Bitter, cynical, and borderline misanthropic for most of the year, I reform for the holiday season and from mid-November to the last minute of Epiphany I’m all about the season. Readers of Old Road Apples will find themselves under a constant barrage of holiday fare this season–from themed essays to book reviews to a countdown of my very favorite Christmas recordings.
At best, I’m ambivalent towards Celtic music, if for no other reason than because a few close relatives of mine have, after a lifetime of identifying as descendents of snobby British folk, have become “just add water” deeply felt Irish. When my mother bought a kilt a few years ago, that was pretty much the last straw–although it’s great at Christmas, because there is always some kind of crap they’re selling to people who wish they were Irish, whether it’s glossy photography books of rolling green hills and cold, shitty sheep farms, or CDs of hyper-melodramatic mediocre Irish musicians from PBS–like “Celtic Women” or “Celtic Thunder” or mom’s cheeseball (with nuts) favorite, Daniel O’Donnell.
The Chieftains, though, are the real deal–not some box of made for TV marketing tools, and this is one of the best Christmas albums out there, chock full of tradition and reverence. My favorite track, the “St. Stephens Day Murders” isn’t what you might think if you know a little about Irish history–a hilarious and very familiar tale of internecine holiday conflict.