Once again, Paste is celebrating the holiday season with a compilation of some of our favorite new holiday songs. This year, in addition to tracks off some great new holiday album releases, we’re including several tracks we recorded recently in the Paste Studio. You can stream or download it on our NoiseTrade platform here: 2020 Paste Holiday Sampler.
The Blind Boys of Alabama dropped by the Paste Studio in Atlanta in November to play us a few songs, including this Christmas classic that they’ve made completely their own.
The holidays are a time of hope, joy and renewal as we turn the page to a year as yet unwritten, and elder statesmen of Americana Keb’ Mo’ is certainly feeling that spirit: The four-time Grammy winner, recently nominated anew for his 2019 LP Oklahoma, released his first-ever holiday album, Moonlight, Mistletoe & You, available here. Paste is proud to premiere the video for this track. Originally written and recorded by Koko Taylor, “Merry Merry Christmas” is just what it sounds like: an open-hearted ode to the most celebratory time of year.
Letters to Cleo’s brand new holiday album Ok Christmas is now streaming and available on colored vinyl. ”Over the years, we’ve half-jokingly/half-seriously talked about doing a Christmas album,” says guitarist Greg McKenna. “It’s this year that we finally got off our butts to record one.“ The album includes this original song “Miss You This Christmas,” and the Boston alt-rockers will be back on tour in 2020.
The Holiday Sounds of Josh Rouse is the culmination of a decade’s worth of songwriting from the acclaimed solo artist and features the same backing band as his 2003 breakout album 1972. “I approached writing these songs like I was soundtracking a film,” Rouse says. “I was trying to bring all these little holiday scenes around the world to life with humor and heart.”
Steve Ray is a touring member of The Blind Boys of Alabama and played following the Blind Boys’ set in the Paste Studio in Atlanta, wowing us with his gospel-blues combo. Enjoy his bass-driven Christmas tune here.
The Oak Ridge Boys now have more holiday albums (eight) than most bands have albums. The Country Music Hall of Fame members’ latest entry, Down Home Christmas, was produced by one of our favorite current producers, Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, The Highwomen, Jason Isbell, Brandi Carlile, John Prine). “Aaron [Raitiere] wrote or co-wrote six songs on Down Home Christmas, and it was like old Nashville again,” says singer Joe Bonsall. “Writers would bring us a song, and we would record it while they wrote another one. It was all magic and our producer Dave Cobb led us all the way!”
Welsh trio The Joy Formidable, who we named one of the best new bands way back in 2011, had us at the title of this throw-back track, recorded on their latest trip to the Paste Studio in New York earlier this month.
Joey Sommerville, aka “Papa J,” has delivered us a lovely version of the holiday classic “O Holy Night.” “It was always one of my favorite Christmas songs growing up” he says. “Every year at Christmas time, Mrs. Harrison would sing it as a solo at my church. She had a beautiful classical soprano voice with a tone as clear as a bell… that was ‘her’ song for sure!” For his own instrumental version, Sommerville enlisted two Dante Harmon on lap steel guitar and Eric Essix on electric. “I love the interplay between myself, Dante and Eric on the song. They’re both heavily steeped in church music, but we all know how to make the spot hot on the blues and jazz side when it’s time!”
Why just celebrate Hanukkah or Andromeda when you can celebrate both? Not enough holiday songs namecheck other galaxies. But New Yorkers Lard Dog & The Band of Shy’s “Hanukkah on Andromeda” mixes punk, surf and psychobilly. “Given everything going on in the world today, you can seriously start questioning what universe you’re actually living in,” says songwriter Steven Erdman. “Without getting too grandiose about it, I’d like to think whatever universe you call home, maybe you can still embrace the goodness of the beautiful Hanukkah holiday and those who celebrate the Festival of Lights.”
Jim Heath has been playing psychobilly under the Reverend Horton Heat moniker for three decades now. This year he and his band embarked on Horton’s Holiday Hayride, a Christmas concert tour featuring several tracks from his 2005 Christmas album, We Three Kings. He played the rockabilly instrumental title track when he visited the Paste Studio in Atlanta earlier this week, and we thought it was the perfect way to close our holiday sampler.
Years before moving to Nashville, folk-rock trio The Lone Bellow recorded this Christmas Classic early in their career. “We recorded it in our good friend Brian Murphy’s apartment in Williamsburg Brooklyn right Next to the river,” says Zach Williams. “We recorded it during Christmas time just for fun really. We also did a few songs from the Kenny and Dolly Christmas movie called Once Upon A Christmas. Brian has a grand piano in his place, which was a rare thing. We’ve had the recording for several years but never released it till now. I’ve always loved The Rat Pack’s version of this song. This recording always takes me back to those early days of making music together—Brian working at the Diner, Kanene working at the soda jerk, Big Benny Mars on the upright, Brian Griffin on the drums, Brian Murphy on his piano, Jason Pipkin on the banjo and Matt Knapp on pedal steal.“
Stream or download the 2020 Paste Holiday Sampler here.
Happy holidays from the Paste staff! May your days be merry and bright.