1. Let it Snow (Somewhere Else!)
This was the first song written for the album. It was composed in November of 2016. I only know that because we had just sent out our 2016 Christmas album, “Christmas in the Greatest Place on Earth.” We came back from the Post Office and I jokingly said, “Well, time to start writing songs for next year.” I picked up the guitar and within an hour, we had it written. I quickly recorded a demo so I wouldn't forget it and then did the final recording in June of 2017. It's a pretty straightforward tune. It celebrates life in the South and our general lack of snow at the holidays. I like that it features the kids yelling out. I now have a good recording on their young voices.
2. God Bless Brown's Dairy
This is, interestingly enough, the last song written for the album. I didn't like that there would only be nine new songs so my wife and I went for a walk and talked about topics for one more. We came up empty until the walk was almost over and we had started talking about Christmas in general. My wife is a big egg nog fan and she remarked, “God Bless Brown's Dairy,” her favorite egg nog. Bingo! For those of you not from Louisiana, Brown's Dairy and Kleinpeter are both both producers of egg nog as is the brand Pennsylvania Dutch. They pair up nicely with Gentleman Jack. And so the song goes...
3. Max's Reindeer
This was a joke we use to do in the living room at first until I thought it would be funny to record it. We set up the system and Max, my son, played ten different Christmas songs. The three I thought were funniest are on the album. Yes, I know the call and responses are wrong. Think of it as a happy mistake.
4. Give Myself to You
The riff in the tune is something I had on my little recording device forever. I always wanted to use it but never found the right fit until now. I like the lyrics a lot because they sound to me like a husband finding a way to get a last minute Christmas gift and had already used the “coupon book for free hugs” idea. I get that because the bridge states, “Don't you know its the thought that counts – so I though about spending large amounts.” Ha! I won't do it...but at least I thought about it, yeah? The harmonica was an after thought but I believe it makes the tune – especially in the breaks. I know it's a Christmas tune, but I love how it struts.
5. Get the Jingle Bell out of Here
I love, love, love Phil Spector's Christmas album, “A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector.” To that end, I've always wanted to write something that the Ronettes would sing. This is my shot at it. The drums carry most of the reference. It starts with the bass drum/hand claps of “My Boyfriend's Back.” Not a Phil Spector tune, I know. It also has the same spoken intro. The chords and melody line were then written to mimic, “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes. You may state that the melody doesn't sound like anything like what the Ronettes sang...well...it did. When Tammy sang it, she hated the overt pop sound of the melody and thought it was too, “on the nose” so she wrote the melody line you hear in the final recording. The original melody line is the sax solo. Of course then, there are the two wonderful drum breaks created to sound like the beginning of “Be My Baby.” I watched a lot of YouTube and read a bunch of articles about how the sound was created by Spector. I think what I did was pretty darn close. Plus, I really like the song – enough to name the album after it. The exasperation of Christmas is something every person can relate to.
6. Run Down the Stairs
The singer is my beautiful daughter Ila. I had this idea of writing a song sung by a little girl to play off the original version of “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth.” I just couldn't come up with a reason for a little girl to sing. Then Tammy suggested she be a bossy little thing who is teaching her younger brother about Christmas. It fell together from there. The voice over from the father is yet another thing every parent can relate to. Go to bed, kid! I need to put these toys together! My favorite line is “We're gonna wash our faces nice and clean – cuz' no one's gonna be dirty on Christmas day!” It just sounds like a bossy little girl. However, I believe what really makes the song are the little vocal additions where the girl sings, “OK?” and “And Hey!”
7. Harry the Reindeer Elf
Written on the spot. I just played a basic 1-4-5 pattern guitar riff with a ridiculous amount of distortion. It's so dumb, it's great. I laid in the solo before anything else because I knew the solo had to be Heavy Metal silly. When the track I laid down called for a solo at the end, “Deck the Halls” just seemed to fit. The idea of Harry the Reindeer Elf came from the Disney Christmas special, “Prep & Landing.” Someone had to take care of the reindeer and he had to be one tough son of a gun. The Disney show has “Coal Elves” and I believe Harry would look a lot like that. I chose the name Harry because rhythmicly I needed two beats and “Buddy” was already taken by Will Ferrell in “Elf.” Plus, Harry feels a little more like a blue collar worker who would be grouchy but get the job done better than anyone else. I always picture Harry in a blue work jump suit with a dirty name tag that has an embroidered holly leaf on it. He's not happy about it but it is part of the uniform...so...
8. Max's Rock
Another fun trombone piece. The hardest part was transposing my guitar intro for “Jingle Bell Rock” into the same key Max was playing in.
9. Find the Words
I so love this song. I mean, love it. The chorus was written first and I simply pulled up a thesaurus and kept searching words of praise and happiness and joy and whatever. The words needed to be correct to the sentiment and also correct to the beat of the music. The problem was the music underneath it stunk. I hated the underlying support. It seemed boring and dull. Chord. Chord. Chord. The song is written in the key of G, my favorite key to sing in, so one day I decided to re-tune the guitars from standard to open G tuning. It took about 30 minutes and I had the parts. When it's right, it really does start to all fall together, quickly. The harmonica solo was done in a single take. Just pure dumb luck, I guess.
10. Our Irish Christmas Card
OK, here's the back story: Family Guy did an episode with a song titled, “My Drunken Irish Dad.”
There's a section in it where it states, “Ask a Hennessey, Tennessey, Morrison, Shaughnessy, Riordan, and Rooney,” etc. That idea of listing names in rhythm seemed so great. I read up on the tune and found it had been loosely based on a traditional Irish tune named, “Dear Old Donegal.” (Here's the Bing Crosby version – it's the biggest hit). The part you want is pretty close to the end. With all that in my brain, I played the idea for Tammy and she and I wrote it all over about two hours. We got a lot of the names from baby name sites on the Web, especially the sites that suggested rhyming sets of names for twins. And...we talk in the tune about her family and my family. Many of the names we used are really people from our family. The opening and closing Irish melody was created on the spot. I have a plug-in that does a nice accordion. I played it on the keyboard in a single take and then looped it and laid other instruments over it.
11. Little Drummer Max
This is my favorite of the Max pieces. The drummer boy played a single drum but why not put a full drum kit behind him?
12. Last Year They Believe
This is maybe my favorite song on the album. I love just sitting and playing big chords to try and sound like a smokey jazz club player. The riff at the end of the guitar run passages (E9 – Em9 – D) came out of that. It sounded so sad to me. Once I had the entire guitar passage I needed a topic. Not a long time before all of this, my daughter admitted to me that she saw me move the Elf on a Shelf so that killed it all for her. My son then admitted he was just pretending to believe so I wouldn't be sad. The lyric set came together pretty fast. We would burn letters to Santa on Christmas Eve telling the kids that he'll read the smoke. My son actually asked me how Santa knew what he wanted again. At the start of the second passage it states, “The Tooth Fairy was the first one to go.” That's true. In the Adam Sandler movie, “Grown Ups,” the little girl is told to put her tooth under the pillow and Mom will put a dollar. The little girl character is crushed and my daughter started asking a lot of questions. My favorite section is the Big Band version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” The abrupt change in tempo and feel was to suggest a time when it was wonderful and the kids believed. It took forever to record. However, it ends with the father, who's destroyed that his kids are growing up, lamenting for a time when Santa Claus really was coming to town. I know I wrote it but...I really love this song.
13. Christmas in the Greatest Place on Earth
Here's a re-do! This appeared on last year's album, “Christmas in the Greatest Place on Earth.” We loved it and it got some airplay so we decided to put it on this year's album. Why not? It is simply flush with references to New Orleans Christmas events. In fact, we did an entire Rock School Radio Show on the song. Check it out here.
14. A Christmas Prayer
This too has a rather convoluted back story. Pete Townshend has a song titled, “Give Blood.” In an article, he stated that he wondered what would happen if he simply sang “Give Blood” over a repeating melody line. Would it make a song? It did. I wondered the same thing so I took a basic Dm (the saddest of all keys according to Spinal Tap) finger pick and looped it singing, “Happy Holidays – Christmas is Today.” I then went in and filled it with voices, instruments and came up with the piece you hear. It was constructed far more than written. The problem was that the silly thing just would not end. That's the reason for the secondary chorus coming in at the end and singing, “A-men.” Thus...A Christmas Prayer. Ta da!
15. Home Depot Christmas
I wonder if this would offend or impress the people of Home Depot? Once Halloween is over, look out. Home Depot fills with all manner of tree, light and blow up lawn ornament. Everyone knows that
one person who takes it way too much to heart. This is his or her song. You may not like it, but he does and he's proud of it...no matter what you think. “I'm leaving my tree up through Easter...I don't give a damn what you think,” so goes the song. And there's some greatness in that. By the way, this is also a re-do. It appeared on last year's Christmas album, “Christmas in the Greatest Place on Earth.” We had room on the CD so why not?
Merry Christmas all. Thank you for listening and I hope you like what you hear. We had a ball putting it together, mixing, mastering, printing and simply getting it out for you to listen to.
And like the song “Home Depot Christmas” suggests, next year we'll get to do it all over again.
Thank you for your time and attention,
Joe and Tammy Burns
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