Christmas Song nr. 21: Standing by the Christmas Tree by Cara Dillon

As this list starts to wind down one might reflect on the content of it. Some may say that it ways heavily on more contemporary songs or modern versions of older classics and that may very well be true. This list is just as much a collection of personal favorites, but also a wish to enlighten people about what is out there. In that vein the 21st song is the most recent song to be released.

The Christmas album Upon a Winter’s Night was released this year by folk musician Cara Dillon. Dillon, born in Ireland in 1975, has been a fixture on the folk scene since she joined the folk music brat pack Equinox in 1995, but had then already performed since the age if fourteen. Marrying into the Lakeman family, also a folk institution, her angelic voice has been a constant in traditional music and one would be hard pressed to find a more beautiful rendition of The Parting Glass than hers.

Standing By My Christmas Tree is an original Christmas song from her new album, written by Dillon and husband Sam Lakeman. Like Jim Croce’s Christmas tune it’s about loneliness during the holidays. In contrast to Croce’s desire for a lost relationship Dillon’s song is less obvious about the back story. Is it a lost love, is someone coming, has someone passed or is it about the lord himself as the line ‘You’ve been there from the very start’. The use of Silent Night in the melody could hint at that very thing. Whatever the truth is here and whatever the deeper meaning might be Dillon’s voice, filled with longing and emptiness pierces the heart and makes the listener feel it as well. In the end the best songs are those we may interpret any way we would like.

Because some songs have the ability to become instant classics, and I personally see a cover done by an American country artist very soon, Standing By the Christmas Tree is the 21st choice on The Christmas List of Songs.

-Andrew Tobias

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