The title and lyrics for “Merry Christmas Baby” we’re written in 1947 by the great Charles Brown, who naturally was cheated out of the songwriting credits, as so often happened in those days. He was, nevertheles, the lead singer on the original hit release. Here’s his update with an assist from Bonnie Raitt on “The Tonight Show” in the early 1990’s.
Charles Brown also co-wrote and recorded another of my Christmas season faves, “Please Come Home For Christmas,” initially released in 1961.
I have no way of knowing, but perhaps as he wrote Charles recalled the bittersweet Christmas classic written and recorded in 1943 as a tribute to American forces serving far from home in World War II. Well we still have marines, soldiers and sailors serving overseas, so the song remains timely.
I realize I’ve brought a little melancholy to the holiday mood, so let’s kick the Christmas cheer back home with a hot version of this week’s title tune by Sheryl Crow and Eric Clapton. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I hope you’re with the ones you love.
Caleb Caudle – Carolina Ghost
I first heard about Caleb Caudle when he made Rolling Stone’s list of “10 New Country Artists You Need To Know.” Frankly the more I read about him, and with whom he was being compared, the less interested I became. I’m not sure why; maybe just feeling cranky that day. But he’s from my home state of North Carolina, and I was intrigued by the album’s title, Carolina Ghost, so a few months later I gave him a listen. What I heard were songs, guitars and keys, and a voice that all together rested as comfortably as a front porch rocker on an early fall afternoon. In the interst of full disclosure, about a third of the tracks don’t do anything for me. Ah, but the others? They just keep speaking to me and calling me back. They’re not all happy songs, but they make me feel happy whenever I answer the call to hear them again. There’s not too much more you can ask of a musician, is there?
Stop reading and start listening to lyrics like “This afternoon was nothing less than lonely, and yesterday was one long kiss goodby.”
And you have to love vivid imagery like, “I see my breath, and I hear winter’s lonely croon.”
Erin Enderlin – Whiskeytown Crier
The concept behind Enderline’s second album is that each song could be a story in this fictional small town newspaper, the “Whiskeytown Crier.” Her web site bio connects her songwriting inspiration to her love of William Faulkner, and her songs are similarly rich in character, story and details of place. Most of her tales are sad, even heartbreaking, but her skill makes hearing them a pleasure.
She had her first song recorded by Alan Jackson (“Monday Morning Church”) before she graduated from college. Soon she had placed tunes with the likes of Lee Ann Womack (“Last Call”) and Luke Bryan (“You Don’t Know Jack.”) She toured with Willie Nelson and made friends with Merle Haggard. She confessed to Merle she was inspired by his approach, especially to phrasing, when she wrote “The Blues Are Alive & Well.”
On Whiskeytown Crier Enderline proves she can sing as well as write. Anybody who can write lines like these deserves to be heard:
“She could’ve had any man,
I thought he was just another one,
’Til that No Tell Motel shotgun epiphany…
My baby sister, sweet baby sister,
I knew you were a pistol,
But I never knew you owned a gun.”
“I smoked one to the filter, and I watched the ashes fall,
Blew smoke rings at your memory as it danced across the wall,
’Til it was gone.”
“If I start thinking about your sweet kiss,
I start thinking ‘bout your goodby,
Baby that’s the kind of heartache that can take all night,
When it comes to you,
That’s more than a glass or two,
That’s a whole ‘nother bottle of wine.”