It’s no secret around the Bluegrass Situation — or anywhere, for that matter — that there are two things in life that bring surefire joy to the eyes of this Jewish ex-New Yorker (well, other than music, loved ones, and the obvious answers). And that’s a decent bagel or a great Christmas song … preferably together. Of course, I realize what a holy day December 25 is to so many, and I’d never want to discount that. But songs about Santa and snowflakes and reindeers that fly have always been more about a mood to me than anything else and tapped into a sort of unabashed innocence that we’re suppose to let go as we age. For a few weeks when “Jingle Bells” or “All I Want For Christmas Is You” come back into the cultural sphere, everything just feels a notch brighter — a notch closer to my youth, instead of a step even deeper into adulthood.
Erin Rae, one of Nashville’s most talented vocalists, captures this spirit in the gorgeous folk lightness of “Merry Christmas Darling,” originally recorded by the Carpenters. With help from Coco Reilly, Kate Bernhardt, Joe Bisirri, and Dom Billett, Rae’s version trickles in slowly and majestically, with her soft vibrato warming frozen toes by the fire. And, like every good Christmas song, there’s a note of melancholy trickling through it all, too: Beneath the cheer and the presents and the joy are always reminders of the people who aren’t there sharing it with us. Adding a notch of Laurel Canyon Technicolor and a notch of Southern twang, it’s as enchanting as the holidays themselves can be.