Dealing with the perennial dearth of Christmas bluegrass songs

It was my birthday this week, plus I’ve been tied up every day with daily fill-in shows on SiriusXM’s classic country channel, Willie’s Roadhouse. For that reason we have an “encore presentation” today, which as I’ve explained before is just a more pretentious way to say “rerun.” To put the first section into context, I’ll explain that the original column ran just after a column I had written about millennial bluegrass song adaptations (“Snapchat From My Darling,” “You Don’t Know My Password,” etc.):

Last week’s millennial bluegrass songs generated a lot of suggestions for additions. Many were good ones, and I’ll include some here.

One reader pointed out what I already knew: my list is incomplete without a song title that makes some reference to avocado toast (the Egg McMuffin of the millennial generation). I’ll admit that I was stumped on that last week because “avocado toast” is just an awkward poetic phrase, no matter how much healthy fat it may contain. Finally it hit me, as I turned to the bluegrass Gospel field for inspiration:

“Singing All Day and Avocado Toast on the Ground”

Also, I had forgotten this one, courtesy of the Osborne Brothers:

“GIF This Message to Your Heart”

And for good measure:

“Gluten-Freeborn Man”

Ashby Frank, who as I explained last week, gave me the idea in the first place, contributed a couple of other gems:

“Carbon Footprints in the Snow”

“Drifting With the Tide Pods”

Other readers added:

“Apple Watch and Chain”

“Texting Baton Rouge”

“Stevia Coated Love”

It’s December, though, and it’s time we turn our song-adapting attention to Christmas songs. This is an area of great need, and immediate need, too, as December is the time when bluegrass musicians are likely to be booked at a Christmas party or two. Who among us hasn’t said “yes” to a gig, figuring you can come up with enough material when the time comes? We need help.

There’s simply a shortage of Christmas material, and it affects all genres of music. That’s why, if you listen to the song loop at whatever store you happen to be in, you’ll hear a lot of borderline Christmas songs, recorded presumably because the artist had run out of Christmas material or was just sick of the usual standards.

What’s happened is a gradual relaxation of the definition of what a Christmas song is. Now pretty much any reference to snow, or even bad weather e.g. Baby it’s Cold Outside is enough to make it track 1 on the new Christmas release. I’ve always wondered how My Favorite Things became a Christmas song, but I’m assuming it’s the one passing reference to snowflakes, or possibly mittens, unless there’s some hidden association of “schnitzel with noodles” with the yuletide that I’m unaware of. But a Christmas song it is now.

All of this works in favor of the bluegrass musician trying to put the Christmas set list together. To the double time version of O Little Town of Bethlehem we can now add the following:

Footprints in the Snow

At the First Fall of Snow

Out in the Cold World

When the Snow Falls on My Foggy Mountain Home

Love Gone Cold

Cold Wind

Cold Sheets of Rain

Rain and Snow

Toy Heart (any toy reference works, too)

Still we could use a few more, especially for a three-set Christmas party. In the past I’ve suggested fusing bluegrass songs with Christmas songs, which is how I came up with “Frosty the Snowman of Constant Sorrow” and “It Came Upon a Midnight on the Stormy Deep.” But using the methods that gave us the bluegrass millennial songs, we can also easily convert some bluegrass hits into Christmas songs and make them every bit as Christmassy as My Favorite Things, if not more:

“Little Stable Home on the Hill”

(Yonder stands) “Little Mary”

“How Far to Bethlehem”

And of course the sequel:

“Still Trying to Get to Bethlehem”

“Bringing Mary Myrrh”

“Give Me the Presents While I Live”

“It’s Snowing Here This Morning”

“Little Jesus and the Dreadful Herod”

“I’ll Still Write Your Name in the Snow”

“Trim the Pines”

“I Believed in You Santa”

“Reindeer Tractor”

“Hot Coal, Cold Coal” (for those on the naughty list)

“One Loaf of Fruitcake”

“Columbus Stocking Blues”

“Sugar Coated Plums”

Then there are always the instrumentals, which saves having to rewrite a whole song:

“Turkey in the Snow”

“Reuben’s Sleigh”

“Under The Double Mistletoe”

“Dixie Ho Ho Hoedown”

These last few are a stretch, so I would save these for your last set when you’re desperate for material and the crowd has been into the egg nog for a while:

“Ole Sleighfoot”

“Foggy Mountain Epiphany”

“Orange Blossom Santa”