Local Holiday Tunes for Christmas

Options include Ricky Nye's "Plays Holiday Favorites" and the download compilations "Arnold's Holly Jolly Hangover" and "Happy Everything During The Winter On The Rocks," which both showcase numerous local artists.

click to enlarge Ricky Nye's new Christmas album - Photo: Provided
Photo: Provided
Ricky Nye's new Christmas album
Though it will probably not be played at anyone’s family gathering (because of the Insane Clown Posse and King Diamond tracks), for the past week I’ve been slowly building a wonderful and strange playlist of atypical holiday music. While using Spotify, I was able to (on my more expansive playlist, which featured "not weird" stuff alongside the oddities) include a few tracks by Cincinnati artists. Over the Rhine has multiple albums of original Christmas songs, Foxy Shazam has tracks on a pair of compilations, Seabird put out an EP of Christmas songs in 2010 and Punk Pop group Kevin and the Octaves and Funk legend Bootsy Collins each have full albums of lively holiday favorites. 

If you’re looking for some fresh locally flavored holiday music for 2016’s celebrations, you’re in luck. 

• Cincinnati’s Boogie Woogie Blues king Ricky Nye’s newfound love for Christmas music came when he was asked to perform a series of shows for senior citizens featuring holiday songs. The tunes became ingrained in the pianist’s head after playing 12 one-hour shows over three days, so Nye recorded the songs for the recently released Plays Holiday Favorites, which is available at local independent record stores and on cdbaby.com

Nye’s spin on Christmas chestnuts is enjoyable and surprisingly diverse, ranging from jazzy takes on “Christmas is Coming” and “Silver Bells” to Blues versions of “Here Comes Santa Claus” and “Blue Christmas.” Most tracks are instrumentals, with Nye on piano or Hammond organ, plus bassist Chris Douglas and drummer Paul Ellis on several songs (Ray Heckman also provides sax on two numbers). Bekah Williams offers beautiful, crystal-clear vocals on a faithful version of “O Holy Night,” then steps up the soulful energy for a raucous “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus.” 

For more on the album, visit rickynye.com

• A new DIY label called Little Cricket Records has released an expansive 44-song holiday compilation on Bandcamp that is loaded with local artists. The eclectic and often eccentric Happy Everything During The Winter On The Rocks (An Occasionally NSFW But Totally Cool Comp For Charity) is available as a free download, but the label and artists request that you make a donation to one of several charities or nonprofit organizations listed on the page. 

The compilation includes some traditional songs, but there are also a lot of mischievous and amusing originals. Five excellent songs from Punk legends SS-20 (which has released a wealth of Christmas music since its local classic, Is Santa Listening?, came out in ’86) are featured, while Cincy Indie Pop mainstays The Fairmount Girls offer up four tracks recorded over the years, including the irresistible “Merry Merry,” a slightly reworked version of “Mary Mary” by The Monkees. Other highlights include the rockin’ “Ho Ho Ho and Away We Go” by Frontier Folk Nebraska and “I Don’t Want Much For Christmas” by Mad Anthony, a peculiar lo-fi ElectroFolk cut “Baloney Feet” by Billy Catfish and Pete NienaberMike Ingram’s woozy, dreamy “Maybe Next Christmas,” the funky turntable workout of Tobotius’ “Jingle Jollies” and the relentless Hardcore Punk scorch of John Walsh’s “Christmastime is Here.” 

If you like a little “weird” in your holiday mixtape, click here immediately (or click below).

• We told you last month about the limited-edition vinyl release of Arnold’s Holly Jolly Hangover, a compilation featuring local Roots/Americana artists doing Christmas favorites. If you’re lucky, you may still be able to find a vinyl copy at one of your favorite indie record stores. If not, the album — the sales of which benefit the nonprofit Upspring, which helps homeless youth in the area — is still available to purchase at arnoldshollyjollyhangover.bandcamp.com (or, again, click below).

The collection includes great contributions from area artists Shiny and the SpoonThe Cincinnati Dancing PigsHoney and HoustonJake Speed and the FreddiesThe Part-Time GentlemenRic Hickey and Bam PowellTodd HepburnMy Brother’s KeeperCasey Campbell and Allen Talbot and The Tillers, who do a great “Children Go Where I Send Thee,” the traditional African-American spiritual that has been covered hundreds of times by the likes of Peter Paul and Mary, The Fairfield Four, Johhny Cash, Nina Simone and, uh, Hall & Oates.


CONTACT MIKE BREEN: [email protected] 

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