Michigan Holiday Music Musts

Looking to make the season even brighter with some holiday tunes? We’ve been rockin’ around the office tree with these holiday tunes from some of our favorite Northern Michigan artists. Put one in your favorite elf’s stocking:

Judy Harrison and High Impact: Unwrapped

Last week one of our sales team popped into my office with a big grin on her face and the new Judy Harrison and High Impact: Unwrapped CD in her hand. "I love this!" she said, waving it in my face. "You’ve got to hear it!" And so I did. And then I didn’t want to give it back to her. The mellifluous three-part harmony of Judy and her gals is, as it has been since their coming together in 1997, spot-on. The group makes sharp, peppy twists of old faves like "Feliz Navidad" and "Winter Wonderland," and belt out "Little Drummer Boy" as if from the downtown Traverse City shop rooftops. But what I loved most was the surprise of their rock ‘n’ country twist on "Run, Run Rudolph" and the throaty siren sound of "Please Come Home for Christmas." It’s enough to make you seriously consider stealing a CD from a beloved coworker. Keep with the spirit of the season and buy your own at cdbaby.com.

Daisy May: Snow Songs

OK, so it’s not technically Christmas music, but I’m putting Snow Songs on this list because it’s the CD you’ll want to listen to as you put lights on the tree, unwrap presents on Christmas morning, and cozy up on your couch watching the Northern snow fall outside. Snow Songs is a sleepy, cozy, tender ode to our winter wonderland created just this November and early December at Daisy’s place at Earthwork Farm. It gets its strength not only from May’s characteristic lyrical prowess—every line simple yet full of story—and a sound that harkens back to the plainspoken purity of an elementary music teacher’s piano (see my fave, track 6′s "Snow Angel," for that classic vintage sound). There’s far more than one instrument at work on this CD, but they’re all reigned in with a subtle, swaying grace and anchored in May’s most powerful instrument: her voice. Get it, love it, listen to it like I do: over and over and over again. You will not be disappointed. Find it at Higher Grounds Trading Company at the Grand Traverse Commons.

Sufjan Stevens: Songs for Christmas (box set)

When this Northern-grown indie rock poster child assembled his 5-year collection of Christmas recordings—I rejoiced! I had been on a long search for holiday music that I considered enjoyable, authentic and different. Even before I heard this album, I knew my search was over.   Sufjan blends classic carols and hymns with brand new material so seamlessly that you’ll swear you had heard his originals on your grandmother’s cabinet record player on a Christmas Eve long ago.  New pieces like "Come on! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance!" and "Get Behind Me, Santa!" will have you tapping your toes (and maybe shaking your hips) Christmas morning, while the classics sound more classic than ever.  Disc Three (of the five) includes the most sing-along-able version of "O Holy Night" I’ve ever heard (think of it as anti-Mariah), and within 2 bars of Sufjan’s rendition of "O Come O Come Emmanuel" you’ll be convinced that we’ll all be playing banjos—not harps—in the afterlife. If White Christmas, Nat King Cole, Neil Diamond, and Harry Connick Jr. are the meat-and-potatoes of a holiday music diet, this collection is the wine you bring along (and secretly prefer to keep for yourself) that makes the season just that much more spirited. You can find Songs for Christmas at Amazon, iTunes, or directly from Sufjan’s label Asthmatic Kitty.

What makes your Christmas playlist?  Join the discussion!

Article Comments

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the tips. I knew about Snow Songs but the Judy Harrison and Sufjan Stevens recordings are great news.