Marc Myers' Holiday Music Picks

Steve Inskeep talks with the Wall Street Journal's Marc Myers about the season's best holiday music. Myers sifted through more than 100 Christmas albums to find his favorites.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Next, we have one writer's picks for the season's best Christmas music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHITE CHRISTMAS")

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

TAMMY WYNETTE: (Singing) I'm dreaming of a white Christmas.

INSKEEP: Wow. That's a classic by Tammy Wynette, part of a new compilation that's been released with George Jones. The song made a list put together by Marc Myers of the Wall Street Journal, who's on the line to talk about it.

Hi, Mr. Myers.

MARC MYERS: Good morning, sir.

INSKEEP: Beautiful song there. So how did you come up with this list?

MYERS: What I did Steve, is I went through about 100-150 albums and picked my favorite six - six that I think had regional differences and six that had great text.

INSKEEP: And there's a lot to talk about there. But first, let me just ask, 150 Christmas albums. I mean, wouldn't that cause many people to want to jump out of a window?

(LAUGHTER)

MYERS: Probably, because a large percentage of them are really not very good. It's not easy to produce and record a Christmas album, a holiday album. Most all are clunkers.

INSKEEP: Well, let's play another item from your list here. The artist is David Ian. The singer on this song is Acacia. And it's a familiar Christmas song "Angels We Have Heard On High."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ANGELS WE HAVE HEARD ON HIGH")

ACACIA: (Singing) Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing o'er the plains, and the mountains in reply, echoing their joyous strains. Gloria...

INSKEEP: A little bit of that Vince Guaraldi sound going on there with the piano and the soft drums in the background.

MYERS: David is from Toronto. And you're right. You know, he is a modern-day Vince Guaraldi. It's very cool chord changes there. Acacia has that downtown sound. It's sort of a very hip, relaxed and tasteful approach to a holiday song with that the young feel.

INSKEEP: You said something earlier about regional differences. What did you mean?

MYERS: Chain stores and the Internet have sort of homogenized everything else, but in music, you know, you still hear where people came from and what their neighborhood was like. It's like food in that regard. I think they're the only two things left that show that some place in the country is a little different than where you live.

INSKEEP: Well, if you go through your list here, there is a bluegrass selection here, a bluegrass star - Sarah Jarosz. And the song is "One Bright Star."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ONE BRIGHT STAR")

SARAH JAROSZ: (Singing) On this Christmas day, may that star light your way. This Christmas Eve, I still believe that same star still shines on me.

INSKEEP: Music of the Appalachians.

MYERS: That Sarah Jarosz is 22 years old, if you can believe it. She's from Texas. Plays mandolin, banjo and guitar. And she's one of the promising, hot, young songwriter prodigies. She's got that very special heartfelt, you know, country holler sound and it works, and you can really feel the spirit of the season in there.

INSKEEP: All right. I love Christmas music. But at the same time, I think I particularly love Christmas songs that have some kind of edge or darkness to them - which is why I'm glad your list includes "Christmas at the Airport" from Nick Lowe. Let's listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHRISTMAS AT THE AIRPORT")

NICK LOWE: (Singing) Christmas at the airport. All the planes are grounded and the fog is rolling in...

INSKEEP: No sleigh bells. No marshmallows. Christmas at the airport.

(LAUGHTER)

MYERS: Steve, handled by almost anybody else but Nick Lowe, that song would probably sound corny. But Nick Lowe brings so much taste. And listen to the production, there's a pedal steel going on in there. It's sort of rockabilly meets urban. Really hip.

INSKEEP: Marc Meyers of the Wall Street Journal, thanks for joining us.

MYERS: Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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