People generally tend to fall into two camps regarding their choices in holiday music. Some appreciate experiencing something different, while others prefer the tried and true and deride anything that would dilute that.

For those who walk the worn path to the camp of the latter, I suspect that this piece will be extremely unpopular with you. Just remember, paths by definition, are narrow. Meaning: Isn’t it time that you up your game and broaden your holiday music horizons? The answer is yes. Boom. We said it. Call the lawyers.

Be advised that:

  1. Some of these songs will be stuck in your head for four or five hours after you heard them. I am, after all, one who likes to share. And,
  2. For those of you with delicate sensibilities (you know who you are), these tunes are PG. You will be hard pressed to be offended. Sorry.

So here we go:

Merry, Merry Christmas – Koko Taylor. With raw, blistering vocal power, the queen of the blues delivers a rompin’, foot stompin’ holiday classic. Plus, it’s Koko. Enough said. Download it.

Sleigh Ride – Barenaked Ladies. This groups version of this Christmas classic is sure to put a smile on your face. Even if you knew the words to this song prior, you’ll soon find yourself singing their version instead.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town – Bill Evans. You know you’re not the coolest thing around, however, play this rendition of this song during your holiday celebration and your family and guests will think you are! Elevate your coolness factor by telling everyone within earshot to be quiet around the 2:08 mark, so that “you all can get your chill on” with Gary Peacock’s bass solo. Don’t forget to nod knowingly during the solo.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen / Joy to the World – The Brothers Cazimero. The Hawaiian musical duo combines musical styles to deliver a punchy and energetic interpretation of both songs. P.S. Your church choir has not only downloaded this song but has it on repeat. They wish that they could be as good as the choir in the last third of this song.

Party Hard – Zach Gill. Not many holiday songs come in under 2:00 minutes and fewer still showcase the ukulele and harmonica. Those two things alone should get this song on your holiday play list, but what will keep it there is the subject matter.

I Want You for Christmas – Cheap Trick. Props to the boys from Rockford Illinois. Not a major artistic achievement, but still fun. As an added bonus you get to introduce Cheap Trick to the uninitiated, thus solidifying your status as the favorite relative.

Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto – James Brown. “Hit it, Hit it, Uh!” A great, funky song and a reminder that Christmas is not all “Currier and Ives” nor “Hollywood”. Little known fact, in the year that he wrote this song, Brown dressed up as Santa Claus and passed out 3,000 gift certificates for free Christmas dinners to residents of some of New York’s poorest neighborhoods.

O’ Come, O’ Come, Emmanuel – The Punch Brothers. Mandolins, guitars, double bass, banjo’s, oh my! “American country-classical chamber music” at its best! Don’t know what that is? You’re not the only one. But you don’t have to know, nor care, in order to enjoy this song. Just download it and appreciate the simple, straightforward and beautiful delivery.

Christmas Blues – Joe Williams. Sure, Tony Stark in the third Iron Man movie drops the beat with Joe Williams version of Jingle Bells, but true connoisseurs will gravitate to his “Christmas Blues” aka, “Good Morning Blues” as more representative of his smooth and suave style.

Good King Wencesias – William Shatner. Yup, one in the same. Fair warning - you may be accused of hittin’ that eggnog too hard when this song plays. We cannot explain it, but
somehow Bill helps tap you into that holiday spirit. After one listen, you and your guests will feel that you are in on one the best kept secrets………which is, Bill doesn’t know he can’t sing.