Along with the fun and absurdity comes some mighty fine playing. Seems that this
Fred Gosbee's "The Night the Whiskey Froze" is a collection of stories and songs of the winter season (not solely Christmas, so one can listen to it far into the deeper chill of winter). And what a collection it is; quirky, funny and different.
Gosbee is one half of the duo Castlebay, based in mid-coast Maine and known the world over for their thoughtful and true to the tradition renditions of traditional tunes of Celtic influence.
I recently spoke with Gosbee about what he and his wife and music partner Julia Lane have been up to in general, but the purpose of our conversation was for me to get the story behind "The Night the Whiskey Froze" and all the hilarity contained therein.
Years ago, when Castlebay performed in Kennebunkport during Prelude, Gosbee, in his very best Downeast accent, recited a version of "The Night Before Christmas" that had the audience in gales of laughter:
'Twas the night before Christmas
And all down the road
The Christmas lights lit up
The new fallen snow
The kids they was huddled round a video screen
Watching some special they'd already seen
Mother'd gone down the street for some LL Bean shoes
And I was upstairs just takin' a snooze
When all of a sudden I heard such a noise
Why it sounded like Buddy outside with the boys
I got up so fast, I hit my damned head
And said things I probably shouldn'ta said
I opened the wind and called down below
"Hey who's that that's out there and takin' on so?"
When Buddy & Joe all at once did appear
On a new Arctic Cat with a 6-pack o' beer.
It goes on to tell of their Christmas Eve escapades and I won't spoil the ending, but I will tell you that Buddy and the boys do encounter Santa along their way.
Castlebay has a number of popular Christmas recordings in their discography, filled with beautifully arranged Christmas music, familiar and new, featuring Lane's Celtic harp, Gosbee's guitar, whistle and concertina and more.
"People heard that Night Before Christmas, Downeast style' that I do, and they always asked if it were recorded anywhere," explained Gosbee in our recent conversation. It would be an impossible fit with their other, more somber and traditional Christmas material so it never did make it onto a CD.
Finally, Gosbee decided he needed a recording to give this piece a home, so he gathered up songs and stories of winter and of Christmas, with a healthy does of Maine humor, along with some tunes to set them off, and recorded the CD in 2004.
"There's a song on there called Shopping Shanty'," Gosbee mused,""¦it's a parody of a well-known sea shanty, Paddy Lay Back'"¦"
Santa come back, take up the slack
My Christmas list gets longer every year
Oh why's it have to start before Thanksgiving
It's enough to make me lose my Christmas cheer.
""¦and a song called Yard Sale' uses the melody of the old Christmas standard Wassail Wassail'".
Some of the songs are great fun to sing along with, especially on some very silly and singable choruses.
Trying to create the sound of revelers at a party, Gosbee needed more voices on those choruses for the recording, so he and Lane invited a bunch of people over for a big pot of chowder and plenty of beer. They recorded the songs live with this gathering of well-fed and mildly intoxicated singers. "Not the Tabernacle Choir," laughs Gosbee, "but we hope the fun comes through."
That it does.
There is the lament of some loggers who are dis-invited to a dance because of the spikes in their boots and the holes in their socks. There's "Haul Away Snow," another parody of a favorite sea shanty.
In keeping with an item tailor made for the holiday season, the packaging for the CD includes one of the panels that can fold out to become a built-in greeting card. And another flap transforms the packaging into a self-mailer so it can be sent right out to that music lover on our list.
Gosbee warns that one or two of the pieces have some material that is not suited for young listeners. "Not for the kids!" offers Lane, with a giggle.
Along with the fun and absurdity comes some mighty fine playing. Seems that this recording is just the ticket for relieving the stress that the holidays can bring with some good belly laughs and tales of winter in Maine.
"The Night the Whisky Froze" is available at www.castlebay.net. Gosbee says they'll get it out to you "right quick" if you're looking for a gift to send to Aunt Maude in Iowa.
Dale Robin Lockman is a musician, journalist and mom, who doesn't believe in Santa, but hopes that at least some of you will soon find out what happens when Buddy and the boys have to hitch a ride with him. Can't tell you any more that that! She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.