Christmas Carols & Cracker Barrels

A FEW NIGHTS AGO, on the road near Gainesville, Texas, we were road-weary and ready to eat. It was dark and cool. If you’re hungry on a winter night and you see a Cracker Barrel sign, somehow it just seems right. The place was nearly empty, but a big fire was going, and a game board of giant checkers was set up and ready for any pair wanting to rock and play a game.


My Amazing-Missus was browsing the gift shop, I was seated by Rachel, with four stars on her apron, to have a cup of coffee. Playing over the sound system was a “Christmas” song I had never heard before. It was like a caricature of song, sort of a mash-up between bluegrass and country/western called, “Call Collect on Christmas.”

With a little research I found it was recorded by a guy named Del McCoury, about a drifter who was recalling, following the passing of his dear mother, that her last request was that he call her collect on Christmas. I bet his mother would have loved Cracker Barrel.

Christmas music is one of those things people either love or not. I know some who start listening to Christmas tunes as soon as Hobby Lobby puts up their yuletide decorations on July 5 every year. On a scale of Love It on the left, to Hate It on the right, I (as I do politically) tend to be somewhere near the middle but leaning left.

One of the things I love is discovering new tunes and arrangments. Don’t get me wrong, I love the classic carols and songs like Dean Martin’s version of “Silver Bells” and “Mele Kalikimaka” by Bing Crosby.

Remember The Band, that band from the 60s? Surely you know their big hit, “The Weight”? Well, a guy from The Band wrote and they recorded a song called “Christmas Must Be Tonight”. It’s a wonderful song.

A while back, a fresh young group called Bahamas covered the song and it is one of my annual favorites. Their arrangement is delightful on so many levels. Here is a link to the song on YouTube. Enjoy, and by all means put on your best set of headphones to savor every slide guitar chord, every wonderful lyric and each and every “shoop, shoop woow” of the backup singers.

Bahamas. Christmas must be tonight

Christmas music is so memorable, in my opinion, because these tunes have the most beautiful melodies ever written. "The Wexford Carol" is a example of what I mean. Fortunately, for us all there is an arrangement of this carol recorded by Yo-Yo Ma and Alison Krauss. Check it out.

Yo-Yo Ma, Alison Krauss. The Wexford Carol

Oh, and if you would like to give a listen to Del sing his broken hearted little ditty about his poor lonesome momma, it’s on YouTube too (and playing at a Cracker Barrel near you). I recommend you listen to it while enjoying a hot cup of coffee and a biscuit slathered with apple butter.

Del McCourt. Call Collect on Christmas

I have to include one more. This is Nataly Dawn, one of my favorites. She is so multi-talented. I recommend you pair this with gingerbread cookie and a mug of mulled-wine.

Snow. Nataly Dawn

I would love to hear from you. What are your favorite Christmas tunes and arrangements?