December is here, and winter is upon us – so it’s time to bring out the Christmas music. We know a lot of people are not fans of holiday tunes which is why on this show we like to focus on new songs about the season rather than just the same old songs and tunes given a quick makeover. And if we play something that’s not a new song, well that’s because the artist has taken it somewhere rather special indeed. So, join us for Episode 558 of Folk Roots Radio – the first of two episodes of Folk Roots Radio for the Holidays, which features solstice songs, winter songs, Hanukkah songs and Christmas songs from RUNA, Sara Thomsen & Paula Pedersen, Connie Kaldor, Ed Sweeney, The Honey Larks, Jackie Washington, MacMaster Leahy Family, Finest Kind, SONiA disappear fear, Aaron Nathans & Michael G Ronstadt, Kelly’s Lot, Tony Turner, Céleste Lévis, Ken Tizzard & Music For Goats, Josh Kimbrough and Jeffrey Straker. Check out the full playlist below.
Celtic folk supergroup RUNA have released a fantastic album of seasonal music, “The Tide Of Winter”. With a wonderful range of seasonal songs and tunes, it’s very likely to become a holiday favourite in our house.
Sara Thomsen released a lovely seasonal recording “In Winter Wanderings” in 2012. It’s just been re-released. On this episode we play Sara’s original solstice song “Darkness Cover Me”.
“Holidays sprinkle the path: Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas. Beyond the busy bustle and the wrapping hustle, we are left with a search for deeper meaning, a longing for home, for loved ones here – loved ones lost, for peace, for comfort, for wars to end – for hearts to mend. We light candles, sing songs, celebrate, mourn, dance, and somehow — deep in the dark and the cold — we wander inward, find a spark, kindle hope, and come home.”
Connie Kaldor has just put out her own holiday album, “Prairie Christmas”. Describing it as as part of her ‘adapting to Covid’ strategy, the album – which is excellent, is available as a USB Christmas tree ornament. On this episode we play Connie Kaldor’s version of traditional song “Dans le silence de la nuit” which features a beautiful lead vocal from Connie’s partner Paul Campagne with harmony vocals from and her sons Gabriel Campagne and Alexi Campagne – who also wrote the string arrangement.
“Prairie Christmas is perfect to hang on the tree or to listen to as you hang out over the holidays with whoever you are locked down with. It features re-recorded original songs from a long-lost album I made with Roy Forbes along with some new songs recorded last year with a band of young Montreal musicians. There are classics, some nice songs and at least one that is naughty – “Do you want to Stuff my Stocking?”. The last tracks were recorded in our own studio using quarantining family members, including my two sons Gabriel and Alexi, who broke off from their own album projects to help out. “Light the Candles” (which appears in Episode 559 of Folk Roots Radio) was written, for 2020, on Nov 22 2020 and recorded on the 23rd. Enjoy!”
Guitar virtuoso Ed Sweeney has released a nice instrumental album of holiday classics, “It’s Christmas Time In The City”. On this episode we play Ed’s version of “Holly Jolly Christmas” which features Ed on guitar with John Swoboda on clarinet.
“When I was growing up, my dad was in radio. We lived in the suburbs, and the holiday music I grew up with was the popular music of radio, television and the movies. Now, many years later, my own children watched as they were growing up, Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer, Holiday Inn, Miracle on 34th Street, It’s A Wonderful Life and many holiday specials that I remember as a child. Today we still know and sing the “pop” songs in those movies, because they were some of the best songs of their time and now they are part of our holiday celebrations.”
Carly Harvey, Black Betty, and Holly Montgomery – who make music together as irreverent female vocal group The Honey Larks have released a fun holiday single “Nip In The Air”, a song they wrote with the deliberate aim of putting a smile on your face after a difficult year. They’ve definitely succeeded.
The incredibly talented MacMaster Leahy Family – that’s of course, Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy and their kids have released a wonderful holiday single “Please Please Snow!” which comes with one of the cutest videos you will ever see. Another song to put the smile back on your face! The family have been very busy with their “A Celtic Family Christmas *At Home* Tour” in partnership with theatres, festivals and performing arts centres across Canada.
Boutique folk label Borealis Records have released a great new compilation of unreleased songs by the late great Jackie Washington, “The World Of Jackie Washington – a 22-track album that comes with a DVD of Ari A. Cohen’s 2006 documentary “I Want to Be Happy: The Jackie Washington Story”. On this episode we play Jackie’s lovely version of “Let It Snow” which also features Ken Whiteley and Victor Bateman.
Traditional folk group Finest Kind who feature the voices of Ian Robb, Ann Downey and Shelley Posen have released their first Hanukkah song. The beautiful a cappella “On Chanukah” features music by 18th century composer James Nuttall, with lyrics by Shelley Posen.
Fresh off the release of another duo album “Shadow Of The Cyclone”, Aaron Nathans & Michael G Ronstadt have released a great new holiday single “Rebuild”.
“Rebuild is a ballad, a metaphor song that compares the biblical story of Chanukah to our current world in which we need to rebuild after a period of fighting. It is not outwardly political. It does, however, reflect the current exhaustion we all feel.”
SONiA disappear fear finally fulfilled her promise to write a Hanukkah song when she included “Light In You” on her 2019 album “By Your Silence”.
Tony Turner was a stalwart of the Ottawa folk scene for many years. In 2017, he made the move to Vancouver Island where he continues to write and perform. His four song holiday EP “Under The Christmas Spell” reflects on modern family life and tells tales of cowboys and soldiers, all set in the season. It was produced by Adrian Dolan (from The Bills).
Kelly Zirbes (and her band Kelly’s Lot) released the folk/Americana album “Another Sky” earlier this year. Many of the songs were based on theme suggestions provided by her fans. There’s a very nice holiday song “Christmas Calling” in there too.
Newfoundland expat Ken Tizzard (who now makes his home in Campbellford ON) and his wonderfully titled band ‘Music For Goats’ have released a new folk/country EP “Sketches Of Christmas”. The new album includes renditions of “Blue Christmas” and “White Christmas” in the style of Jim Reeves; the John Prine classic “Christmas In Prison” sung by Goat bassist Ken Grant; “Silent Night” performed with the Tizzard daughters Caitlyn and Cassidy; a spoken word rendition of “‘Twas The Night Before Christmas” delivered by Goat guitarist Neil Lucy and finally a Music For Goats original “Christmas Ain’t The Same”.
Guitarist and composer Josh Kimbrough from Chapelhill NC has released a new holiday EP “Yule Chime”. On this episode we play Josh’s instrumental version of “Once In Royal David’s City” which also features Johan Eriksson from Sweden on dobro and pedal steel.
Timmins ON raised, Ottawa based, bilingual singer-songwriter Céleste Lévis was put out an excellent holiday album of originals and holiday classics “Noël tout autour”. On this episode we play the beautiful “Without You This Christmas”.
And finally, Saskatchewan’s Jeffrey Straker has released a fine three song holiday album “This Christmas”. The EP features two originals “Come Walking In The Snow With Me” and “I’ll Be Missing You This Christmas” (a song he wrote about the passing of his dear departed mother earlier this year) and a nice cover of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”. All three songs get a spin on this episode. It’s that good!
That’s all we have time for. Thanks to all the artists who share their music with us, and thank you for listening. We have lots of great music and interviews to bring you on future episodes.
Stay safe and well everyone, and have a wonderful holiday season. We’re looking forward to bringing you more radio episodes and interviews in 2021!
If you enjoy the music we play on this show and want to support the artists – many of whom aren’t able to play live at the moment because of the Covid-19 pandemic, don’t just stream their music – that earns them much less than a penny per play. Instead, buy their music – and really make a difference to their income. They’ll love you for it!
You can listen to this episode again on Soundcloud by following the link below. You can also listen to episodes of Folk Roots Radio, on demand, via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and Tune-in Radio. (Click on the highlighted link to reach your chosen platform.)
Nicolas & The Iceni (Theme)
Lucy She Rises
Roll Right (2019, self)
Brightest and Best / Gaudete / Noel Nouvelet
The Tide Of Winter (2020, Self)
Sara Thomsen & Paula Pedersen
Darkness Cover Me
In Winter Wanderings (2012, Harmony Works)
Dans le silence de la nuit (feat. Paul Campagne, Alexi Campagne, Gabriel Campagne)
Prairie Christmas (2020, Coyote Entertainment) CDN
Holly Jolly Christmas
It’s Christmas Time In The City (2020, Self)
The Honey Larks
Nip In The Air
(single) (2020, Self)
Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow
The World Of Jackie Washington (2020, Borealis Records) CDN
MacMaster Leahy Family
Please Please Snow!
(single) (2020, Self / LINUS Entertainment) CDN
Come Walking In The Snow With Me
This Christmas E.P. (2020, Self) CDN
(single) (2020, Self) CDN
SONiA disappear fear
Light In You
By Your Silence (2019, Disappear Records)
Aaron Nathans & Michael G Ronstadt
(single) (2020, Self)
Until You Are Here
Under The Christmas Spell (2020, Self) CDN
Christmas Is Calling
Another Sky (2020, Self)
I’ll Be Missing You This Christmas
This Christmas E.P. (2020, Self) CDN
Without You This Christmas
Noël tout autour (2020, Joly Records) CDN
Ken Tizzard & Music For Goats
Christmas Ain’t The Same
Sketches Of Christmas (2020, Audio Playground Records) CDN
Once In Royal David’s City
Yule Chime (2020, Tompkins Square)
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
This Christmas E.P. (2020, Self) CDN