Ballard C. Boyd’s Free Ukulele Christmas Albums
Yeah, I know — why include the original 1953 cover art for “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” when it’s but one of the many classics covered by Mr. Boyd (on “Ukulele Holiday”, 2006, in fact). First, it’s awesome (thanks to Robert Velde’s hippo illustration). But mostly it’s — and I should be kind here — but it’s forced, demanding, and, well, frankly, creepy. Looking at that inset photo of then 10 year old Gayla Peevey on the 45 rpm single completely explains why this song failed to gain a wider audience: try looking at that picture and not thinking of “What Ever Happened to Sweet Baby Jane?”. I’ll wait… yeah, thought so.
And are you as surprised as me to find out that this wasn’t recorded by a 40 year old woman pretending to be a child — there’s something so off about the vocals. I visualize a stage mom in the booth directing the performance, possibly Agnes Moorehead garbed in her puritan Citizen Kane Sunday blacks.
And yet… it’s a great little bit of silliness.
Which brings us to the dozens of (free!) ukulele Christmas tunes offered by Ballard C. Boyd. Simple recordings, most just him and his uke, many quite good — and all loads of fun. Pete Holm's album artwork is also quite the good find.
And he’s managed to rescue the hippopotamus, making it a grand bit of whimsy ala Kimya Dawson without being twee.
If you aren’t a Christmas music junkie like me, thinking that you need every version of any song mentioning said holiday, well, you still need these tracks as there’s much to be learned by an attentive listen to Ballard’s strumming.
Finally, he suffers for his art, with some of these albums being: “recorded, produced, and mixed in the same 3 x 3 ft. space in Ballard’s tiny apartment in Colorado.” See? He knows what it’s like inside that chimney flue, and I know you’ll have lots of fun listening to these lil recordings.