Various Artists – Christmas Time With… [Vocalion VL 73812, 12″ LP, 1967?]
So far, I’ve covered many of the very different genres of Christmas music that I have in my vinyl record collection: pop, rock, classical, jazz, novelty, R&B, disco, even heavy metal. And now it’s time for some good ol’ country music. I’m not talking about that new-fangled, slick country music that’s so popular these days, I’m talking about classic Country & Western. I don’t have a whole lot of country in my collection in general, and what I do have tends to be older stuff or things that kind of dance around the fringes of country music: Americana, alt-country, some bluegrass and a lot of New Grass, singer-songwriters and folk music.
But I do like to delve into some truly classic country every now and then, and this album is chock full of vintage country Christmas tunes. It’s on the Vocalion label, which has had a long history as a record label starting way back in 1917; after being bought out and changing hands many times, this version of Vocalion was a subsidiary of Decca Records geared toward budget reissues and was in existence from the 50s to 1973.
As you can see on the front cover, Christmas Time With… features a bunch of musicians who were big stars back in the day. Loretta Lynn is probably the most familiar name on there, but anyone with a passing knowledge of classic country will know many of these folks. It’s interesting that they also include “Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms on this compilation. I’m guessing that even though the song is more rockabilly than country, they most likely figured they might as well slap it on wherever they could since it was originally a Decca recording (and a huge hit.)
I’ve always been a fan of the Maddox Brothers and Rose, who do “Silent Night” to end Side 1 of the album. I had first heard of them when Rose Maddox was featured in the 1984 documentary film Hard Travelin’, about Woody Guthrie. I liked their sound, and found a couple of her tracks on an excellent compilation that came out in the late 1980s called Hillbilly Music…Thank God! Volume 1. I noticed on the back cover track listing that Red Foley is joined by “The Little Foleys” on his rendition of “Frosty the Snowman.” Those are indeed his three daughters singing with him on the recording! (And fancy this: Shirley Foley later married Pat Boone, and one of their children also went on to musical fame – Debby Boone.)
There are several up-tempo numbers on this record, but a couple of them are fairly slow and plodding and have begun to show their age a bit. They are relics of a bygone era, that’s for sure. Some of the original recordings are not of the highest quality, but that’s all part of their charm. It’s almost like hearing them from some long lost radio waves.
Take a listen to a selection of these mighty fine country tunes here:
Loretta Lynn – “Silver Bells”
The Maddox Brothers and Rose – “Silent Night”
Red Foley and the Little Foleys (Shirley, Julie and Jenny) – “Frosty the Snowman”
Lonzo and Oscar – “Jangle Bells”
(A quick personal note: I will undergo a minor foot surgery on December 19, so I may have to keep the posts relatively brief after this while I’m somewhat laid up during my recovery. I’ll see how it goes. I can’t believe we’re nearly one week away from Christmas Day! Thanks for following along so far…)