The Horse Puppets – Until Next Year

I watched the BBC News at Ten for the first time in many months yesterday evening. I’d  found a feed to view it from in Spain and my curiosity got the better of me. 

I now understand why my friends and family back home feel terrified by the latest developments in this really quite shite year. The language used was apocalyptic; mutant strains that are 70% more transmissible, crisis and meltdown, international travel bans and no deal Brexits. It’s all quite scary.

We could debate if the language is used in such a way to deliberately foster a greater level of civil obedience amongst people already jaded and confused by knee-jerk changes to policy and practice. But that’s not for now. On a human level, Christmas has truly been cancelled for many – or at least it’s going to be very, very different.

 

Until Next Year by a stripped-back version of The Horse Puppets neatly sums up how many must now be feeling. This is a melancholic song about not being together at Christmas, about looking forward resiliently to 2021 in the hope of better times because that’s all of the positive thinking we can muster. With pedal steel and chilled vocal, it’s one of the best country-folk songs you’ll hear all week.

“Next year we can’t wait to travel again, we miss seeing the world and meeting up with friends and family again. This Christmas we’ll be missing out on our normal family get together, first time in our lives,“, says Paul from The Horse Puppets when I ask what plans they have for Christmas and beyond.

2020 was looking like it was going to be a biggie for the seven-piece band from Manchester. With festival slots lined up, their infectious, energetic brand of music would have met the ears of larger crowds. Instead, husband and wife team, Paul and Helen have hosted weekly gigs as an acoustic duo to the world from their living room. It’s brought them attention though I’m sure they would prefer the fun of the festival circuit. 

I’m not going to be seeing most of my friends and family until next year. We’re all in that boat but at least we still have the music to get us through.

 

 

Lori Triplett – Coming Home Alone

Christmas songs – I’ve never been much of a fan and I guess that’s why they have hardly ever featured on Sonic Breakfast. Many of the most popular are forced-fun frenzies; I can think of nothing worse than it being Christmas every day if I’m honest if it means warbling with Mariah. 

It probably says much about the person I am but I’m much more drawn to the sad Christmas song. Characters who were lonely last Christmas seem somehow more attached to the reality of life than those who are ringing bells as they dance around the mistletoe. This feeling is amplified in 2020 when the prevalence of the disease means the sensible thing to do is to cancel it all until next year. Bah Humbug. 

Lori Triplett agrees with me about sad Christmas songs. “I’ve always loved them”, she says before acknowledging that 2020 was exactly the right sort of year to be releasing ‘Coming Home Alone’. The Country-based singer-songwriter breaks all of our hearts with her tender tale about a relationship going pear-shaped just in advance of the big day. The excitement of taking your significant other home to meet your family and friends melts as the friendship fades. 

Lori has the perfect vocal delivery for this sort of desolation. She never once over-eggs the sadness; it’s raw and simple, painful and clear. For those of us who have had sad Christmases (all of us?), this is all too easy to relate to. When the strings kick in, I want to weep for Lori’s plight. 

Happy Christmas beautiful people. 

 

Braw – Whisky In Hand & A Glimpse Of Christmas

Rest ye now ye journeyman

With a whisky in hand, with a whisky in hand

Rest ye now ye journeyman

with a whisky in hand, with a whisky in hand

Woah…

Woah…

And that’s the chorus from a glorious, recent release from two Scottish brothers who specialise in folk-based harmonies and strong, wholesome fayre. You’d be forgiven for thinking that The Proclaimers have released a new track from that description but these are the new kids on the block – let me introduce you to Braw. 

Whisky In Hand is a simple delight. The brothers Braw say that it “was written as an anthem for the quiet moments at the end of a Scottish day, where there’s nothing left to be done but have a dram, thinking of your family and friends.”

Here, relatively alone (by choice) in Spain, I rarely turn to whisky for my evening tipple. But I do find myself contemplating with a glass of red by the fireside about family and friends. It’s been a tough year for all of us. We’ve not been able to be half as social as we would like to be. And I’m sure that the scars from this will affect us for years to come. 

This isn’t meant to be a morose post though. Braw have the ability to uplift the darkest spirit, to unblock the peatiest challenges. The video for Whisky In Hand is a joy to watch; a dram is ‘virtually’ passed around for sharing amongst the Braw clan with chuckle-raising consequence. It shows how warped my head has become this year that I initially think about the hygiene of such an act before then being able to properly focus on the true meaning here; this is all about sharing the good moments with friends and family.

 

And hark – what’s that jingling sound coming from over yonder? Just yesterday, Braw released a Christmas single. I don’t think that Sonic Breakfast has ever featured a Christmas song before (bah humbug) but this is too good to overlook. 

A Glimpse Of Christmas is tapping into the same themes as Whisky In Hand. With far too much cheese, a quantity that’s only good for you within Christmas tunes,  Braw have written a cracker. As we all progress towards what will be a reserved celebration for many, there can be no better way to share the love between family and friends. 

The Senti-Mentals – You Show Me Yours At Xmas

Christmas is coming and work parties are in full flow. Restaurant owners are rubbing their hands in glee and turkey juice whilst colleagues pull crackers and wear flimsy paper hats. 

 In a dingier part of town, men carry bunches of mistletoe in their back pockets in the hope that a predatory chance might present to tickle the tonsils of a drunken reveller. Strains of “You scumbag, you maggot, You cheap lousy faggot” can be heard blazing out of a nearby karaoke bar but the irony is lost amidst the cheap scent and puddles of piss.

 You’ve got to love the build up to Christmas; the night-time economy in any town, whilst particularly unpleasant, is still much nicer than it is by day. 

 I can ignore it no longer. In a week it’ll all be over for another year. And many of us will be breathing sighs of relief whilst sucking on our humbugs. I’ll play the game and post a Christmas video to Sonic Breakfast.

 But this isn’t any old Christmas song. In fact, it’s rather brilliant. 

 The Senti-Mentals are a new act to me. Their existence might have passed me by if it wasn’t for a PR company sending me a link to this fine animated video. “You show me yours at Xmas” sums it all up. It’s a gloriously sympathetic tribute to classic Christmas tunes of the past. Wrapped in a bow of Slade and Wizzard whilst moving the genre forward with healthy dollops of doo-wop, this is a tune that’ll raise the smiles and the party spirits. Here we have the faint whiff of optimism that we’re all encouraged to feel at this time of year blended in with a sort of knowing nostalgic nonsense that simply makes things feel right.

 The Senti-Mentals have been going since 1998 when John Dobinson, a stalwart of the retro doo-wop scene, met up with punk-poet singer and songwriter, Paul Eccentric. They’ve gigged a fair bit but can hardly be accused of being prolific in their releases. Since 2008, Den Hegarty has also been part of the mix. Den was bass vocalist and founder of Darts back in the 1970’s. The first ever cassette I bought from a Woolworths (ironically with a Christmas gift voucher) was a Darts album. 

 I can only have been six or seven years old then and probably believed in the beauty of Christmas. Funny that. 

Genuinely though, I do wish readers of Sonic Breakfast a happy holiday. Let’s have a glittery ball.