Now that we are past Thanksgiving, the holiday season is officially underway. Usually, we break out classic holiday CDs while stringing up lights around the house (and on my daughter’s dollhouse) and taking in the scents of our special candles. I’ve always loved the comfort of Ella Fitzgerald and Brenda Lee. Even Frank Sinatra and some instrumental holiday jazz have warmed our hearts on those cold nights.
But for the past few years, we’ve added some variety to our music collection as some very talented kindie rock artists have released holiday albums containing both original tunes and renditions of the season’s most beloved classics. The suggestions below are based on what we are listening to the most right now and those that we think your family will enjoy just as much.
Scroll to the end of the article for a YouTube playlist corresponding to the albums suggested here and a link to a track from Renee & Jeremy’s Sunny Christmas. Enjoy!
A Laurie Berkner Christmas
We have been devoted Laurie Berkner fans for several years now, and getting to hear her sing holiday songs makes this season a whole lot sweeter. A Laurie Berkner Christmas features 15 holiday and seasonal songs, three of which are Laurie originals: “Santa’s Coming To My House Tonight,” “Candy Cane Jane” (from her 2008 release, Rocketship Run) and “Christmas Lights.” Joining Berkner on the album is Brady Rymer in the spirited “Children Go Where I Send Thee” and Elizabeth Mitchell in a beautiful, folksy rendition of “Silent Night.”
The album is truly delightful and will have kids wiggling, kicking their feet, spelling and laughing like Santa Claus. This is one that should definitely be opened before Christmas. The album and the single “Candle Chase,” recorded especially for those who celebrate Chanukah, is available for purchase through Berkner’s site, Amazon and other media outlets.
Doni Zasloff, aka Mama Doni, brings us a quirky compilation of Chanukah songs that is sure to shine like a brightly lit menorah amidst the plethora of Christmas albums on the shelves or maybe even in your living room. Expanding on her 2008 EP, I Love Chanukah, Mama Doni’s Chanukah Fever celebrates the historical and traditional aspects of the holiday through a variety of musical styles, including disco, reggae, rock and ’80s freestyle rap. The 14-song album includes original tracks such as “The Funky Gold Menorah,” “Latke Man” and “La Vida Dreidel.” Even Hanukah Harry gets a personal note. Mama Doni’s songwriting skills and knack for Jewish humor is sure to bring your family to tears with laughter this holiday season.
Bonus: Mama Doni’s cookbook, Get Cooking, was just released, and it includes some fine family recipes and a 29-song CD. Grab it while it’s hot!
Renee & Jeremy
Expanding on their 2011 single “Sunny Christmas,” Renee & Jeremy bring us a six-song EP of the same name. Like other recordings from the Los Angeles duo, Sunny Christmas is like comfort food for your soul. The album opens with the sentimental greeting in “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” and you will instantly want to add your voice to the harmonious vocals and your hands to the rhythmic clapping. The title track, “Sunny Christmas,” is a bouncy pop tune that reminds us that the true gift of the season is spreading peace, love and happiness to those around us, relatives or not.
A Kindie Christmas
A Kindie Christmas by Bay Area band The Hipwaders is not your typical holiday album. It contains 10 original songs influenced by funk (“It’s Wintertime”), country rock (“Santa’s Train”) and R.E.M. (“Wake Up”). Other songs include “Tinsel & Lights,” a nostalgic ode to festive traditions, and “Christmas Vicuna,” a humorous tale about a South American camel who dreams of flying like a reindeer.
A 2010 Honors Award winner from the National Parenting Publication Association (NAPPA), the album plays just like any other produced by The Hipwaders despite it’s holiday content. It is the perfect alternative to the classic carols of the season and will have your family rockin’ around the Christmas tree and elsewhere.
Christmas in Concord
Dan Zanes fans will have another reason to celebrate this season with the re-release of Christmas in Concord. The mini-album, which celebrates the old Christian tunes that have been a part of Christmases in Zanes’ hometown of Concord, NH, for generations, also has two new songs. These feature Zanes collaborating with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Suzan-Lori Parks, who brings rich, soulful accompaniment in my favorite song on the album, “Rise up Shepherd and Follow.” The song was initially performed at a legendary local venue for people in need known as the Friendly Kitchen. Later that weekend while driving to New York, they wrote “I’m Counting the Days until Christmas” while reminiscing about their fathers’ experiences in the military.
The nostalgic backstory, a well chosen collaboration and Zanes’ soft rasp in classics such as “Joy To the World,” “Deck the Halls” and “Silent Night” are sure to warm your heart as you snuggle and share your own stories with your loved ones.
Ben Rudnick & Friends
It’s Santa Claus!
It’s Santa Claus! by Ben Rudnick & Friends contains renditions of traditional holiday tunes that don’t stray too far from the sounds of the originals but certainly showcase the group’s signature folksy rock style. Among the album’s eight tracks, there is one original song, the title track. “It’s Santa Claus” is a bouncy tune that is just as jolly as the man in the red suit.
The album is made up of catchy arrangements filled with the instrumental stylings of the many “Friends” who play along with Rudnick. “Jingle Bells” is jazzy with saxophonic accents, and even “Greensleeves,” a song I obsessively played on the piano in my earlier days, gets a jumpstart with some fast-paced finger picking and accordion before it slows down toward the end.
The mom of a spirited 3.5-year-old, Rebecca Alison is passionate about children’s music. You can read more about quality kids music at her blog, Kids Can Groove.