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Holiday Songs: Acoustic Christmas Chill-out

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For this evening, a selection of gentle acoustic guitars to assist in warming your bones by the fire. Acoustic instruments made of wood just fit the theme - the yule log, the Christmas tree, toy horses, and now, the wood stove where Sufjan Stevens' presents end up - oops!

JOHN RENBOURN - I Saw Three Ships
Renbourn, one half of the formidable guitar section for British psychedelic-folk pioneers Pentangle, gives his take on the traditional (if historically challenged - where in the Bible does it talk about baby Jesus taking a boat ride?) carol.






CALIFORNIA GUITAR TRIO - Carol Of The Bells
CGT are students of King Crimson's Robert Fripp and his Guitar Craft method. Apparantly the lessons held, his young charges have come forth with their own set of precise, interlocking, richly textured variations on familiar melodies. I give them an A.






SUFJAN STEVENS - That Was The Worst Christmas Ever!
Stevens has been making Christmas EPs for friends and family for years now, and last year, decided to release them to the public as a box set. While not a masterpiece of editing, the set does contain some stunning moments, including this cryptic tale of a holiday gone wrong, dad burning the presents in a rage over some unstated offense.






RUFUS THIBODEAUX & RUSTY KERSHAW - Christmastime's A Comin'
Louisiana Cajuns relocated to Nashville, Rufus and Rusty will be familiar to Neil Young fans as sidemen that took over the whole vibe during their respective contributions to Comes A Time/ Old Ways and On The Beach. This track is found on the collection Seven Gates, credited to Ben Keith And Friends (the steel guitar-playing Keith being another VIP Young associate, from
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Harvest through his most recent Chrome Dreams 2), and rather kicks the ass of the track I bought it for, an overproduced, synthetic-sounding Young/ Johnny Cash duet on The Little Drummer Boy that never catches fire. While most of the record suffers from that unfortunate modern-country production sheen, Rufus and Rusty sound like they turned on a single mic while everybody else was eating dinner, crouched around it and captured a moment that could be dated from any time within the last hundred years.






JOHN FAHEY - O Tannenbaum / Angels We Have Heard On High
I still regret not having enough patience for John Fahey. In 1988, he came to my town of New Hope, PA and sold out both an early and late show at the local dive. My friends and I went early, bought dinner to ensure a table at the front, and waited. And waited. By 11:45, halfway through the scheduled time of the late show, we bailed and got our money back. The next day, found out that he came running in just after midnight, apologized for getting lost in the Pennsylvania backroads, and played brilliantly for the remaining stragglers until closing time. By the time I finally did see him, at the NXNW convention in 1998, he was playing electric in a trio with Jim O'Rourke...it was cool, but it wasn't THIS, and then he upped and died a few years later. It still kills me to think that I could have experienced THIS if I had hung out an extra fifteen minutes those twenty years ago.





Photo by Toni Blay via flickr.