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with Mary Lou O'Brien

with Sleeping Dogs

with Peat in the Creel

with Sleeping Dogs

For a long time, Susan and others have been after me to record a Christmas album. I actually did record two Christmas songs last year (2006), but two songs do not an album make. Long about September of this year Susan pulled rank, and I got to work. I didn’t get as many songs done as I wanted to but I figure I can always do some more and add them to the collection for next year. In any event, at this point this is the Christmas album.

Some of you may notice that several of these songs are not sung in English. You’d be right. Someone has already asked if I’m not just showing off because I can make those particular noises, and there’s some truth to that. But there are a couple of other reasons these songs were selected and recorded. First, I’ve always been interested in other languages and have actively studied four of them with varying degrees of success. Second, one of the things that has long fascinated me about Christmas is that it is celebrated in so many different places by so many different cultures with so many different traditions in so many different ways.

So think of this as a sort of global musical tour of this happy season. And remember, if some of the songs are unfamiliar or strange to you they are very familiar and not at all strange to other wonderful folks on our shared planet.

If it’s December, it must be time for a little more Global Warming Christmas. Only five songs this year, but I got started really late. We’re working on the theory here that five songs are better than no songs.  If you’ve ever been uncertain about the meaning of the word “eclectic,” this small collection should put that particular uncertainty to rest.

As you will hear, my dear friend David Livingston wrote so beautifully, “With friends and family standing near/we mark the end of another year/by holding close to all who are here…” This year’s installment of the seemingly never-ending Global Christmas saga is an homage to one of my very favorite things about the Christmas season, that being the emphasis on and re-connection with friends and family. Some of the songs in this brief collection are about that phenomenon, and most are performed with the marvelous and generous help of wonderful friends, a couple of whom also happen to be family. They will get their propers in the song notes. I could not—and would not—have done this without them.

The “Global” part of this year’s offering is not very present—unless one considers Cornwall, Appalachia, and Colorado to be other countries (oh, wait…Cornwall is). It just worked out this year that I was not able to come up with any songs in other languages, so I guess we’re all stuck with English or what passes for it. Maybe next year.

So as the first decade of the Twenty-first Century winds down (yikes!), I and my wonderful friends would like to say to you and your wonderful friends: Have the merriest of Christmases and, to echo David, go in peace.

I really thought this phenomenon had come to an end. The plain truth is that I had recorded pretty much all the Christmas songs I wanted to sing. Sure, there were lots of others that haven’t been recorded, but for whatever reasons, and there were many, I just didn’t feel like doing them. Ah… but Susan and David Livingston would have none of it. “You have to do another one,” they said. “You can’t stop now,” they said. “Get yourself down to the lonely studio and get cracking,” they said. I know when to fold ‘em.

So Susan and I sat down and started thinking about songs to do, and, as luck would have it, we came up with some possibilities. These possibilities turned into a rather odd assortment, and then I realized, “Hey, there’s almost a subliminal theme going on here—at least for part of the collection. Let’s go with it.”

Go with it I did (are you two happy now?), and as a result, we have the fourth Global Christmas CD. There are a couple of really long songs. All of the “global” component is concentrated into one song. There’s no hillbilly song, but there is a lounge lizard one—sort of. But the exciting part is there’s anthropology, the basis of our subliminal theme.

An esoteric digression (hey, it’s my record): The anthropologists talk of something called syncretism, basically defined as “the combination of different forms of belief or practice.” One of the most common manifestations of syncretism occurs when a religious system is imposed from the outside upon a captive-audience culture and that culture’s own and different religious system. If the new, imposed religion accommodates and incorporates part of the beliefs and practices of the religion it’s replacing for P.R. reasons or whatever, that’s syncretism. (I saw this first hand in the summer of 1964, while watching Native Americans gather on the steps of the Catholic church in Chichicastenango, Guatemala, to burn incense to honor the rising sun, their old deity, before going inside the church to hear Mass.) A group of three songs that follows presents examples of syncretism from my own culture and ethnic background.  So there.