Pasatiempo - - Pasa Tempos -

Yule tid­ings for yokels Trucks, trains, prison, Mama. And Christ­mas. Th­ese are some of the things that make a great coun­try song. In­deed, some of my fa­vorite Christ­mas songs hap­pen to be by coun­try or al­ter­na­tive coun­try (what­ever that is) artists. Coun­try singers have loved singing about the hol­i­day sea­son for longer than I’ve been around. Some folks don’t re­al­ize that “Ru­dolph the Red-Nosed Rein­deer” started out as a hill­billy tune, writ­ten and first per­formed by a singing cow­boy named Gene Autry.

Here is a list of my per­sonal top 10 coun­try Christ­mas songs, in no par­tic­u­lar or­der. (Warn­ing: As noted above, some are prob­a­bly con­sid­ered “al­ter­na­tive.”) Though none are as fa­mous as “Ru­dolph,” in my book, they de­serve to be. this song helped ce­ment Merle Hag­gard’s rep­u­ta­tion as a work­ing­man’s trou­ba­dour. It’s the story of a guy who got laid off from his fac­tory job right be­fore Christ­mas. “Now I don’t mean to hate De­cem­ber, it’s meant to be the happy time of year/And my lit­tle girl don’t un­der­stand why Daddy can’t af­ford no Christ­mas here.” His sit­u­a­tion, of course, doesn’t get re­solved by the end of the song. But there’s hope that the fam­ily will be “in a warmer town come sum­mer­time.” 6. “Noth­ing But a Child” by Steve Earle. The late1980s duet with Maria McKee of Lone Jus­tice starts out by telling the story of the three wise men fol­low­ing the star to the manger in Beth­le­hem: “They scarce be­lieved their eyes, they’d come so many miles/And the mir­a­cle they prized was noth­ing but a child.” But this isn’t re­ally a song about the baby Je­sus. It’s about the mir­a­cle of all ba­bies. “Now all around the world, in ev­ery Iit­tle town/Ev­ery day is the Hol­i­day Inn/Is that the light from a sta­ble I see?/ No, it’s a sign that says ` No Vacancy.’ ” The gui­tar break is based on “Hark! The Her­ald An­gels Sing.” 8. “Six Bul­lets for Christ­mas” by Angry Johnny and the Kill­bil­lies. Even mur­der­ous cretins love Christ­mas, and from the deep­est back­woods of Mas­sachusetts comes Angry Johnny, with this twisted hol­i­day tale. Angry knows all those things that make Christ­mas the most won­der­ful time of the year: Santa Claus, drink­ing, snow, de­pres­sion, gun­play, jingle bells, and homi­cide. In other words, all the el­e­ments of a good Angry Johnny song — plus all the Christ­mas trim­mings. “Six Bul­lets” is on Angry Johnny’s 2010 Christ­mas al­bum, Bang Bang Baby Bang Bang Merry Christ­mas, which is full of sim­i­lar Yule­tide mu­si­cal may­hem.

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