december 2011



Recently three of our favorite artists have sent mp3s of new songs they’ve recorded for the Christmas season, and we in turn are happy to feature these unreleased tracks in our Christmas issue. CRISTINA BLACK is here with her original, torchy ‘When I Think of Christmas’; Houston’s GLENNA BELL has penned a touching ‘Be My Valentine On Christmas’; and the elusive but wondrous SERENA MATTHEWS offers the most irresistible version of ‘Jolly Old St. Nicholas’ you’ve ever heard. Merry Christmas!

cristinaFor a couple years, Brooklyn-by-way-of-New Orleans singer-songwriter CRISTINA BLACK has been sitting on this pretty holiday heartbreak song, and finally, she did the right thing. She flew out to L.A. with sleigh bells and a wet suit stuffed in her suitcase. She sunned, she surfed, she sang. Recorded at Black Iris studio and produced by Lewis Pesacov (Fool's Gold, Best Coast), this is the warm sound of a Black Christmas on “When I Think of Christmas.”

Audio clip: ‘When I Think of Christmas’




GLENNA BELL’s 2011 album, her fourth, titled Perfectly Legal: Songs of Sex, Love and Murder, is one of this year’s best albums. A month after we profiled her in our January issue, with Valentine’s Day bearing down on her, she wrote a new song, “Be My Valentine On Christmas.” Until now it’s only been available on her website. Asked what inspired the song, Ms. Bell sent this note of explanation:

“My favorite Christmas memory is of sitting up late on Christmas Eve with my aunt Cherry Reese, listening to her wonderful stories of the World War II era as she recollected them for me, lit by the glow of Christmas tree lights.  Her experiences as a young woman searching for work and finally getting a job as a stenographer at Firestone in Orange, Texas (near Beaumont) as she struggled to help support her mother, father, brothers and sister during those hard years have encouraged me time and again when I've felt like giving up.  I will always remember my lovely 'Auntie' at Christmas and throughout each passing year as the great inspiration of my life.”

Audio clip: ‘Be My Valentine for Christmas’



Other than bluegrass phenom Sierra Hull, the most famous musician to come out of Byrdstown, Tennessee, is the singular singer-songwriter SERENA MATTHEWS. Who is Serena Matthews? As we wrote in our April 2011 profile of her--the only in-depth interview she has ever done--she is “intensely private, endearingly humble and audaciously gifted; she is who she wants to be. No other artist writes quite like her, no other artist sings quite like her, and no other artist will leave a listener quite as dumbfounded by the beauty and unalloyed passion of her art as she does.” We asked her to tell us about her recording of “Jolly Old St. Nicholas,” but her response remains forthcoming. She’s on Serena time, you see. We do know that she sings the original final verse of the song, which has been altered at least twice since being introduced in the mid-1800s. Otherwise, this is an unforgettable, singularly Serena performance.

Audio clip: ‘Jolly Old St. Nicholas’


ginaGINA SICILIA, whose 2011 Dave Gross-produced Can’t Control Myself (released on VizzTone) is one of the year’s best albums, has a Christmas classic on her hands with the life affirming “Shine Down On Us,” a throbbing, hymn-like tune that blends spirituality with the seasonal appeals of souls aspiring to a common humanity. It’s available for 99 cents at iTunes and all proceeds benefit St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. In the video below, Gina brings it home in the video below, with Dave Gross on guitar.


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