Photo by Nate Burrell
You officially have nine shopping days left until Christmas, but a few St. Louis luminaries dropped off some seasonal treats a little early this year. Yesterday both Cave States and a one-off duet by Beth Bombara and Seth Porter were posted online, and both take an adult view of the Christmas season while still seeking joy in a taxing time of year.
Porter and Bombara recorded the twangy “Gray Christmas” with Bombara’s husband Kit Hamon on drums and Nashville native Samuel Gregg on guitar. Gregg, who plays in both singers’ bands, adds a little country credence to the track.
“I actually half-wrote this song a number of years ago,” Porter says. “I'd remember it every so often, but usually too late in the year to actually record it in time for Christmas. This year, it occurred to me early enough that I finished writing it and I was able to knock it out at Beth & Kit's home studio in pretty short order.”
Porter, a native of Ohio, tweaks Irving Berlin’s most famous composition, but if “White Christmas” is about unalloyed nostalgia, “Gray Christmas” is a bittersweet rumination of that old truism: You can never go home again.
“There were a handful of years in a row where I only visited my hometown at Christmas or Thanksgiving, so in my mind the place was in kind of a perpetual winter,” he says. “That was the initial idea for the song. The other part is about the odd business of maintaining old friendships through short, whirlwind visits — staying connected with people who are important in your life, but no longer really a part of your regular daily life.”
Photo by Nate Burrell
The track is a little outside of his usual wheelhouse — both the dearly departed Blind Eyes and his current outfit Essential Knots thrive on nervy hooks and jittery propulsion.
“I wasn't sure that I was really up to the task of country singing, so I was just going to give the song to Beth initially,” Porter says. “After some negotiations, we decided that a duet would work. I'm glad it turned out this way,” he says.
Cave States co-leader Chris Grabau penned “Traveling on Christmas Day” after several years of participating in Rough Shop’s annual Christmas show (he does a vicious version of the Kinks’ “Father Christmas” most years).
“Playing their songs at the concerts gave me an appreciation for the emotional depth present in Christmas music,” Grabau says. “For me, holidays typically involve some kind of travel. So, writing around some of the tensions around holiday travel felt kinda natural.”
Both songs are available for streaming and purchase on Bombara's
and Cave States'
respective Bandcamp sites.