Monday, December 22, 2008

The Family Christmas

I guess this song is well known to a lot of people, and I've even seen it listed in a few places as one of the Worst Christmas Songs. Happily, I've not heard the versions of this song that are typically referred to. They are described in terms of this being a novelty song, or a redneck Christmas tribute, or something like that.

Again, luckily, I never read any of that until I had grown to love this song to death, without any irony needed. This version grabbed me from the first moment, and from that time on, I've loved it as a real slice of life look at one (fairly bemused) woman's Christmas memory. I live fairly far from redneck central, and yet (apart from the parents getting drunk in the first line) I've always been able to picture the video of this recording, in my head, as taking place at my own home.

The song is "Merry Christmas From the Family", and it's sung here by Jill Sobule, from a long out of print Various Artists Christmas album. She reminds me here of Melanie, a singer whose best work I adore, and she has the same passionate, if slightly overwhelmed and confused tone about her, which fits this wobbly Christmas story well. I am in awe of someone who can sing the verse about the lights blowing out, with the same emotional conviction as Melanie employed on "Candles in the Rain".

And the arrangement, with accordion, a lead clarinet, and all sorts of acoustic strings and drums, resonates with me and rings in my head throughout the year, not just for the last three weeks. I'm often a fan of music that sounds like it's about to fly off the rails, and at times, that's the case here, especially in terms of the electric guitar which enters the song here and there after a minute or so. Going into the second bridge there is an especially nice moment.

I guess I have to accept that this was written as silly satire, but it works better as a more nuanced, Randy Newman style number. Hope you enjoy it.


Alex said...

There's a great video for this song, now available whenever you want thanks to youtube:

Sammy Reed said...

This song isn't working now.