bands never released anything resembling a Christmas song, the supergroup christened by Little Steven Van Zant as The Empty Hearts released a two-song single in 2016 after putting out a full-length, self-titled album in 2014. From the single's art on the left, you got Clem Burke (Blondie), Andy Babiuk (The Chesterfield Kings), Elliot Easton (The Cars) and Wally Palmar (The Romantics) delivering a Wall Of Sound-inspired song with "It's Christmas" and a Bo Diddley tribute with "Joyful Noise". Both tunes would fit right in Dad's wheelhouse and make a welcome addition to those stale Christmas Rock playlists you may have been playing for years.
This is another 2014 release I missed the first time around. As my father was a fan of Brian Setzer's Christmas œuvre so this is a no-brainer. Lasting just barely twenty-five minutes with its ten tracks, the album is a fun, quick trip through Fifties-styled songs of the season featuring vocals by guitarist Mark Flora and his wife, stand-up bassist Lisa Lynn. As for the word Holy in their moniker, it's legit - Mark had been bringing the Good News to prisons and penitentiaries since 2003 before forming the band a decade later. The songs are a good mix of traditional and original and may have very well earned a spot on Dad's list of Favorite Christmas Albums of All-Time alongside Elvis and others.
Before going any further, let me say (again) that Christmas Eve by Wonderlux is one of the highlights of this particular Christmas music season and you really need to check it out for yourself.
So sayeth Stubby from Stubby's House of Christmas, probably the premiere Holiday music site on the web. Stubby has rarely steered me wrong and Christmas Eve is no exception. Surf guitars, rockabilly, power pop are but a few of the labels you could hang on this project. Stubby saved me the trouble of trying to piece together the origins of the apparently failed Kickstarter project (READ HERE) but I would be remiss if I didn't provide a link to The Blue Hawaiians very similar-sounding Christmas On The Big Island from 1995. This one's so good, Dad would probably post about it on his Facebook page which is the highest form of praise he offered.
Once again, we have a recommendation from good ol' Stubby, who has been posting about Christmas releases at Stubby's House Of Christmas since 2010. Back in September, Stubby sandwiched a review / recommendation of this rockabilly Christmas compilation from the Western Star label ("the finest UK rockabilly since 1999") between praise for last year's It's A Crime Scene Christmas (do not let the title scare you away from this great roots rock album by Kerry Pastine and her band, The Crime Scene) and Have A Merry Christmas with the Holy Rocka Rollaz which I have already mentioned above. This compilation rocks and rolls though I agree with Stubby that not every song is a winner but with twenty-two tracks to choose from, odds are in your favor that you'll pick a good one. If I know Dad, at least half of these songs would have found their way into his iTunes library while the others wouldn't make the cut.
The good news is that Mom is coming out here for Christmas - she was unable to do so last year because even though the Good Lord was willin', the creek did indeed rise all the way up to her porch and she was flooded for a few days. My sister was visiting her at the time and was gripped with panic and fear as she laid in bed, listening to the water closing in. Mom was had seen it happen a couple of times before and was confident they would survive and they did.