Christmas songs are as big a part of the season as crowded shopping malls and spiked eggnog, but there are only so many times you can hear “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls” without wanting to wretch just a little. Here are some suggestions for compiling a Yuletide playlist that perhaps isn’t quite so musty. Much of the music can be purchased or ordered locally at Guestroom Records, Size Records and the like.
Record Store Day (RSD) has become an audiophile’s Christmas since its inception in 2008, celebrating independently owned record stores with exclusive titles and limited-edition releases from everyone from The Beatles to Arcade Fire.
“Down the Hatch” is an important debut release for more than just the
duo of Gabriel Marshall and Bryon White, who go by The Damn Quails. It’s
indie label 598 Recordings’ (Chance Sparkman and Mike McClure) first
long player, and a product of a prodigious amount of homegrown talent.
Showcased front and center amid a backing band circus that includes John Fullbright and Joe Hardy, White and Marshall confidently steer their way through 14 songs set in smoky bars, busted-up relationships, bluegrass towns and even the pokey.
Despite their relative youth, the pair boasts many years’ experience, and it really shows in the strong sense of pondering and reflection in these songs: “You’ve got nothin’ to show except for the time you spent out on the road,” Marshall sings on “Better Place to Stop.” White hops in there, too, on “Another Story”: “My brain knows this isn’t real/ but my heart’s another story.” The only thing they’re missing are the really finite storytelling details, but those will come the more time they spend at their craft.
And like the Drive-By Truckers-inspired album art, they pull off bad-ass rock with ease. It comes so naturally between muffled harmonicas and Red Dirt licks on “Better Place to Stop.” I just wish they’d have pumped another song like “Midnight Swagger” somewhere into the middle of the record.
The Damn Quails perform Saturday at The Deli, 309 White St. in Norman.