Add an Oregon twist to your holiday playlist
written by Ben Salmon
Every year, Christmas music creeps into our lives earlier and earlier. And every year, the same old seasonal standards get more and more stale. In 2017, spruce up your holiday listening with locally crafted sounds from Oregon artists. Happy holidays!
Number 1: Pink Martini, Joy to the World (2010)
Portland’s favorite “little orchestra” offers a cosmopolitan take on the holiday sound, including a Hebrew hymn, a Chinese New Year song, “Silent Night” in its original German, a Ukrainian carol and “White Christmas” sung in both English and Japanese. Along the way, the group explores just as many musical styles with swing
Number 2: The Trail Band, Joyride (2015)
Yuletide enthusiasts in The Trail Band—led by Quarterflash front-couple Marv and Rindy Ross—have recorded seven Christmas albums over the past thirteen years. Each one is stuffed with original numbers and traditional favorites done up in the group’s folksy Americana style, complete with cozy string sections, festival brass instruments and honeyed vocal harmonies.
Number 3: Paul Revere & The Raiders, A Christmas Present … and Past (1967)
Fresh off a string of big hits, Paul Revere & The Raiders did what any good late-’60s band would do when asked to make a Christmas album: turn in a half-baked concept record about the commercialization of the season, including a punk track, Vietnam War references, an off-key “Jingle Bells,” vaudeville comedy and a kazoo solo. The result? One of the great hidden gems of the genre.
Number 4: Chris Botti, December (2002)
Jazz superstar Chris Botti is a skilled and tasteful trumpeter, so it’s no surprise that his album of holiday songs goes down smoother than a second glass of spiked eggnog. From “The Christmas Song” to “The First Noel” to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” Botti offers up a quietly gorgeous take on several Christmas classics. Put this on after the party’s over and everyone’s gone home.
Number 5: Andy Warr and Andy Stokes, ’Zat You, Santa? (2011)
Portland’s Andy Stokes is arguably Oregon’s best-known R&B singer. Andy Warr is a talented saxophonist from Bend with funky flair. Put ’em together and you get ten tracks of Christmas favorites, pumped up with bouncy bass lines, vibrant horns and heaping helpings of soul. The highlight: Stokes digging deep into the bluesy side of “Please Come Home for Christmas.”
BONUS: Willamette Week’s annual Another Gray Christmas compilation
From 2007 to 2011, the Portland alt-weekly Willamette Week put together annual compilations of left-of-center Christmas tunes from a whole bunch of the city’s indie acts, and they called it Another Grey Christmas. (For two years. Then they changed it to Another Gray Christmas for some reason. Or probably no reason.) The series seems to have petered out in 2011, but it lives on at a long-neglected Bandcamp profile (anothergraychristmas.bandcamp.com), where you can click around and check out originals and traditionals by artists like Typhoon, Nick Jaina, Dolorean, Laura Gibson, Your Rival, Mic Crenshaw and Pure Country Gold. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a broader and more Portland-y vision of Christmas.