Every year after Thanksgiving a shoebox is retrieved from the top shelf of a closet. Stuffed with holiday music, I wrap presents and make soup as north winds bring Arctic chill. Singers Gen-X’ers know not. Bing Crosby? Perry Como? You’ll get blank stares. Judy Garland singing Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. Such a poignant statement she makes. How quickly two generations forget the 1944 musical Meet Me In St. Louis which brought Judy’s performance to the world.
After I plow through the standards one CD ends up in permanent rotation. For the remainder of the season, maybe into the New Year, Shawn Colvin’s 1998 release Holiday Songs and Lullabies is played over and over.
Vocals, instrumentation, arranging, I hate to use the word perfect. If we could ignore the teachings of a great tile setter Only God is Perfect, now would be the time. I discover something new with every listening.
Recorded in sweltering Austin Texas, waiting for Shawn’s baby to be born, her life and passion come through with every word and phrase. Doug Petty’s production is a labor of genius and love.
Shawn’s recording began as a youth. Receiving the book Lullabies & Night Songs from her parents when she was about eight. Singing Christmas carols in four-part harmony during car rides. All-year around. 🙂 This is an album of Shawn’s memories.
And mine also. New faces and smells and sounds. A foggy winter, rural mountain foothills, wolves howling at midnight. Steamy kitchens, multi-colored tissue across the table. Stacks of presents. Hobbies, crafts, hours fitting century-old instruments back together.
My apologies to Ms. Colvin for presuming to sum her life and passion in two hours on a Sunday morning. I make a second cup of coffee, listen to her CD again, and continue editing. After two decades her recording is still new. Still fresh. Maybe I’ve been working on this article not for two hours, but for two decades? The room is now quiet, my coffee cold. Where did the time go? Into memories born upon Shawn’s recordings?
The release’s artwork is original 1965 Maurice Sendak. I’d share inner fold J-card images from the CD but do not want another lawsuit for copyright infringement.
The 1944 film Meet Me In St. Louis has been deemed “culturally significant” by the Library of Congress.
Photo by Michael Wilson