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Saturday, December 01, 2012

Day 1 - "White Christmas" by Uncle Crow - 25 Days of Christmas Angst

Preview the remaining days of angst or review the previous days here:   

You might want to avoid my posts for the rest of the month if you read the title of this post and said to yourself, "How can anyone have angst during such a wonderful, joyous, and miraculous time of year?"  I have read and heard many different theories about why the "Holiday Season" is such a stressful time.  These range from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) to our culture's obsession with making this a "special" time of year.

I plan on exploring as many of these reasons as I can in the next month.  I really could have started this the day after Halloween though.  Oh, there is another problem; our "Holiday Season" now extends from November first to January second.  That is a long time for anyone to maintain "a holiday spirit."

Each day, December first to twenty-fifth, I will post a blog entry that lays bare some of my anxiety around the Christmas season; this will be done in the context of a different holiday song each day.  Some songs touch on common themes that are the source of my negative feelings, some songs dredge up memories I would rather stay buried, and other very special songs are annoyances in themselves.  Consider this an Advent calendar of angst, depression, and worry with some cultural commentary, a few little laughs, a few tears, and a little hope sprinkled in.

I will be including links to each song I talk about and related movies where appropriate.  Some will be free (like today's featured suggestion) while others will come from Amazon.com.  Any songs or albums you buy from my links will give me a small percentage as an Amazon affiliate.  I thank you in advance.

Today, I start by addressing one of the songs that is canonized as a "Holiday Classic."
Is this really what you want for your friends and family this Christmas?
I don't think it is possible to listen to Bing Crosby sing "White Christmas" (full album here: White Christmas) without feeling like you are being wrapped in a big warm blanket.  Then there is the great movie it is featured in.  No, not that one.  I am talking about Holiday Inn (DVD, streaming, soundtrack).  The other movie that became more popular because it is in color and banked on the popularity of this song is really the inbred offspring of Holiday Inn and greedy executives.  See how the song is used in Holiday Inn here:  http://youtu.be/fWfyaLESG84.  If you want to hear a more complete critique of that other holiday movie featuring the song "White Christmas" listen to Andy Ihnatko's podcast on the topic here: http://5by5.tv/ia/11.

Okay, all of that is an argument for another day.  The version of "White Christmas" I am suggesting has two very important qualities.  One, it is FREE!  Not only is the song free but you can download an album with over three dozen Christmas songs for FREE!  Two, it brings out a theme in the song that Bing Crosby's smooth, full, reassuring voice can cover over.

A year ago, a BoingBoing.net link in my news reader introduced me to the community of people who make their own guitars out of cigar boxes and other typically discarded hollow objects (candy/cookie tins, gourds, old lunch boxes, etc.).  For the last few years this community has collaborated to make a Christmas album.

The 2010 album has an off speed and far from traditional version of "White Christmas" by a performer named Uncle Crow.  The instrumentation is acoustic (cigar box guitar, etc.) and the lead vocals sound like the performer is putting an effort into not drifting off into a drug induced sleep with backing vocals that include a low groan/moan.  The outcome is a version of "White Christmas" that is the exact opposite of Bing Crosby's; this version is moody, haunting, and leaves you feeling ill at ease.

At first I was turned off by this version.  However, after it came up in my Christmas music rotation a few times I began to understand the appeal.  Take a moment to read the lyrics below.  (No, really scroll down and read them.  The scroll wheel works in both directions.  Quit being so lazy.  Scroll down and read the lyrics.  Do I have to pull this blog post over?)

This song isn't about warmth, happiness, or love.  It about the longing and hope for those things.  Uncle Crow's performance taps into those feelings perfectly.  For example, he gives the  line about writing Christmas cards a heightened,  exasperated, feeling.  And he gives a little discordant and ominous feel to the wish for "all your Christmases to be white."

I could not find an online version to link to so you will just have to download the album to hear this one.  It is well worth the bandwidth as there are over three dozen songs on this album (including a wonderful version of "Linus and Lucy").

White Christmas
songwriter:  Irving Berlin
performer:  Uncle Crow

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the treetops glisten,
and children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry and bright
And may all your Christmases be white

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry and bright
And may all your Christmases be white

25 Days Of Christmas Angst
Day Song Download/Purchase Info
1 "White Christmas" by Uncle Crow
Get this free album from C. B. Gitty Crafter Supply. There are other Christmas cigar box guitar albums discussed here.

Click this link to preview the remaining days of angst:  http://www.carneylentz.com/p/25-days-of-christmas- angst.html


Unknown said...

it was recorded with a single string cigar box bass, a three string slide cigar box guitar, a djembe, and a tambourine...

here's a link.


... never thought anyone would review my work before.. thanks! :)

-uncle crow-

Unknown said...


thanks for the awesome review!

-Uncle Crow-

Carney Lentz said...

Uncle Crow,

Thank you for a perfectly moody version of this holiday classic. I love it.

Carney Lentz