Here’s something out of the ordinary. Molly Drake was a poet and musician whose work was never published in her lifetime, and only came to a wider audience when it was uncovered as part of a documentary on her more famous son Nick in 2000, seven years after Molly’s death. This is a winter song, rather than a Christmas song, but I’m still allowing it because it’s lovely, and also – if you know Nick Drake’s music at all – shows what an influence his mother had on his own songwriting. I don’t know what the weather’s like where you are, but from the comfort of my sofa I can tell you that at least in SE10, it’s definitely a wintry sort of a Sunday, so I suggest you have a cup of tea and a mince pie while you listen.
Here’s what we’re going to do. Before you scroll down and watch the video, I want you to listen to a snippet of the audio version and see if you can tell who it is, because her voice is so distinctive that I think if you’ve ever heard her sing you’ll know right away. Don’t peek!
NOW you can scroll down.
OF COURSE it’s Stevie Nicks, who recorded her version of Silent Night as part of volume 5 of the A Very Special Christmas series of compilations, which were recorded by various artists to benefit what used to be called the Special Olympics. You should probably listen to the version I linked above, but I’ve also found a live video of Stevie performing it with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and since he is also one of my favourites and we lost him MUCH TOO SOON earlier this year, I’ve picked this one instead. Hey, why not listen to them both? It’s Saturday and like me, you’ve probably got no chores or shopping to do.
After Wednesday’s mother-daughter combination, today we have an even bigger family affair with Kate and Anna McGarrigle’s final studio album, The McGarrigle Christmas Hour from 2005, which features Kate’s children Rufus and Martha Wainwright as well as less well-known family members like the third sister, Jane, Anna’s husband Dane Lanken and their children, plus a bonus smattering of famous pals (Beth Orton, Emmylou Harris, Jackson Browne). Rufus also co-produces (although I am never quite sure what that means, and sometimes I think it definitely means “features in the credits for financial and publicity purposes”, though I expect that is not the case here).
Anyway this track is the only one written and performed solely by Kate and Anna themselves, and it’s lovely, as is this accompanying video which, I think, has nothing officially to do with the song.
I love this. It is a bit weird but super awesome, although maybe mostly (maybe only) if you are already a Siouxsie fan. Which I am, so that’s OK. This was a double A-side with Melt in 1982 and didn’t appear anywhere else until a 2004 compilation, so it is a relative rarity. Look at how earnest they are! Look at little Robert Smith! And listen to the horns! Let’s all be Christmas punks!
I get Carole King mixed up with Carly Simon. Is that just me? I expect it is; they’re not really anything alike. Except in that they have both recorded Christmas albums in their post-height-of-fame years, but so has nearly everyone. A Christmas Carole (I know!) was released in 2011 and produced by King’s daughter Louise Goffin, who also co-wrote this chirpy and gently feminist number, which is the sort of song you should definitely dance to as long as you’re not at the office, which I am.
Well, isn’t this lovely? I suddenly ran out of songs yesterday, having gone off a couple of my original selections, so I appealed to the social medias and got a bunch of suggestions back, mostly featuring singer-songwriters I don’t know or don’t know much about, including Kate Rusby, of whom I had never heard but who came separately recommended by THREE different people. She turns out to be one of the best-known contemporary British folk singers there is, so I obviously haven’t been paying attention. And she further turns out to have recorded a whole bunch of Christmas songs, almost all covers rather than her own stuff (though she does write her own stuff), but this is the first track from her first Christmas album (of four) and it’s a lovely version of a well-known song, and I especially like that you can absolutely hear her Yorkshire accent on the chorus.
It’s time for some holiday horror. “Jólakötturinn” is, as you know, Icelandic for “Christmas Cat”. According to Wikipedia:
The Yule Cat is a monster from Icelandic folklore, a huge and vicious cat said to lurk about the snowy countryside during Christmastime and eat people who have not received any new clothes to wear before Christmas Eve.
Ho ho ho! And here is Bjork singing about the Yule Cat in 1987 when she was barely out of her teens, although, it says here, the lyrics were written by the Icelandic poet Jóhannes úr Kötlum and the song is by Ingibjörg Þorbergs who, if you Google her, is clearly also a woman, and so we can celebrate them both today. Gleðileg jól!
It’s Sunday, which means it’s time for some jazz-infused country music! I really love Norah Jones’s voice and I also love her music, which is completely out of its time, but in a good way. When the children of successful musicians become musicians themselves they are sometimes bland imitations of their parents, but Norah has inherited a talent and done something completely different with it, which is much more impressive.
Today’s song is also for David, whose birthday it is. Wish him a happy one, if you see him.
This song made it in, then made it out again on the basis that I don’t really know any songs by Regina Spektor, then made it back in again when I (a) listened to this song (it’s amazing!), (b) listened to some songs by Regina Spektor (she’s amazing!) and (c) had it recommended by Mark, who is both a musician AND Sweeney’s friend so of course he gets to make a pick. (Two, actually, so keep paying attention.)
Regina Spektor, like Sia, is the sort of singer I should like to be. This number is a golden oldie, recorded in 1960 by Peggy Lee and I’m sure by various other artists at various other times. But this version is gorgeous, even though it has helicopter and gunshot sound effects for reasons which I cannot discern. But listen to the backing vocals! Gorgeous. Best served with a glass of mulled wine/ginger and lemon tea (I am still a bit ill) and some friends around a piano.
I have a treat for you today, since it’s Friday. Alicia Keys hasn’t (as far as I’ve been able to find out) written a Christmas song but she has sung a bunch of them, including a version of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Happy Christmas (War Is Over) with Tim McGraw, which was nearly today’s song. But then I thought, if we’re going to allow duets with men (and we are; for reasons that should be dazzlingly obvious if you are a fan of Christmas music and brilliant women singer-songwriters) then we should also allow duets with muppets, because muppets are super Christmassy and everyone loves them. So here to send you on your Friday with gladness in your heart are Alicia and Elmo with one of the very best carols of all.