Written by Jordan Randall
Photography by Amanda Laferriere
Two years ago, the Vanguard Room was on a mission to gift Lakeland its very own covers of Christmas classics – and they did just that. From this holiday season to the next,” A Lakeland Chrismas” is filling our hearts with holiday cheer.
It’s strange, isn’t it? Every winter, there is about one month of the year where the most famous music in the world is a collection of primarily decade-old songs. We have a fascination with Christmas music. We carry such a love for it and the nostalgia tied to it.
Christmas music has undoubtedly played a small part in all of our childhood memories and can consistently transport us back to them every year. There is an innocence in the melodies and a softness in the reception. Music is a miracle in that way, giving you and me the ability to go back decades to the most cherished times in our lives.
Most new music these days deals with both love and heartbreak or endings and beginnings. But Christmas music? It brings us home. If new music is always moving forward, Christmas music is always taking us back. In a certain way, it centers us and brings us together. It’s a homecoming in the form of a song.
If you call Lakeland home, either now or maybe you once did, there’s a special place in your heart that this town certainly resides in. And there couldn’t be a better way to visit that special place than with The Vanguard Room’s 2019 album of seasonal covers, A Lakeland Christmas, Vol. 1, produced and recorded in The Vanguard Room with Lakeland-based artists.
This music record of classic Christmas song covers in new original arrangements has served and continues to serve as a big warm Lakeland blanket during the holiday season. Most Christmas music can bring us those warm and fuzzy feelings that Christmas music gives so well, but not all Christmas music can provide us with that special, homely, one-of-a-kind Lakeland feeling like this record does. If you’re a Lakelander, you’re going to want to put these songs on your yearly rotation.
Don’t just take our word for it, in the next few pages we explore a breakdown of each song’s composition and the featured artists. Then, you’ll want to add it to your holiday playlist on your preferred music platform, and if you’re next level with your music, you’ll want to head over to Jesse Carl Vinyl in Lakeland to purchase a vinyl copy of the album!
1. Christmas Time is Here
The Vanguard Room, MrENC
Eric Collins (MrENC), a mainstay of the Lakeland music scene for 20 years with lasting influence on many artists, brings his eclectic brand of surf/grunge and indie rock to Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown Christmas classic.
2. Santa Tell Me
The Vanguard Room, Tim Steiner
A total reimagining of Ariana Grande’s huge holiday hit. Genre-swapping from dance/pop to alternative/Americana, with steady acoustic guitar, emotive piano lines, and Tim’s brooding low-range vocals. This version brings out so much heart and gravitas to the lyrics, making it feel like an entirely new song.
3. Let It Snow
The Vanguard Room, Emilie Weiss
Since it was written in 1945, almost every version has been up-tempo and pop-inspired. With two key changes, this slower version allows Emilie’s unmatched vocal talent to take center stage and fully embody the lyrics’ authentic romance and thoughtfulness.
4. Christmas for Cowboys
The Vanguard Room, Dan Sharrett
Frontman of the hugely influential Nora’s Breakfast Club, Dan helped build a local music community that’s still strong today. Dan’s vocal delivery is a unique style that helped transform John Denver’s country ballad into a 90s-alternative, pop-inspired holiday anthem.
The Vanguard Room, Michael McArthur
Joni Mitchell’s 1971 gut-wrenching piano ballad gets a fresh remake into an Americana-inspired fingerpicking track, backed by only a string section. Michael’s vocal mastery and conviction make it hard to believe that he didn’t write these emotional lyrics himself.
6. All I Want For Christmas Is You
The Vanguard Room, Van Plating
Taking on one of pop-cultures greatest smash hits of the holiday season, Van Plating brings unique, memorable vocals to Mariah Carey’s mega-famous refrain. A restrained and intricate piano, bass, and drums arrangement create a foundation that slowly builds entirely into indie-rock orchestration. This arrangement brings a fresh vibe to a song you’ve heard a million times (per year).
7. Last Christmas
The Vanguard Room, Dan, and Nick Rivera
The unmistakable voices of Lakeland brothers, Dan and Nick Rivera turn Wham! ’s Christmas hit on its head.
This arrangement sets aside the original’s 80s synthesizers and drum machines for a more somber, acoustic-driven feel, ideally suited for this holiday breakup song.
8. Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
The Vanguard Room, Bobby and Kenzie Walker
Channeling the spirit of John Lennon and Yoko Ono in this Christmas standard, Lakeland couple Bobby and Kenzie Walker conduct the same spirit on this track. A hybrid of organic and electronic instrumentation mixed with minor harmonic progression fuels a darker and more dramatic twist on the original.
9. Little Drummer Boy
The Vanguard Room, Emily Jones
A beloved and prolific Lakeland artist, Emily Jones’ nuanced and evocative performance brings eerie and haunting energy to this 80-year-old Christmas classic. Although the song has been covered by artists ranging from Johnny Cash to Joan Baez and Bing Crosby/David Bowie, Emily’s version easily holds its own.
10. The Ice Storm
The Vanguard Room, Aaron Marsh
Copeland frontman Aaron Marsh takes on a beautiful but largely unknown song by the indie-rock band Annie. Originally an acoustic song, it is now fleshed out with various electronic and orchestral flourishes that compliment Marsh’s signature layered vocals woven in the intricate true story of a band trapped in a blizzard.