'CHRISTMAS RULES', a deliciously diverse collection of seasonal music featuring an array of glittering contributions from across the musical spectrum, will be released by Hear Music/Concord Music Group on November 5th, 2012 outside of North America.
The set boasts 17 all-new recordings, including pop phenoms fun., the legendary Paul McCartney, indie-pop luminaries The Shins, Americana favorites The Civil Wars, adored singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright (with Sharon Van Etten), playful popsters Fruit Bats, bluegrass revisionists Punch Brothers, soul icon Irma Thomas (with The Preservation Hall Jazz Band), cinematic rockers Calexico, eclectic troubadour Andrew Bird, Latin neo-traditionalists Y La Bamba, Texas twang-rock troupe Heartless Bastards, alterna-folk standard-bearer Holly Golightly, roots quintet Black Prairie (featuring Sallie Ford), choral revival collective AgesAndAges, Fiery Furnaces alumna Eleanor Friedberger and Seattle Americana outfit The Head and the Heart.
Christmas Rules delves into an unusually rich assemblage of Americana, alt-pop, folk, electronica, country, American standards, singer-songwriter, New Orleans gospel, garage rock and more. Producers Sara Matarazzo, Chris Funk and Executive producer Randall Poster of bi-coastal music-supervision company Search Party – along with Executive Producer Nancy Jeffries of MPL – strove to give the project the feel of a cohesive album, rather than a holiday hodgepodge.
fun. whips up a distinctly postmodern take on the rollicking “Sleigh Ride,” adding a frosty techno swirl to the winter perennial. Although synths are otherwise nowhere to be heard on Christmas Rules, the cut’s rambunctious energy is fully in keeping with the joy of the season.
Paul McCartney continues in the velvety mode of his recent pop standard outing, effortlessly conjuring the warmth of the fireside with “The Christmas Song.” “Having him on this record is unbelievable,” enthused Matarazzo. “As far as I’m concerned, I could walk on the moon and it wouldn’t surpass this.” Adds Funk, “Paul nailed it, of course. And the track is so masterfully recorded that you feel like you’re in the room with him.”
The Shins, meanwhile, take McCartney’s own “Wonderful Christmastime” in a cheekily retro direction, turning the track into a musical homage to the Beach Boys. AgesAndAges, too, seem to nod to Beach Boy Brian Wilson on “We Need a Little Christmas” (originally from the musical Mame). Friedberger’s “Santa, Bring My Baby Back (to Me)” sources a similarly playful pop vein.
Wainwright and Van Etten deliver a fittingly seductive “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” “Their voices just wind around each other,” marvels Matarazzo. Piano bounce and a delicate duet also characterize The Head and the Heart’s “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”
Funk journeyed to New Orleans to co-produce the Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s gorgeous collaboration with Irma Thomas. “It was an incredibly basic recording setup,” he recalls. “But they don’t need any studio tricks – they killed it in a few takes.” The experience was made more poignant by the fact that a storm was bearing down on New Orleans in a few hours; Funk says he flew out of town just hours ahead of the deluge. “May Ev’ry Day Be Christmas” stands as a tribute to the profound faith and resiliency of NOLA’s musical denizens.
Grammy-winning, Gold-selling duo The Civil Wars, for example, work their intimate magic on “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” with only acoustic guitar and their spellbinding vocal blend. Calexico’s “Green Grows the Holly” works similarly spooky-rural terrain (with their trademark border-town brass for expressive contrast); Heartless Bastards deliver a high-lonesome “Blue Christmas” with a rockabilly edge; Black Prairie mix Appalachian mystery and swingin’ hoedown energy on “Waitin’ on the Man With the Bag,” guided by Ford’s versatile vocals; Holly Golightly channels the demure sparkle of ’50s pop on “That’s What I Want for Christmas,” her honeyed voice gliding over the whir of a skate-rink organ.
Fruit Bats, meanwhile, do Gene Autry proud on “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” buoyed by pedal steel, Marxophone and an incandescent vocal by Eric Johnson. Punch Brothers’ mandolin-spiced rendition of the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is the most overtly religious track. On the disc’s final track, Andrew Bird harkens back to his Bowl of Fire days with the violin charge of “Auld Lang Syne.”