Music Holiday Favorites

Kerry Dexter's picture

Whether you make it for a living or listen for fun -- or both -- music is a central part of the winter holiday season. Listen in as those whose music you enjoy offer ideas about music they like to hear or play this time of year.

Music Holiday Favorites

Trish Murphy heads straight for traditional music in her Austin, Texas, home. “I love holiday music, the more nostalgic the better. I'm sure everyone lists Vince Guaraldi's Charlie Brown Christmas, but that's my all-time fave,“ the singer and songwriter says. “I also like Stevan Pasero's Christmas Classics for Guitar. And big-band holiday renditions -- Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman,” she adds.

Boston-based bluesman Chris Smither names the thoughtful carol In the Bleak Midwinter as one of his favorite holiday songs. Whether she’s celebrating at her home in Dublin or at her holiday place in County Kerry, Irish singer Mary Black finds herself turning to older sacred music as well. She favors the old Latin hymns of Advent and Christmas, and the traditional carol O Holy Night.

Whether he’s on the road or at home, Wisconsin troubadour Johnsmith likes “the holiday Celtic collections, especially the one with Pierce Pettis and Tim O'Brien on it,” Winter’s Eve from Compass Records. Fiddler Hanneke Cassel likes those collections, too, as well as Amy Grant’s Christmas albums. Another Cassel likes is Christmas Heritage, a collaboration between Alison Brown, Garry West, and others. “That is a really great record, too - all instrumental,” the Boston-based musician says.

Spoken word artist Minton Sparks like Amy Grant, as well. “I listen to John Prine's Christmas Album. I play it over and over.  His voice grounds me in the frantic holiday season,” she says, and adds,  “Also, I like to listen to the Amy Grant Christmas record because my grandmother and I always went shopping in Memphis listening to it in the car.” Memories play a part in her holiday selection too, says Michaela O’Brien. “My all-time holiday fave, since seeing her perform this show at the Bottom Line and the Iron Horse: Jane Siberry's CHILD, the live show recording,” says the Massachusetts-based music publicist.

Matt and Shannon Heaton like to fill their Massachusetts home with an eclectic range of sounds at the holidays.  Garth Brooks is a favorite, as are the Roches. Shannon explains: “Garth Brooks’s album Beyond the Season, because Garth--like Brad Paisley--can actually play guitar and write his own songs, his records tend to pay respect to writers and to music, even when he gets silly with new country moves. His rendition of The Friendly Beasts has each person who contributed a song to the album singing a verse. This is pure class, and makes for a very sweet sound. The Roches' We Three Kings album has inventive harmonies, weird production, and bizarre arrangements -- all the things I love about this group in their secular albums abounds on their Christmas offering,” she says. “There are common carols, old English carols, and new songs. I can relate to this combination, since that's how I like to put my own records together... old with new, and all with an individual style.” Matt and Shannon have followed that idea through on their own holiday  album, Fine Winter’s Night.

Cathie Ryan likes the mix of artists and choices on one of her holiday favorites as well, Narada’s Best of Celtic Christmas. “It’s a two CD set,” she says, “and one disc is all from the Irish group Dordan, amazing harmonies, wonderful playing -- and they never tour in America, so it’s a chance for more people to get to hear them. The other disc is just about everybody in Irish and Irish American music, from Altan to Kathy Mattea. It’s great.”

If you’re looking for new seasonal sounds to enjoy, for yourself or to give as gifts, take a look at these ideas. Whatever your choices, let music, familiar and new, fill your holiday season.



Kerry Dexter is the Music Editor for Wandering Educators.
Kerry's credits include VH1, CMT, the folk music magazine Dirty Linen, Strings, and The Encyclopedia of Ireland and the Americas. She also writes about the arts and creative practice at Music Road. You may reach her at music at wanderingeducators dot com.