Fort Worth singer-songwriter Cameron Smith gets into the holiday spirit with a tender cover of John Prine’s “Christmas in Prison.” Courtesy Facebook

This time of year, it’s common to be spending your drive time dodging the crimson specter of Mariah Carey’s holiday anthem or the absolute bludgeoning that is The Eagles’ “Please Come Home for Christmas” on the radio. Thankfully, there are countless options to keep that nauseating, stereotypical holiday dreck at bay. If you’re not too busy this season spending your listening time juicing the play count of The Pogues’ classic “Fairytale of New York” to deservedly honor recently deceased Irish singer-songwriter Shane MacGowan, may we offer some surrogate tuneage? While it may be too late for these tracks to knock off Barbie’s “I’m Just Ken” from the top spot in your Spotify Wrapped, they’re certainly at the tops of our respective wish lists.

Singer-songwriter Cameron Smith is hard at work on the follow-up to Shine, last year’s moving tribute to his friend, the late visual artist Jeremy Joel. In between sessions at Blackstone Recording Studio, Smith took the time to record an EP of holiday songs. Debuting last week, the first is a lovely cover of John Prine’s “Christmas in Prison.” If it’s any indication of the completed work to come, listeners are promised another collection of thoughtful and tender songcraft from one of Fort Worth’s most prolific songsmiths.

In taking on Ian Dury & The Blockheads’ “Sex, Drugs, and Rock ’n’ Roll,” raucous alt-rockers Itchy Richie & The Burnin’ Sensations deliver a debaucherous ode to the holy trinity of vices. Due out Dec 22, it’s a classic punk anthem and a perfect track to get the Burnin’ Sensations treatment.


Pop-rock quintet the Jaybirds also have an EP of Christmas tunes out soon. The winners of Best Song at last year’s Weekly Music Awards for “Honey Bee” look to apply their slick pop sheen to some cheerful yuletide vibes. There’s “a little work left to do on one song,” said lead singer JP Walsh, but the short player should be out in plenty of time to enjoy a cup (or five) of eggnog by.

It’s only fitting that singer-songwriter Clint Niosi plans to release a new track Thursday about the winter solstice. His warm baritone and emotive guitar playing always seem to bring to mind the desolate beauty of a barren snow-covered hill reflecting the moonlight on a cold, dark night. “Over the Light,” he said, is “a song about the battle between light and darkness.”

Country folk singer Jessi England went into The Finishing School studio this spring to begin tracking her debut album. Working with a full band, including guitarist/keyboardist John Calvin Abney (Jacob Furr, Daniel Markham), the songstress has been excited with the results. Despite the title of “Christmas Eyes,” the debut single from these sessions is “not a Christmas song,” England said. Revisions on mastering are underway now, but she hopes to release the single before the holiday.

If there’s a Fort Worth artist most like Peter Gabriel, it has to be Nathan Brown. The genre-defying musician celebrates his 50th birthday on Saturday, and to celebrate, he’s releasing a new album under the name Nahzen. Carillon is nine tracks of Brown’s intriguing synth-layered abstractions.

Adjusting our telescope to take a peek outside Fort Worth, there are some other tunes we hope to find beneath our tree, beginning with the most obvious choice: Nicki Minaj. Five years after her most recent album and 13 years after her landmark Pink Friday, the undisputed Queen of Rap finally releases the LP she’s been teasing for over a damn year. Two singles — the Rick James homage “Super Freaky Girl” and the foe-scorching diss track “Red Ruby da Sleaze” — have previewed Pink Friday 2. Minaj’s panache and raunch, her percussive flow, and her vicious punchlines are always welcome jolts to your brain. They’re the lyrical equivalent of getting drunk and high with your friends and zapping each other with a stun gun. An experience that, like Nicki Minaj herself, is hilarious, outrageous, and probably kind of dangerous. Out Thursday.

The new album from “Super Freaky Girl” Nicki Minaj is one we’re really looking forward to.
Courtesy Republic

A random musical resurrection of sorts occurred last week as Minor Threat put out the Out of Step Outtakes EP. The collection contains unreleased tracks from the hardcore pioneers’ final recording session for the material that would make up 1983’s seminal Out of Step. It feels like a vital listen born of nostalgia for a time when the music you heard was either what was on the radio or what you bought at a store. The three songs — a rework of “In My Eyes,” along with “Filler” plus a mostly instrumental track given the working title “Addams Family” — sound better than they might have when they were recorded back in the early ’80s but lose none of their edge.

’Tis the season for legacy artists to re-record and release albums of previously recorded material. Dolly Parton just dropped one of these, which is essentially two-and-a-half hours of her doing covers, and Neil Young, like Minor Threat, will release an album of new versions of deep cuts spanning his entire career. Before and After includes material from Buffalo Springfield’s self-titled 1966 debut to Barn, his 41st album, released in 2021. Young — in absolutely on-brand, Neil Youngian fashion — insists that LP is meant to be listened to as a whole piece, specifically, as he told American Songwriter, as a “music montage with no beginnings or endings.” Whatever you say, Neil. We’re here for it. Also out Thursday.

Read about the local and touring gigs this holiday season sure to grow your Grinch-ian heart at least three sizes in Creatures Stirring.