Dion and Joe Bonamassa “You Know It’s Christmas” ~ Dion may be the last man standing from early rock, but he’s in top form here with his current track from the 2020 holiday season. His voice is as clear and strong as ever, and his feeling for the blues is superbly complemented by a searing solo from the incomparable Joe Bonamassa.
Johnny and Jaalene “Underneath the Mistletoe” ~ The title track of this wonderful new Christmas EP is a great addition to enjoy both this, and every future holiday season. It has an old school feel thanks to Johnny’s guitar tone bringing to mind Dick Dale. But, it is definitely contemporary, or perhaps timeless. The two young future stars sing duets in harmony as if were brother and sister. Love this!
Jeff Chaz “Merry Christmas to You” ~ The sleigh bells are a’jinglin’ on this holiday treat from The Bourbon Street Bluesman. This song is easy to sing along with, and will have the entire family joining in. Jeff’s guitar is singing up front, John Autin provides some cheery keyboards, and the augmenting horns put the cherry on top of this Christmas sundae.
BB King “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” ~ a classic done in rare instrumental fashion by the king of blues guitar. The pace is swinging, slow and tasteful, and the trademark sound of his guitar “Lucille” remains as distinctive as ever. The album this tune came from earned BB a Grammy back in 2003.
Hamilton Loomis “This Season” ~ the title track of this marvelous release was inspired by his son’s rare disease. The lyrics are optimistic that there will be a “healing this season.” His guitar is extra nice with plenty of wah-wah and his trademark razor sharp licks. I love his vocals and the rhythm groove by drummer Brandon McLeod and bassist Mike Meade are moving. The production quality by Loomis is simply outstanding.
Sheryl Crow “Merry Christmas Baby” ~ Somewhat sultry, deeply bluesy, and sweetly irresistible is this track from the highly underrated Sheryl Crow. We say that no matter how many platitudes are heaped on her. One of our favourite singers of all time.
Keb Mo’ “Moonlight, Mistletoe and You” ~ from his 2019 release of the same name is a wonderful song to relax by the fireplace with the one you love. A beautiful saxophone, courtesy of Gerald Albright, makes this one a romantic treat.
Shelby Lynne “Silver Bells ” ~ this song could just as easily have been placed on our Country Christmas playlist, but there is something so deeply felt in this interpretation that places it beyond genre. The instrumentation is spare and eloquent; the emotional impact of Shelby’s vocal hits more and more with every subsequent listen.
Bob Dylan “Must be Santa” ~ The mood is festive on this song from 2009’s “Christmas In The Heart. Bob Dylan based this merry song on an old traditional German drinking song. Addictive as eggnog, this song is jolly as Santa Claus. Accordions aren’t normally involved in Christmas songs; but this brings back childhood memories of caroling around my neighborhood.
Chris Rea “Driving Home for Christmas ” ~ is one of the great story songs sung by a gravel-voiced blues guitarist from England who made it big in the pop field for a time. If you’ve ever been in a strange city alone with Christmas approaching, and then made a sudden decision to drive all night to get home for the holidays, well then this song is for you.
Eric Clapton “For Love on Christmas Day” ~ The release of the Happy Xmas album by one of my (Randy) favorite artists in 2018 was a most pleasant surprise. The entire release is so good, it’s hard to pick a favorite. “For Love On Christmas Day” is the most memorable to me. It has a beautiful vocal performance. The lyrics are melancholy, and the simple music really hits home.
Dion and Amy Grant “Hello Christmas ~ well, okay, it’s an open secret that we are major Dion fans, and here’s another reason why. Dion’s got that magic in his voice, and when teamed with Amy Grant, he’s a force of nature that suggests he is, quite unreasonably, just reaching his peak.
Jimmy Buffett “Up on the House Top” ~ From his 1996 release Christmas Island, Jimmy Buffett gives us a fun-filled performance. It is filled with retro-sounds of Beach Boys meets The Ventures Hawaii 5-0. The background singers almost steal the show, but Buffett shows off his humorous side to great advantage.
Cee-Lo Green and Christine Aguilera ” Baby It’s Cold Outside” is proof positive that there is nothing quite like an infectious duet. For our money, this big band version rivals any other production of this tune. Christine’s vocal prowess is well-matched by Cee-Lo’s smooth, understated delivery.
Jonny Lang ” Santa Claus is Back in Town” is a most bluesy Christmas tune from Jonny Lang and his talented friends. This song was included on 1997’s “A Very Special Christmas 3” release to benefit The Special Olympics. Jonny reaches deep down to channel the spirit of Elvis on his soulful vocal. It feels like the performance is straight out of a road house as Jonny’s magnificent work on guitar urges the piano man to keep up in their duel for the spotlight.
Randall Parrish is a Senior Editor at Vivascene, with extensive publishing credits at various jazz and blues sites. He is also an avid guitar player whose musical knowledge of jazz, blues and roots music is widely respected. He can be reached by email here: RandallParrish@vivascene.com