Hear the holiday tunes released by Maine musicians this season

Sometimes all I need to get into the Christmas spirit is to hear a great holiday song.

Of course I adore the classics of Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald and Johnny Mathis. Then there is my always and forever favorite Christmas song, “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl (rest in peace, Shane MacGowan).

But do you know where else you can find fantastic Christmas music? Right here in Maine!

From fresh renditions of treasured chestnuts to an original that I know will stand the test of time, Maine musicians have delivered with gifts of music, and I’m here to unwrap them for you.

A cover of the EP Low and Behold by An Overnight Low.

“Ornaments” is this year’s holiday single from An Overnight Low, an annual tradition the Portland pop-rock band started a few years ago. Chad Walls (lyrics, bass, percussion) said that “Ornaments” conveys a message of hope and goodwill that is represented by holiday light displays. “Just as the winter solstice reminds us that the darkest days are behind us, so the glow of Christmas lights means brighter times are ahead.” The song includes the following lines: “I bought a few more strings/So the carolers find their way/My neighbors lose a little worry/And gain a little of the day.” The upbeat, acoustic tune is catchy on first listen. Hear and purchase the track exclusively on Bandcamp.

“Run Rudolph Run” by Neon Gypsy. Design by Jennifer Kosinchuk

Chuck Berry’s “Run Rudolph Run” was released in 1958 and is still a rock and roll hit. Neon Gypsy, the project of Portland-based singer-songwriter Jennifer Kosinchuk, just dropped a hot cover of it. It’s a sped-up, sparkling performance that’s three minutes of pure Christmas punk-rock gold.

Neon Gypsy’s version of “Run Rudolph Run” features Kosinchuk on vocals and rhythm guitar, Brian Andreason on lead guitar and Keoni Ben on bass. “We sped up the tempo and when we sang and played that tune, we imagined Rudolph chewing on the piece, ready to blaze into the sky,” she said. “I believe the godfather of rock and roll, Chuck Berry, would be proud.”

Cover for Jennifer Porter’s Winter Wonderland. Design by Billy Mitchell

Buxton-based singer Jennifer Porter will release her next album ‘YES, I DO!’ in February. While taping for it, she realized she had time left in her schedule. So when producer Jonathan Wyman asked Porter if she had anything up her sleeve that she’d like to record, Porter knew right away that “Winter Wonderland” was it. “I’ve always thought the song lends itself well to being played in a New Orleans blues piano style,” Porter said of the tune, which has been part of her live show during the holiday season for years.

The chilly Winter Wonderland was written in the mid-1930s by Felix Bernard and Richard Bernhardt Smith. It has since been recorded by dozens of artists, including Guy Lombardo, Johnny Mercer, Perry Como, Ella Fitzgerald and the Eurythmics, to name a few.

Now Porter can be counted among those who have become a wonderful “Winter Wonderland”. Porter’s piano dances like a sprite, and Steve Jankowski and Doug DeHayes’ French horns flow freely through the song. What’s more, George Naha, who has played with the likes of Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett, stops by for a bit on electric guitar. Porter’s vocals are bright and clear as Christmas snow, and her aim to put a soulful spin on the 70s Memphis-era song was definitely successful.

For these and more local holiday songs, check out the Spotify playlist I put together called A Very Maine Christmas, which also features The Fogcutters, Don Campbell, The High Road, Alejandra O’Leary, and other Mainers.

Merry Christmas and happy listening!


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