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Eight Christmas Cover Songs by Colorado Artists

The Lumineers are among the Colorado artists with quality Christmas covers.
The Lumineers are among the Colorado artists with quality Christmas covers.
Brandon Marshall
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One delightful side effect of the #MeToo movement is the long-overdue awareness that the holiday tune “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is more than a little bit rapey. Following a nationwide trend, Denver’s KOSI 101.1 pulled the track from its rotation while it held a listener poll to determine whether “Baby” should be reinstated. It was. You can avoid debating that nugget at your seasonal festivities by directing your guests’ ears to local musicians’ takes on timeworn holiday classics. Here, in alphabetical order, are seven cover versions of classic Christmas songs that aren't "Baby, It's Cold Outside" (and one that is), performed by Colorado artists.

Judy Collins
“I’ll Be Home for Christmas”

Colorado treasure Judy Collins has released several Christmas-themed albums over the years and covered nearly every classic there is to cover. On 1994’s Come Rejoice!, a standout track is the melancholy classic “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” The song was originally written by Kim Gannon and Walter Kent and recorded by Bing Crosby in 1943, speaking to the numerous U.S. soldiers who were overseas in the midst of World War II. It’s been covered countless times, but Collins’s one-minute-long version doubles down on the loneliness as her ethereal voice floats through what sounds like a boundless void — totally alone.

John Denver
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”

The sunny-smiled singer-songwriter was known for his odes to the West, but he trafficked in all heart-warming strains of Americana. From his 1975 Rocky Mountain Christmas, we recommend his version of the 1939 story-song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Denver’s rendition boasts a jaunty piano line  and — shockingly — favors fun instrumentation over vocal shlock. Denver's choirboy tones also lend themselves nicely to “Silver Bells.”

Overture of The Nightmare Before Christmas

Since the 1993 release of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, many people have adopted the dark-comedy animated musical as a holiday favorite. The Danny Elfman soundtrack has also attracted fans, and in 2008, Disney released a cover album of the soundtrack called Nightmare Revisited. DeVotchKa, Denver’s beloved avant-pop ensemble, contributed the film’s overture, and the band's take is as twisted, spooky and spunky as you’d hope.

FACE Vocal Band
“O Holy Night”

This Boulder-based a cappella band keeps busy during the holiday season, selling out most of its performances in the region this month. A few years ago, the vocal group got delayed amid inclement December weather in the Dallas airport. Before the bandmates got out, they embarked on a mini-tour through the terminals, performing holiday songs to lift stranded passengers’ spirits. Maybe all-vocal music isn’t your thing, but that story is downright charming. We recommend FACE’s rendition of “O Holy Night” for that one note — you’ll know it when you hear it.

The Fray
"Happy Xmas (War Is Over)"

In 2006, the Fray delivered this faithful rendition of the 1971 original, written and performed by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, with support from the Harlem Community Choir. The Fray's take still incorporates a rangy choir that echoes the original. Isaac Slade’s gritty soul-growl is substituted for Lennon’s voice, and instead of protesting the Vietnam War, Slade could’ve been protesting any number of conflicts. This hasn’t been the Fray’s only foray into holiday music; in 2009, the band released a Christmas EP including five traditional carols with a religious bent, including “Silent Night” and “Away in a Manger."

The Lumineers
“Blue Christmas”

It’s hard to listen to “Blue Christmas” without comparing a rendition to Elvis Presley’s 1957 version and the frankly batshit/genius harmonizing of the Jordanaires. But the Lumineers strip back the instrumentation and deliver the sentiments unadorned. Lead singer Wesley Schultz sounds appropriately strained on the emotional chorus, while Neyla Pekarek lends a hand with her soothing backing vocals and harmonies.

"Silent Night"

Yeah, we’re still counting OneRepublic. Ryan Tedder and company performed at the 2011 National Christmas Tree lighting in Washington, D.C.,  and did a sweet, pop-inflected version of “Silent Night.”

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats with Julie Davis
“Baby It’s Cold Outside”

Nathaniel Rateliff and Julie Davis's cover of this controversial tune has survived the radio bans, probably thanks to the vocalists’ gender flip. Recalling an earlier version by Ann-Margret, Bluebook’s Davis performs as the cajoling suitor, while low-voiced Rateliff plays it shy. “Say, what’s in this drink?”

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