Ever since it was released as a single by The Country Gentlemen in 1966, Christmas Time Back Home has been a perennial staple among bluegrass Christmas songs. Written by John Duffey and Anne Hill Streeter, and backed on the original 45 with an instrumental version of Jingle Bells, this one has been performed and recorded many times by other bluegrass artists over the years.
And this year, it’s Alan Sibley who steps up with a new arrangement. That first version by The Gents featured John Duffey on lead vocals, and while Alan also has a strong tenor voice, he found that it suited him better in the Key of E, and they slowed the tempo a bit as well to help the lyrics stand out. They recorded the track at Sibley’s home studio in Mississippi, with Anthony Howell opting to tune his banjo down to E for the session, giving it a lovely, growly tone.
Alan says that changing the key really gives their cut its own flavor.
“I love the banjo tuned down! I love all of John Hartford’s records with the banjo in E flat. I also like to crosspick out of E, so that key worked better for my mandolin too.”
Howell also played the guitar, with Mark Tribble on bass, and Melody Williamson on fiddle, which was recorded at her home in Tennessee.
Now that’s bluegrass!
Christmas Time Back Home from Alan Sibley is available now on Noxubee Hills Music from the popular download and streaming services, and to radio programmers via AirPlay Direct.