The Advent Calendar window for 23rd December opens to find me in reflective mood. Today’s songs are from two of my favourite singer-songwriters, who both happen to be female: a common thread through much of the music I enjoy. Another common theme is that both have, in my view, given us music far better than their sales figures would suggest.
The first one for today is from a long time favourite, ever since I bought her first album some thirty years ago:
I’m afraid I could only find a static video for the song, but it is still lovely, nonetheless. As the video shows, this was a track on Shawn’s album Holiday Songs And Lullabies, released in 1998. Like most of her records it made only a tiny dent on the charts, reaching #181 in the US but not charting anywhere else. The album is a mixture of traditional carols and songs, with a few later ones, and I commend it to you. This song – along with the entire album – isn’t actually one of her own: it was written by Margaret Rose (lyrics) and the composer Michael Head (music). I’m not sure when, as their Wikipedia biographies aren’t too forthcoming: all I can find is that Margaret died in 1936 so it has to be before then! Amongst others, the song has been recorded by Judy Collins and, in his boy treble days, by Aled Jones, and YouTube also offers a number of choral versions. They are all taken at a slower pace than Shawn’s version, and I rather like the way she has treated it – it just feels better, somehow.
I’m stretching my rules a little with today’s second song. It isn’t a Christmas song, but it evokes the feelings that can be brought about by December. It is also one of the most beautiful songs I know:
That is just about as close to musical perfection as you can probably get, with the combination of a beautiful tune and lovely words. It is wonderfully played and sung too. For those who might be puzzling as to where they have heard the male harmony voice before, it is John Prine, who sadly passed away in April of this year. If it’s of interest, I have written about this song before, about how I first heard it and a connection I feel to it, in #SaturdaySongs No.7. Like Shawn Colvin, Beth Nielsen Chapman has never enjoyed the chart success I think she deserves – even less than Shawn, in fact. Beth has never reached the US Top 100 Albums chart, though she has appeared five times in the Billboard Heatseekers listings. Take a listen to this and tell me you don’t agree that is criminal! This song was on Beth’s 2002 album Deeper Still which, of course, got nowhere near the charts: I rest my case.
After the music, not so much an image today, more a Public Service Announcement: