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Thursday, December 21, 2017

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins ...
-- Howard Thurman

ROUTES & BRANCHES  
a home for the americana diaspora
Christmas 2017
Scott Foley, purveyor of pixie dust

The other day I arrived home to find our half-decorated Christmas tree sideways in the living room.  Since our cat is pretty slight, I immediately narrowed the culprits to gravity or the dogs.  And since you can't get angry at gravity .,.

So this is Christmas ...  Time was when I would trek into the radio station for my holiday show, my kids in tow and way high on hot chocolate.  I would alternately make them talk on air or ask them to quiet down while Dad was on the radio. Now, one child lives in the Bronx, another is about to graduate from college and the third will fly the coop in 2018 if everything goes as planned.  Today, the magic happens in the basement, with the ticking clock and the buzzing dryer and the pipes full of rushing water.  But Christmas occurs whether we're ready or not, whether the weather is 25 and snow or 60 and sun.  And holiday music is an essential ornament on our seasonal experience.

This Episode, we offer new stuff from Nikki Lane and Elizabeth Cook, both in collaboration with other artists.  We chill to novel holiday offerings from Matt Pond and Great Lake Swimmers, and we mostly just do our best to make the argument that musical discovery can continue through these bleak winter months.  So let's add another Duraflame to the fire and steel ourselves against the cold.

- Parker McCollum, "Hell of a Year" Probably Wrong  (McCollum, 2017)
- JC Brooks, "Back Door Santa" Christmas Soul  (Amazon, 17)
- Mavericks, "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" single  (Mono Mundo, 17)
- Over the Rhine, "Darlin' (Christmas is Coming)" Snow Angels  (Beat Mgmt, 07)
- Craig Gerdes, "Christmas Eve at Our House" single  (Gerdes, 17)  D
- Willie Nelson, "Blue Christmas" Pretty Paper  (Sony, 79)
- Joel Patterson, "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" Hi-Fi Christmas Guitar  (Bloodshot, 17)
- Steelism, "Linus & Lucy" single  (Intoxicating Sounds, 17)  D
- Xmas-Men, "Sleigh Ride" Santa is Real  (Xmas-Men, 14)
- Swamp Dogg, "Jingle Bells" An Awful Christmas & a Lousy New Year  (SDEG, 09)
- Nathaniel Rateliff, "Santa Baby" single  (Concord, 17)
- Yawpers, "Christmas in Oblivion" 13 Days of Xmas  (Bloodshot, 17)
- Minus 5, "When Christmas Hurts You This Way" Dear December  (Yep Roc, 17)
- Smithereens, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" Alternative Rock X-mas  (Capitol, 07)
- Bonnie Prince Billy, "Christmas Eve Can Kill You" single  (Drag City, 12)
- White Buffalo, "Christmas Eve" Acoustic Christmas  (Amazon, 17)
- Great Lake Swimmers, "They Don't Make Them Like That Anymore" They Don't Make Them Like That Anymore  (Nettwerk, 17)  D
- Matt Pond PA, "In Winter" More Winter Lives  (131 Records, 17)  D
- First Aid Kit, "I'll Be Home For Christmas" Live From BBC Radio 2  (Columbia, 17)  D
- Emmylou Harris, "Angel Eyes" Light of the Stable  (Warner, 79)
- Boo Ray & Elizabeth Cook, "All Strung Out Like Christmas Lights" single  (Boo Ray, 17)  D
- Dale Watson & His Lonestars, "Christmas To Me" Christmas on the Lam and Other Songs  (Red House, 16)
- All Our Exes Live in Texas, "How To Make Gravy" 13 Days of Xmas  (Bloodshot, 17)
- Ronnie Fauss, "Everybody Deserves a Merry Christmas" An Americana Christmas  (New West, 13)
- Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, "White Christmas" It's a Holiday Soul Party  (Daptone, 15)
- Loretta Lynn, "I Won't Decorate Your Christmas Tree" Christmas Collection  (MCA, 05)
- Jarrod Dickenson, "Please Come Home For Christmas" single  (Decca, 17)
- Joseph Bradshaw & Nikki Lane, "Wait Till After Christmas" single  (Bradshaw, 17)  D
- Loose Cattle, "Shepherds in the Parking Lot" Seasonal Affective Disorder  (Low Heat, 17)  D
- Stevie Wonder, "Someday at Christmas" Someday at Christmas  (Motown, 67)

Next week, we'll heap some praise on my favorite songs for 2017, a list I find more challenging than my records list.  And, looking forward a bit, I'm expecting my first review of the year to cover new albums from a couple expats from Water Liars, Andrew Bryant's Ain't It Like the Cosmos and Marie/Lepanto's Tenkiller, featuring Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster along with Will Johnson.  Frankly, I can't wait to return to the weekly blog-slog.



Sunday, December 17, 2017

ROUTES & BRANCHES
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
December 17, 2017
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

As we head into 2018, here's a call to listening to All the Music.  
To streaming and purchasing and supporting live music.  
Here's to the spirit of musical discovery, 
to sharing new artists and pushing our musical envelope 
and setting old favorites on the shelf now and then.
To hell with your comfort zone, your envelope, your groove.  
This New Year, resolve to break your habits
and let the music tell you where to go next.

------

Couple weeks ago I featured my 30 favorite records for 2017, and on December 31 I will share my favorite songs for the year.  Just for fun, I asked some of the artists on my list to tell us about some of their own favorite stuff for the past twelve months.  Fortunately, we had some responses:



Daniel Hines, guitar guy for Left Arm Tan encourages us to check out Walt Wilkins' January Streetlight CD.  He also throws his weight behind the popular appreciation for Turnpike Troubadours' Long Way From Your Heart.  And Daniel adds fellow Texas writer Cole Risner to his list of music that matters.  Left Arm Tan will continue releasing monthly singles into the New Year, culminating in a new collection early in the year.



Joseph Huber recommends two albums to add to your queue:  Hurray for the Riff Raff's Navigator and Modern Pressure, released in May by Daniel Romano.  Huber passed dangerously close to R&B territory early this Summer, buzzing thru Fort Collins for this year's Choice City Stomp.


Anna Tivel was kind enough to share three CDs that helped define her year.  She includes the October self-titled record from Weather Station, as well as Big Thief's stellar Capacity.  I'd join her in recommending those, as well as Leif Vollebekk's Twin Solitudes (one of the albums I despaired to have to leave off my own favorites list).  Tivel's "Alleyway" earned a spot on NPR's 100 Best Songs of the year.  She toured this year alongside Jeffrey Martin, and remarked, "If I could only listen to one thing on repeat forever, (Jeffrey Martin) would be it".





And god bless Matthew Ryan, who took my request very much to heart and appears to share my support for musical discovery.  Plus, doesn't hurt that Matthew has damn good taste in music.  I truly admire an artist who is also a smart listener and a genuine music fan.  I'll just share what he wrote here: These are all favorites for different reasons. They're in no particular order. All of them contain at least one song that destroys me. For me, that's what I'm always looking for, one song that feels like it's always been there. What's below are just some favorites from 2017, certainly not comprehensive. 

Craig Finn, We All Want the Same Things
Slowdive, Sugar for the Pill
Bob Dylan, Triplicate
St Vincent, Masseducation
John Moreland, Big Bad Luv
Elbow, Little Fictions
Benchmarks, Our Undivided Attention
Strand of Oaks, Hard Love
War On Drugs, A Deeper Understanding
Bash + Pop, Anything Could Happen
Jade Jackson, Gilded
The National, Sleep Well Beast
Dave Hause, Bury Me in Philly
Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer, Not Dark Yet
Micah Schnabel, Your New Norman Rockwell
Billy Bragg, Bridges Not Walls

... and my sadly belated discovery of 2017: Richmond Fontaine


Thanks to all who participated, providing a brief glimpse into the inspiration and the personal passion that helps to drive these brilliant artists.

Also this week, we take advantage of The Lull that is the end of the year music release calendar to revisit a couple records that I sorta maybe didn't support to the full extent of their merit.  Stuff by Zephaniah Ohora, Joe Henry and Sam Outlaw.  It's a ripe time for securing these loose ends.  We continue poking around some excellent new releases from Shovels & Rope and Marie/Lepanto.  And we Christmas hard.

I'd mentioned that I'd be sharing my annual traditional Holiday Episode on Christmas Eve.  Then it occurred to me that this gives everyone exactly one day to enjoy the spectacle that is all-Christmas, all-the-time.  Holiday music can already seem out of place in the harsh light of a warm Colorado Christmas afternoon.  While Real Life Things will rise up with their pressing demands, I'll do my best to pull it all together earlier in the week if at all possible.  Please join me in efforting a Christmas miracle.

- Lee Bains III & Glory Fires, "Had to Laugh" Youth Detention  (Don Giovani, 17)
- Gasoline Lollipops, "Montreal" Soul Mining  (Ellenburg, 17)
- Zephaniah Ohora, "High Class City Girl From the Country" This Highway  (Ohora, 17)
- Zach Schmidt, "I'm Drunk Again This Christmas" 13 Days of Christmas  (Bloodshot, 17)
- Sam Outlaw, "Tenderheart"  Tenderheart  (Six Shooter, 17)
- James McMurtry, "Levelland" Where'd You Hide the Body  (Sony, 95)
- Jim White, "Long Long Day" Waffles Triangles & Jesus  (Loose, 17)
- Angel Olsen, "Endless Road" Phases  (Jagjaguwar, 17)
- Sonny Smith, "Pictures of You" Rod for Your Love  (Easy Eye, 18)
- Jim James, "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" Tribute to 2  (ATO, 17)
- Shovels & Rope w/Matthew Logan Vasquez, "Untitled 1" Busted Jukebox Vol. 2  (New West, 17)
- Joe Pug, "Silver Harps & Violins" Great Despiser  (Lightning Rod, 12)
- First Aid Kit, "Postcard" Ruins  (Columbia, 18)
- Texas Gentlemen, "Christmas With You" Christmas Soul  (Amazon, 17)
- Flat Duo Jets, "Wild Wild Lover" Wild Wild Love  (Daniel 13, 17)
- Caleb Caudle, "Empty Arms" Crushed Coins  (Cornelius Chapel, 18)
- Two Cow Garage, "Lydia" Sweet Saint Me  (LC, 10)
- Marie/Lepanto, "High Desert"  Tenkiller  (Big Legal Mess, 18)
- Joe Henry, "Dark is Light Enough" Thrum  (Worksong, 17)
- Minus 5, "See You in December" Dear December  (Yep Roc, 17)
- Anderson East, "King for a Day" Encore  (Elektra, 18)
- Chris Stapleton, "A Simple Song" From A Room Vol. 2  (Mercury, 17)
- Lori McKenna, "Mama's Cooking" Acoustic Christmas  (Amazon, 17)
- Tommy Emmanuel w/Rodney Crowell, "Looking Forward to the Past" Accomplice One  (CGP, 18)
- Sons of Bill, "Arms of the Landslide" Love and Logic  (Gray Fox, 14)
- Max Gomez, "Joe" Me & Joe  (Brigadoon, 17)  D
- Erin Enderlin, "Cowboy Christmas" single  (Blue Slate, 17)  D
- Jarrod Dickenson, "Christmas Time in the City" single  (Decca, 17)  D
- Temptations, "Silent Night" Give Love at Christmas  (Motown, 80)
- Tallest Man on Earth, "Sagres" Dark Bird is Home  (Dead Oceans, 15)

Give the gift of Routes & Branches this holiday season!  If you know someone who values musical discovery, tell them about what you've discovered here.  Share us on the social media of your preference. While 2017 has easily eclipsed any other year for traffic thru our humble site, I dream of something larger, more substantial, more dynamic.  I'm proud of the community that's collecting around these posts, and I fully expect to show my gratitude by growing R&B in new directions as my resources permit.  Oh, and don't hesitate to email me with favorites, reflections and existential crises:  routesandbranches@gmail.com

Wednesday, December 13, 2017



ROUTES & BRANCHES  
it's our kind of music
December 13, 2017
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

Yeah.  Sorta missed my target this week - aimed for Sunday but barely hit Wednesday.  O well.  It's a busy time of year, and work and headspace and family and insert your favorite excuse here.  But now we're here and it's time for another Episode, another ROUTES-cast and another quality review.

Damn. Of all the stuff I had to leave off my year-end favorites list, no regrets have been more persistent than Jeffrey Martin's One Go Around (Fluff & Gravy, Oct 13).  When I was building the list, I thought I had to choose between Martin and Anna Tivel's equally shattering Small Believer (Fluff & Gravy, Sep 29).  I've mentioned how the Portland songwriters are frequent road companions, and how their respective records compliment one another so perfectly.  Fact is, I haven't stopped listening to either, so I gotta write about One Go Around by way of apology.  To shake the ghosts.
I don't know a lot / But I think we only get one go around 
As with Tivel's work, very little on Jeffrey Martin's collection rises beyond a rustle.  Electric guitars are favored over acoustic, but backed sparingly by piano, percussion and little else.  Martin delivers his wisdom in a voice not unlike early Nathaniel Rateliff, a gruff, tired instrument not looking to impress with its prowess but just hoping to connect.  A perfect vehicle for telling stories across a small table, tales of men hoping against hope or pushing wearily against the dark.  From "Poor Man": I'm not a bad man / I'm a poor man sinking.  Martin's narrator, an asphalt man just like his daddy, breaks his back during the day only to shoulder the burden of counting dimes and sleepless nights as his home provides little stability.

Like Noah Gunderson or David Ramirez, Jeffrey Martin's songs can prove ethereal and even fleeting, though they're caked through with the grime and the dirt of our daily labors.  It's loosely a poetry of the working man, though shot through with stunning turns of phrase.
You used to make me go to church / Every Sunday in the evening / Say that god was for men like me / Who swore they didn't need him / And now all this sin I don't believe in / Is heavy on my back
There's a melancholy romanticism here as well, on pieces like the lovely "Surprise, AZ" or "Thrift Store Dress", featuring Anna Tivel on violin.   It emerges in the chord changes and the sticky melodies that underly Martin's songs.  On the latter, he is the weary touring bard, playing songs for strangers in towns that aren't ours.  His focus is maintained by the companionship of a touring partner, At night you sing to parts of me that I haven't ever seen.  Like so many other troubadours, Martin is conflicted by the wandering life, drawn to the song of stability and a house that can't be moved.

One Go Around works as well in the folk music vernacular, offering songs in the key of struggle and stories that sing to the heart.  Both "What We're Marching Toward" and "Hand on a Gun" are protest pieces, and the striking "Billy Burroughs" turns the story of William S Burroughs and his dead lover into a chilling folk ballad with the refrain, Baby sit still and close your eyes / It's only the price of a good time.

I still hold that Jeffrey Martin provides the perfect chaser to the music of Anna Tivel.  And retrospect will always humble me with my ever changing sentiments about this music I love.  One Go Around is the writer's third release, finding Martin adding new dimension and depth to his stunning work.  It has undoubtedly earned a spot among my favorites for the year, a stirring collection that delivers moment after moment of remarkable poetry.
He grew up in a house in the valley / With a daddy who was one long cigarette

Also on this Episode, we continue to paint the town red 'n green with the most original and overlooked holiday music of the season.  Even as 2017 trips and stumbles towards the darkened finish line, we are drawn forward by the promise of bright new music in the form of Caleb Caudle and Jim White.  John Moreland shines alongside Shovels & Rope on the version of "Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain" that you've been looking for ever since Willie stole the tune from Roy Acuff.  And on the near horizon we are drawn by strains from Marie/Lepanto, featuring a dream duo of Will Johnson and Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster.  Amen and amen.

- Nathaniel Rateliff & Night Sweats, "Baby It's Cold Outside" single  (Concord, 17)
- Benjamin Booker, "Overtime" Witness  (ATO, 17)
- Gasoline Lollipops, "Mustangs" Soul Mining  (Ellenburg, 17)
- Mavis Staples, "No Time For Crying" If All I Was Was Black  (Anti, 17)
- Wood Brothers, "River Takes the Town" One Drop of Truth  (Honey Jar, 18)
- Tom Waits, "Little Rain" Bone Machine  (UMG, 92)
- Will Hoge, "Thoughts & Prayers" single  (Edlo, 17)
- Jim White, "Silver Threads" Waffles Triangles & Jesus  (Loose, 18)  D
- Kristina Murray, "How Tall the Glass" single  (Murray, 17)
- Joel Patterson, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" Hi-Fi Christmas Guitar  (Bloodshot, 17)  D
^ Jeffrey Martin, "Surprise, AZ"  One Go Around  (Fluff & Gravy, 17)
- Dori Freeman, "Just Say It Now" Letters Never Read  (Blue Hen, 17)
- Robert Ellis & Courtney Hartman, "Old Time River Man" Dear John  (Refuge Fndtn, 17)
- Travis Meadows, "McDowell Road" First Cigarette  (Blaster, 17)
- Shovels & Rope, "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain (w/John Moreland)" Busted Jukebox Vol. 2  (New West, 17)  D
- Parker McCollum, "South of the City Lights" Probably Wrong  (McCollum, 17)
- Minus 5, "Your Christmas Whiskey" Dear December  (Yep Roc, 17)
- Marie/Lepanto, "Inverness" Tenkiller  (Big Legal Mess, 18)  D
- Margo Price, "Heart of America" All American Made  (Third Man, 17)
- Turnpike Troubadours, "Tornado Warning" Long Way From Your Heart  (Bossier City, 17)
- Hellbound Glory, "Six Strings Away" Pinball  (Black Country Rock, 17)
- Steve Earle, "NYC" El Corazon  (Warner, 97)
- Courtney Marie Andrews, "I'll Be Home For Christmas" Acoustic Christmas  (Amazon, 17)
- Caleb Caudle, "Open Arms" Crushed Coins  (Cornelius Chapel, 18)  D
- Langhorne Slim, "Never Break" Lost at Last Vol. 1  (Dualtone, 17)
- Left Arm Tan, "Mistress Freedom" single  (LAT, 17)  D
- Emmylou Harris, "May This Be Love" Wrecking Ball  (Nonesuch, 95)
- Alela Diane, "Emigre" Cusp  (Diane, 18)  D
- JD Wilkes, "Walk Between the Raindrops" Fire Dream  (Big Legal Mess, 18)  D
- Ags Connolly, "I Hope You're Unhappy" Nothin' Unexpected  (At the Helm, 16)

Sunday, December 03, 2017

ROUTES & BRANCHES  
a home for the americana diaspora
December 3, 2017
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

From artists and labels and promoters to just plain ol' listeners, I'm humbled and real grateful to all who responded to last week's favorites list. Comments came in all flavors, many reminding me of all the great stuff that wasn't included - believe me, I know about all that; I lost sleep over several things I had to leave off.  It all added up to the busiest month on record here at the home office in Northern Colorado. I'll leave last week's Episode up to enjoy for the remainder of 2017, even as we turn our attention to the year to come.  Because that's how we do.

In addition to our end-of-year lists, this time of year also opens the door to all sorts of holiday music.  And there is typically so very much of the stuff, and so much that you don't really need to listen to.  I see it as my role to serve as the snowblower to power through all the Sias and the Gwen Stefanis and all the rehashed Pentatonixes to unearth some of these buried treasures that might delight folks who enjoy what we do here at R&B.  Even if you've soured on seasonal stuff, be patient and you just might see that there's just some pretty good music here.

Let's start with some SINGLES, perfect for folks for whom a little Christmas goes a long way.  We'll certainly give extra bonus points for anyone who writes their own holiday songs, and Boo Ray has done just that, releasing "All Strung Out Like Christmas", a duet with Elizabeth Cook that Rolling Stone heralds as, "a tribute to the timeless tradition of getting drunk and getting it on".  Ah, Christmas.  Raul Malo and his Mavericks have wrapped up a pair of tunes for us, one original and their spirited take on Ronnie Spector's "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)".    The original, "Christmas Time is (Coming 'Round Again)" is a pleasantly manic romper held together by some fine piano and a stocking full of jingle bells.  Malo delivers with a sly wink and the lyric, "Christmas time is coming 'round again / If you don't believe at least pretend".  Once Vince Guaraldi set the indelible right hand piano line of "Linus & Lucy" in motion, a flurry of fascinating covers have followed (personal favorites include Bela Fleck, Los Straitjackets and Love Tractor).  Add to this Christmas list a faithful albeit slightly futuristic new take by Steelism, managing nods to both Buddy Emmons and Robert Fripp.  Finally, Nathaniel Rateliff & Night Sweats offer remarkably restrained versions of what are surely among my least favorite recurring Christmas songs, "Baby It's Cold Outside" and "Santa Baby".  I know for a fact that there is an extra toasty room in hell reserved for people who sexualize Christmas with talk of chimneys, north poles and trimming the tree.  That said, Rateliff does something almost revolutionary in reversing the voice in both of these chestnuts.  While "Baby It's Cold" has increasingly earned the reputation as being real creepy, there's something charming in the uncredited woman telling Rateliff, "Your hair looks swell" or Rateliff complaining, "My mother will start to worry".  And on "Santa Baby", "Slip a sable under the tree for me / I've been an awful good girl".  To my knowledge, Michael Buble is the only male to attempt this song, but he proved cowardly in changing the lyrics to "Santa buddy".  Rateliff's laid back crooning wouldn't sound all too bad on a full album of this stuff.

More impressive are the artists who come a'caroling with an EP or a full LP's worth of ORIGINAL holiday faire.  Last year about this time, I was waxing all nostalgic under the influence of Matt Pond PA's exquisite Winter Lives full length.  Instead of "Jingle Bells" and "Frosty", the New York trio celebrates the season with "Sunset at the Gas Pump" and "Whoa".  By way of follow-up, this year Matt Pond brings us More Winter Lives, an EP featuring a couple remixes and a couple new things.  Rather than Christmas, you might call it "seasonal" or "winter music", instrospective chamber folk perfect for a fireside listen or a leisurely drive through the snowy trees (they're out there somewhere).  In a similar vein, Tony Dekker and Great Lake Swimmers offer They Don't Make Them Like That Anymore, an EP equally divided between originals and trads.  There is such a welcome warmth to this stuff, from the lush strings and the vocals confiding sweet secrets.

I'll insert a paragraph break here, since the final original from the Minus 5 is another thing entirely.  As Scott McCaughey and co. have proven over countless albums, EPs and singles, absolutely nothing is sacred (save maybe baseball).  In light of McCaughey's recent stroke, it must be acknowledged what an eclectic treasure he is to our kind of music.  Contrary to the hushed and reverent nature of the former collections, the originals on Dear December are perfect for moments of frivolity, misbehavior and ill advised indulgence.  God bless 'em, there's nothing reverent about "New Christmas Hymn":  I'm offering this Christmas hymn / Not for any ghost or Tiny Tim / For both the naughty and the nice / We're all skating on the same thin ice.  Other highlights include the Spector-esque "Merry Christmas Mr. Gulp Gulp" and "Your Christmas Whiskey", a tipsy ode that was originally featured in Yep Roc's 2007 Oh Santa! sampler.  Like just about everything else McCaughey touches, there's a distinct garage-y sensibility to all the proceedings, and it's all shot through with a glossy ribbon of timeless pop.  Guest appearances by M Ward, Colin Meloy, Chuck Prophet, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and more make this the year's only holiday party you won't want to miss.

By far the best way to soundtrack your holiday is with a various artists COMPILATION, a collection guaranteed to hit the target at least now and then.  I'll include an honorable mention here for Red House Records' Christmas on the Lam and Other Songs from the Season, which actually saw light last winter.  This one features contributions from label friends like Charlie Parr, Wailin' Jennys and the Pines, who provide a cottony taste of Gordon Lightfoot's splendid "Song For a Winter's Night".  The friendly folk at Amazon continue to add worthy new stuff to their Christmas playlists, aptly named Christmas Soul, Indie for the Holidays and Acoustic Christmas.  The generous soul selections include stuff ranging from Robert Finley and JC Brooks to soul-ish stocking stuffers from Texas Gentlemen and Nicole Atkins (providing the only soulful rendition of "O Holy Night" you're ever going to hear).  New additions to the indie list include Best Coast, Kevin Morby and Jessica Lea Mayfield's funereal reading of Loretta Lynn's "To Heck With Old Santa Claus".  Amazon introduces their Acoustic playlist advising listeners to "stay chill no matter where you're celebrating".  Will do, Amazon.  2017 contributions to this list include Lori McKenna, Courtney Marie Andrews, and White Buffalo, whose melodic "Christmas Eve" might be my favorite original holiday song of the year.

Nevertheless, I will reserve this final spot for our trusty friends at Bloodshot Records, whose 13 Days of Xmas answers the abiding question, "What would it sound like if Bloodshot released a Christmas record?" Well, it sounds like long established label artists like Jon Langford, Devil in a Woodpile and Murder by Death hitting the nog and pressing RECORD.  Guitarist James Elkington does Christmas Brit-folk style, prompting NPR to remind us that "Christmas carols needn't always be cheery and bright".  That'd make a suitable tagline for 13 Days, with Kelly Hogan's Blue Note-ready "Blue Snowfall" and the Yawpers' perfectly bleak "Christmas in Oblivion".  But wait!  Ha Ha Tonka counter the trend with a lovely "The List", and All Our Exes Live in Texas apply their beautiful voices to Paul Kelly's Australian-themed "How to Make Gravy".  But yeah, Zach Schmidt can't help but drown in his drink, "I'm Drunk Again This Christmas".  And while it's not necessarily the stuff to play during Grandma and Grandpa's visit, I've found Bloodshot's collection just the thing to keep my tired soul company during the long drives home from work in the early dark.

More ho ho ho in the works before we turn off the Christmas machine.  We're also speeding towards our promised December 31 favorite songs program.

- Left Arm Tan, "Best I Never Had" single  (LAT, 17)
- Jeffrey Martin, "Surprise, AZ"  One Go Around  (Fluff & Gravy, 17)
- Ronnie Fauss, "Twenty-Two Years" Last of the True  (Normaltown, 17)
- Parker McCollum, "Misunderstood" Probably Wrong  (McCollum, 17)
- Lee Ann Womack, "Sunday" Lonely the Lonesome & the Gone  (ATO, 17)
- Rod Picott, "All the Broken Parts" Hang Your Hopes on a Crooked Nail  (Welding Rod, 14)
^ Yawpers, "Christmas in Oblivion" 13 Days of Xmas  (Bloodshot, 17)  D
- Mark Porkchop Holder, "Big Boat" Death & the Blues  (Alive Naturalsound, 17)
- Chris Stapleton, "Midnight Train to Memphis" From A Room: Vol. 2  (Mercury, 17)
- Ruby Boots, "Don't Talk About It" Don't Talk About It  (Bloodshot, 18)
- Drew Kennedy, "Jackson" At Home in the Big Lonesome  (Atlas Aurora, 17)
- Scott Miller, "Epic Love" Ladies Auxiliary  (FAY, 17)
- First Aid Kit, "Fireworks" Ruins  (Columbia, 18)
- Jeffrey Foucault, "Battle Hymn (of the College Dropout Farmhand)" Miles From the Lightning  (Rock River, 01)
- Cody Jinks, "Last Call For the Blues" Less Wise (Modified 2017)  (Jinks, 17)
- Kristina Murray, "How Tall the Glass" single  (Murray, 17)  D
- Jason & the Scorchers, "Harvest Moon" Midnight Roads & Stages Seen  (Mammoth, 98)
- Wilco, "When You Find Trouble" AM (Special Edition)  (Sire, 17)
- Diamond Rugs, "Christmas in a Chinese Restaurant" Diamond Rugs  (Partisan, 12)
^ Minus 5, "See You in December" Dear December  (Yep Roc, 17)  D
- Jim James, "World is Falling Down" Tribute to 2  (ATO, 17)
- Calexico, "Voices in the Fields" Thread That Keeps Us  (Anti, 18)
- Angel Olsen, "Tougher Than the Rest" Phases  (Jagjaguwar, 17)  D
- Robert Ellis & Courtney Hartman, "Gentle on My Mind" Dear John  (Refuge Fndtn for the Arts, 17)  D
- Light Wires, "Belly of the Beast" Light Wires  (Sofaburn, 17)
- Kim Richey, "Get Together (w/Mando Saenz)" single  (Yep Roc, 17)  D
- Blaze Foley, "Clay Pigeons" Live at the Austin Outhouse  (Lost Art, 99)
- Will Hoge, "Thoughts & Prayers" single  (Edlo, 17)  D
- Mary Gauthier, "War After the War" Rifles & Rosary Beads  (In the Black, 18)
^ Nicole Atkins, "O Holy Night" Christmas Soul  (Amazon, 17)  D