By Ukulele Staff
There are a lot of Christmas cover songs out there, and so many of them seem to lend themselves well to the ukulele. While that’s great for those of us looking to learn and play some fun holiday tunes, it doesn’t always make it easy to find recorded versions that fit what we’re looking for. Sometimes you need a song for a holiday playlist for a gathering—no wait, scratch that, it’s 2020. Sometimes you just want a collection of cheerful tunes to get you in the holiday spirit. We’ve scoured YouTube for just that, and picked a handful of our favorites. Starting today, we will be joyously sharing our findings with you each Friday this month, all the way to Friday, December 25.
‘Merry Christmas Darling,’ Craig & Sarah
Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel do justice to The Carpenters “Merry Christmas Darling,” which hit #1 on the Christmas singles charts in 1970, ’71, and ’74. This version features ukuleles, bass (ukulele), and voice. Craig’s sweet tones in the all-too-brief solo twinkle like lights on the tree, while Sarah’s voice carries with it all that is good about the holiday season. The duo recorded rhythm, lead, and bass ukulele parts for this song. While it’s not as lush as the original arrangement (which has strings, harp, percussion, and a host of other instruments), it still hits the spot. This married couple released a Christmas album last year called Christmas Island, which includes this song.
‘The Christmas Song’ by Cynthia Lin
Cynthia Lin plays ukulele and sings, with upright bassist Colin Williams playing live with her, in this one-take version of “The Christmas Song.” Lin’s holding down the arrangement with strumming and lovely arpeggios, while also giving a wonderful vocal performance. The deep upright bass feels so right in this arrangement that it’s a shame this song is on only on YouTube—but wait, it’s also on Cynthia’s 2017 album Cozy Christmas.
‘Silent Night’ and ‘White Christmas’ by Kalei Gamiao
Kalei Gamiao doesn’t need his voice to sing on these instrumental, fingerpicked versions of “Silent Night” and “White Christmas.” The expertly-played arrangement of “Silent Night” has Kalei hitting harmonics with his right hand while still playing melody. And his little flourish in the middle of “White Christmas” kind of makes the whole song. In addition to delightful playing, these recordings sound particularly good thanks to professional recording setup and the gorgeous Ko’olau tenor ukulele under his fingers. You can hear more of his playing on his 2013 album Merry Ukulele Christmas.
‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ by Jake Shimabukuro
This two-minute ukulele and cello jam of Mariah Carey’s inescapable Christmas hit “All I Want For Christmas Is You” begins with a slow intro before Jake Shimabukuro kicks the energy into high gear with some serious strumming. Recorded in what looks to be the greenroom of a concert venue, the acoustics aren’t the best, but the performance is still wonderful. The balance between the instruments is quite decent, and you can tell how much fun Jake and cellist Meena Cho are having in this impromptu jam. Jake recorded a Christmas album with Pure Heart in 1999, and though it’s out of print you can still find used copies here and there.