Track This: Jim White's Christmas Day
"Christmas Day" is a seven-minute gothic country exploration of loneliness. White tells the story of another lonely man stranded on his way to Mobile. The "devil is in the details" as the narrator sits crying at the Greyhound Station on Christmas Day in 1998. The sparse guitar work underlines the tragic experience and White's vocals only make it more harrowing.
The song is one of the loss and love that are seldom explored in most well-known Christmas songs which typically prefer to gloss over the loneliness that comes with this season, instead piling up a hootenanny of pleasant experiences. Even the songs rife with loneliness prefer to traffic in what the narrator hopes to find at home or misses, instead of reveling in loss. "Christmas Day" doesn't do that; the narrator wallows in self pity and continually returns to the sweet smile of his love. He discusses the good fiction that the situation might make, weaving in between reality and unreality. White even name checks "Amazing Grace" and the backing vocals echo the narrator's frustration. It is a singular exploration of loss that is over too soon.
White explores the true depth that is seldom reached in Christmas music, as he reiterates the flip side of the Christmas coin -- the truth that some people are very lonely on the day that is supposed to be most about togetherness. Many old country Christmas songs traverse the same ground, yet White is able to make the feeling of loss new and old at the same time because his story contains so much detail and his guitar lines are so haunting. "Christmas Day" is a true Christmas classic because it transcends the holiday; it would be as tragic on a cold rainy June day as it is in the midst of a December white out.