By James Calemine
Where Will You Be Christmas Day? ranks as one of the most eclectic and powerful Christmas compilations of all time. These 24 songs were recorded from 1917-1959. The package includes a collector’s item postcard, and a small booklet containing the artist’s recording dates.
Julia Perkins’ 1933 excerpt from “Bright Crown of the Year” preserves the sentiment of this collection: “Christmas is the bright crown of the year, it is a religious festival but also marks the year’s end and is a time for fun and feasting as well as for worship and prayer. It is not one short day, but a long week of jubilation that begins Christmas Eve morning and lasts through New Year’s night.”
Vera Hall’s opening track, “The Last Month of the Year” illustrates the song’s origin leading to The Staple Singers’ later version. Leadbelly’s “Christmas Is A-Coming” stands out as a brilliant gem.
“Sherburne”, rendered by The Alabama Sacred Harp Singers, emerges as one of the greatest tracks on the CD. Reverend J.M. Gates’ sermon on “He Was Born In A Manger” is unforgettable. Walter Davis’ “Santa Claus” illuminates a universal feeling during the holidays.
The Guitar Evangelist—Reverend Edward W. Clayborn—plays a memorable song titled “The Wrong Way To Celebrate Christmas” that was recorded in 1928. The great Bessie Smith never sounded so good as she does on “At The Christmas Ball”.
The quality of these songs sounds remarkable. Other artists on this beautiful CD include Kansas City Kitty, Fiddlin’ John Carson and His Virginia Reelers, Buell Kazee, Cotton Top Mountain Sanctified Singers, Norman Edmonds and McKinney’s Cotton Pickers.
Leroy Carr’s “Christmas In Jail” resonates a sentiment for the downtrodden and guilty during a joyous time of year. Where Will You Be Christmas Day? emits an eternal glory.