Wild West folklorist and desert musician Hal Cannon today delivers a unique and unusual holiday song with one foot in the past and one very much in the present. “Days Of Christmas Time” is a lilting brass-peppered modern folk song that builds on the 1860’s Gold Rush song “Days Of ‘49”. In this incarnation our protagonist is a contemporary Santa looking at us from the streets of a world gone awry with greed and selfishness. At its heart, it’s a song that asks the question “who deserves a lump of coal for Christmas?” In a complacent world where the poor get poorer while the rich continue to get richer, the answer may be more far reaching than the immediate culprits that spring to mind.
Cannon explains how “Days Of ‘49” inspired its holiday interpretation, “The original song is a nostalgic view from the vantage of an old timer, part of the original wave of miners who came to California in 1849 to strike it rich in the mining camps. It’s told in first person from a character named Tom Moore looking back with nostalgia to those wild and wooly times.” From this foundation Cannon saw the opportunity for a timely parody, “As I wrote, Santa began transforming from the saccharine jolly old elf born of vintage Coca-Cola ads into a wise and bearded man in tatters, observing a world awash with winners and losers with only the winner thinking they deserved the gifts.”
This new interpretation also features an expansive arrangement that transports the song out of the mining camp and onto the street with an old-time brass band playing in counterpoint around Cannon’s baritone. The track is accompanied by a hand-painted video from folk musician and artist Lisa Bastoni.
Cannon’s interest in traditional American music is far from a recent development. He has served as the founding director of the Western Folklife Center and its annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, produced scores of cultural features for NPR, and has been researching and performing pioneer music since the early 1970’s; as a member of the Deseret String Band, Red Rock Rondo, and most recently with 3hattrio.
“Days Of Christmas Time” is taken from Cannon’s upcoming album, Nothin’ Lastin’, and accompanying musical memoir due for a 2021 release. More details forthcoming.