The Hoover Dam Collective made a Christmas album!
Click below to listen
Album Artwork: Breegan Kearney
Around this time last year, we were all walking around in circles, trying to make sense of what the fuck had just happened in our country. That infiltrating dread collided with run-of-the-mill seasonal depression, and somehow what emerged was a show of sad Christmas songs at LIC Bar, just before the inauguration of Donald J Trump as the 45th president of the United States. Thus, A Blue State of Christmas.
Why feel sad around the holidays? Well, people feel sad all year round; it’s just part of being human. But feeling sad around the holidays somehow feels that much more potent.
Maybe it’s the expectation that we should be cheerful and gay that makes it that much harder to actually feel that way. The holidays can often serve as a reference point for holidays past, and we reflect back on the love and the loved ones we’ve lost; everything looks better through nostalgia’s rose-tinted glasses.
Or maybe it’s the dismal comparison of our lives against these glistening images and ideas we’ve been spoon-fed since youth: bustling family dinners, Christmas trees stacked high with presents, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, ice skating hand in hand with a sweetheart at Rockefeller Center, kissing under the mistletoe.
But life isn’t always as exciting as Billy Crystal rushing in just as the clock strikes midnight on New Years Eve to tell you he wants to spend the rest of his life with you. Sometimes it’s sitting at home alone, contemplating how to write a Christmas card to a former lover. Sometimes it’s walking in at dawn to find your partner passed out drunk on the floor, or getting back to your apartment after a night of binge drinking and random sex to find that your keys are gone and so is all of your money.
Regardless, feeling sad around this time of year is the saddest feeling of all. But when people feel feelings, that’s when they make art, and often the stronger the feelings, the better the art. So here’s a collection of truly great songs about feeling sad around the holidays.
A Blue State of Christmas :
Performed by Bad Faces: Barry Komitor (guitar, vocals), Brian Stollery (bass), Ethan Kogan (drums)
Written and originally recorded by The Eagles
“For the band’s contribution to the album, we chose the classic “Please Come Home For Christmas”, because Theo told me it was her favorite.” – Barry Komitor
Performed by Bears of Alaska: Lauren Peters-Collaer (vocals) and Sean Ryan (vocals, guitar)
Written and originally recorded by Joni Mitchell
“There are very few things I have in common with my 17-year-old self, but my love for Joni Mitchell is one of them. This song reminds me of making bread in my pajamas on Thanksgiving morning with the cold November air seeping into the warm kitchen, listening to ‘Blue’ over and over again. No one knows sad like Joni.” – Theo Boguszewski
“Joni Mitchell + Sadness + Christmas is a truly unbeatable combination, so this song was a clear winner in our minds. We especially resonate with the line, “I’m so hard to handle, I’m selfish and I’m sad,” on account of how selfish and sad we are.” – Bears of Alaska
Performed by Christian Apuzzo
Written and originally recorded by Woody Guthrie
“1913 Massacre is a ballad written by Woody Guthrie that was penned after reading about a disaster in which seventy three people were trampled to death during a Christmas Eve holiday party. The party was for striking miners in Calumet, Michigan and among the dead were 59 children. There is an ongoing debate about the cause of the disaster. The party took place on the second floor of a hall with a single exit down a steep set of stairs and when someone falsely yelled “fire” it caused the stampede. In the song, Woody asserts this tragedy was the result of a practical joke played on hard working men, women and children. The song has been covered by many, most notably Ramblin’ Jack Elliot and even inspired the tune for Bob Dylan’s own song “Song to Woody” – Christian Apuzzo/ Cole Rotante
“My Christmas Bonus was written by my very good friend Simon Scott, one of my favorite people I’ve ever known. Unfortunately, Scotty, as he was known to many of his friends, lost a battle with cancer a couple of years ago. He was a year older than me, and I always thought of him as my English twin. As he lay dying in Bellevue, I got up the nerve to learn this song. I had recorded a solo version of him singing it, and remembered all of the lyrics from the first time I heard them. I showed up at the hospital and sheepishly pulled out my guitar and began to play it, and he lit up. He had lost the physical ability to play, and I got the sense it meant a lot to him to hear his music. As his health deteriorated, I returned to play it for him a few more times before he passed, and those were the only times during the end of his life that I saw him happy. I now carry the song as an homage to him and to the power of music and friendship. That power extended itself further when this song helped establish and deepen the bond between myself and Theo Boguszewski, who lost her younger brother Dante to the same disease. I am so honored and thankful to Theo for including me, my band Bad Faces, and especially this song on this album.” – Barry Komitor
“One of my first memories of my friendship with Barry was the conversations that we had when he was dealing with the reality of his friend Scotty’s battle with cancer. This song hit me really hard the first time I heard it. To me, it’s about dealing with loss, and trying to seek solace in something outside of yourself. Ultimately this always falls flat, and there’s the moment when you’re forced to deal with yourself – metaphorically, you find yourself sitting alone in your apartment trying to figure out what the hell happened last night and where all your money went. It’s absolutely devastating.” -Theo Boguszewski
Written by Simon Scott
Performed by Barry Komitor (vocals, guitar), Brian Stollery (bass) and Ethan Kogan (drums)
“When I listen to music, lyrics are one of the last things I hear. But this Handsome Family song struck me right away because it’s so relatable. I’ve got a particular person in mind each time I sing this. The song isn’t exactly about Christmas, but captures the not-so-pleasant parts of caring for someone who’s struggling, especially around the holidays.” – Barbara Ely
Performed by Barbara Ely (vocals) and Sam Werbalowsky (banjo)
Originally written and performed by: The Handsome Family
“I discovered John Prine’s Christmas album one Christmas a few years back, as I was in the process of screen-printing Christmas cards, a yearly ritual. The thing about the holidays is, they really do make us realize how much love and warmth and community surrounds us, but they also have a tendency to bring back painful reminders of the love we’ve lost. Most of us have been in a position of having to send a courtesy holiday card (or an email, text, etc) to someone who has hurt us. Without fail, there’s a much longer and more involved note that we want to write, but usually end up signing off on some nicety, like “wishing you well,” or “all the best.”
This song embodies the brilliance of John Prine; it is heart-wrenching in its simplicity as he takes on an emotional situation with ease and humor.” – Theo Boguszewski
Performed by Jasper Lewis (vocals, guitar) and Theo Boguszewski (vocals)
Originally written and performed by John Prine
“Though I’m not religious, the holidays are a great time to check in with friends and family, enjoy delicious food, and play music together. I learned this tune for my friend Gordon whose family hosts an annual Christmas Party; he sings this one year round despite not knowing past the opening line. I recorded it live with a minimal setup to emulate the 10pm cozy Christmas Eve couch feeling.” – Alex Mackinnon
Performed by Alex Mackinnon (guitar, vocals)
Written by Bob Wells and Mel Torme
Originally recorded by The Nat King Cole Trio
“I’ll be Home for Christmas captures the longing of someone who is away from their family on the holidays. I always loved this song for the way the melody so perfectly reinforces the message in the lyrics. Written and recorded in the early 40s, this song resonated with soldiers overseas in World War Two and their families back at home. It is a song that has never lost its relevance, although sometimes we wish it would.” – Jasper Lewis
Performed by Jasper Lewis (vocals, guitar)
Written by Kim Gannon, Walter Kent, Buck Ram
Originally recorded by Bing Crosby
” I was stumped to pick a song when Theo suggested Christmas in Prison. On my first listen, it instantly resonated with me. Mr Prine writes about a Christmas spent alone in prison and while he tries to make the best of the holiday, his longing for his love never leaves him. Definitely a blue song for Christmas.” – Justin Kirk
Performed by Justin Kirk ( (guitar, harmonica, lead vocals) and Theo Boguszewski (fiddle)
Originally written and performed by John Prine
“This song was written specifically for this compilation. A week before the recording date, Sean McVerry came over just to hang out. I asked him if he wanted to write a song while he was over, and in three hours, this is what turned up.
The narrator in the song is a guy who used to be too cool for Christmas and other societal norms, but now suddenly finds himself in a big house with a wife and kids and dogs and a new sensation bordering on contentment.”- Andy Roninson
“Andy and I wrote “Everyday’s a Holiday” from the perspective of a person coming to terms with just how fast life moves after a certain point. I think the holidays (with their usual traditions) can serve as kind of a control group in life – while every year is different, the holidays are always at least somewhat similar and uniform.
I think because of that fact, the holidays can offer a time to reflect on how pieces of your life have changed, whether it be minor things or waking up and suddenly having a wife and a family. I do think inherently the song can come across as almost bitter about that, but that wasn’t really our intention. The character in “Everyday’s a Holiday” has lived fast and perhaps lost track of where they’ve been going, but it’s possible where they’ve ended up isn’t all that bad.” – Sean McVerry
Performed by Sean McVerry (vocals, guitar) and Andy Roninson (keyboard)
Written and originally recorded by Sean McVerry and Andy Roninson