Ron Sexsmith Sings “Maybe This Christmas”

maybe_this_christmas_album_coverListen to this song, by the almost unfairly talented singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith, “Maybe This Christmas”, which is a seasonal tune as featured on The O.C Christmas Album, from the TV show of the same name.

Sexsmith is a giant among his  peers, if not the wider record buying world.  Elvis Costello, Feist, k.d lang, and Paul McCartney are fans, among many others.  This might be because  his songs deliver often complex ideas in digestible form, yet never come off as being simplistic.  And he seems to be able to translate this ability into nearly every tune and every genre he sets his mind to.

In this song, we get our Christmas spirit payoff in much the same manner. We  get something about the state of the world too,  a less-than-ideal state at that.  But, it’s tuneful, and the lyrics are heartfelt,  not preachy.

The Christmas story, whether you buy all the hype on a religious level or not, is still a pretty powerful one either way.  I think ultimately the point of it was that even in the middle of struggles, in having to make due with inhospitable conditions like traveling while pregnant and bunking down with livestock before delivering your baby, there is ultimately a need to celebrate the hope that the world is not lost as long as we believe there’s enough good in it from which to draw meaning.  When I think of the ‘Christmas spirit’, I think it’s this idea that shines through most. And in this, Sexsmith has captured the intent of every Christmas tune.

So warm your feet by the fire, and of course…


Bruce Cockburn Performs Christmas Song “Riu Riu Chiu”

Listen to this song by superlative singer-songwriter-guitarist and major Christmas fan Bruce Cockburn. It’s  “Riu Riu Chiu”, as taken from his album Christmas.  The song is sung in an archaic form of Spanish, telling the tale of an Almighty being who creates a woman, who then creates him in return.  Hmm.  That sounds kind of familiar.

Bruce Cockburn released his Christmas record in 1993, and even though I’m a big fan, when I heard about it I thought the worst.  I imagined folk-pop versions of  “Up on the House Top” and a cover with Cockburn in a sweater, basically.  Well, I needn’t have worried.  Cockburn had been planning this record since the early ’70s, the beginning of his career in fact.  He had loved Christmas music, more to the point the more spiritually oriented material, since childhood.  His dad had given him a homemade booklet of Christmas songs while he was a child.  He’d kept the booklet of course, which served as the album’s basis.

The record is no seasonal knock-off, and it’s clear that Cockburn threw himself into it.  As mentioned, this song is sung in Old Spanish.  But other songs are sung in Latin, French, and even in the Huron language, on which an expert, John Steckly, was consulted on phrasing and pronunciation.   A project like this might come off as kind of pretentious in the hands of a lesser talent, it seems to me.  Yet, what comes through is Cockburn’s enthusiasm for delivering music he’s clearly in love with.  He was clearly committed to it, and I’d argue that it is one of his best efforts overall.

There is a wintry, organic atmosphere to the record as a whole, and to “Riu Riu Chiu” in particular.  The song  is traditionally sung acapella. But, Cockburn uses a repeated descending guitar riff in tandem with Hugh Marsh’s violin lines, which really pushes it along without being intrusive. So, he’s added his own imprint to it, as well as presenting an old tale in the truest sense of the folk song tradition.  It comes off as reverent, but also kind of spooky too.  And strangely, there is an impulse to move to it, just because it’s so rhythmic.

Who ever thought an ancient tale of the Christmas story sung in archaic Spanish would be so funky?

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