Cue the Music

You’ve spent weeks planning your holiday party. You’ve invited the right mix of guests, the food is perfect, the house is decorated, the bar stocked. Then, just before your guests arrive (usually around the time you see their car turning into the driveway), you realize you need some music to set the tone.

In many homes, this is when confidence gives way to panic. And panic, as we all know, leads to only two possible outcomes: A bad choice (this typically happens when you start rifling aimlessly through CD drawers or asking anyone within earshot for a recommendation, regardless of their taste), or falling back on something tried and true (Diana Krall anyone?).

The truth is that music plays as big a role in entertaining as the food, the wine or the conversation. And picking something fresh and new, but appropriate, will go a long way to building your reputation as the perfect host.

Here are a few modern but under appreciated gems that will prick up ears and have your guests asking “who is this?”

Richard Hawley Truelove’s Gutter – Think of Richard Hawley as an alternative crooner. Just a bit edgier than modern jazz revivalists like Michael Buble or Diana Krall, this Sheffield, England born former rock guitarist is blessed with the most seductive of baritones, which he matches with effortlessly gorgeous (and romantic) melodies. I like to think that Hawley creates the kind of mood that Sinatra would have been shooting for if he recorded In the wee Small Hours as a 40 year old in 2009. Perfect for small dinner parties or, even better, dinner with your special someone.


Key tracks: Ashes on the Fire, For Your Lover Give Some Time

Jenny Lewis Acid Tongue – Jenny Lewis came to the attention of music aficionados with her 2006 Dusty Springfield-inspired Rabbit Fur Coat CD. But what came next has quickly become a generation crossing feel-good classic. Acid Tongue is a mix of white soul, country and rollicking guitar rock that energizes but never screeches. Lewis, like Hawley, has a gorgeous voice that seems to leap from the speakers and grab hold of your heart, or your feet, depending on the song. And she can write the kind of timeless melodies Roy Orbison would be proud of. Jenny Lewis is perfect for a slightly more rollicking gathering.


Key tracks: Pretty Bird, Godspeed, Sing a Song for Them

Gary Louris Vagabonds
– If your tastes run to the mellower side of classic rock (think the Band, the Eagles or even to more contemporary artists like John Mayer), then Gary Louris deserves his own drawer in your CD collection. Part of the 90’s folk-rock revivalists The Jayhawks, Louris has built a career of producing tasteful, heart-tugging, organic music that’s as enchanting to listen to with headphones as it is in the background. Vagabonds, Louris’ first solo record since disbanding the Jayhawks, is a collection of pitch perfect, country rock-tinged mini masterpieces. This is the kind of music that sounds pretty on first listen and downright profound on the tenth. Is there ever a bad time for that?


Key tracks: She Only Calls me on Sundays, True Blue

– John Thibodeau