Pocket Full of Mumbles returns to Portland’s Allagash Brewery on Saturday night, Dec. 21, and fear not — the boys will come prepared to celebrate the season.
Oh sure, starting at 5 p.m., patrons can expect only the finest collection of Simon & Garfunkel homage (including a new medley of tunes from the Sound of Silence LP), not to mention several originals and selections from Jackson Browne, alt-country darlings Son Volt, Tom Petty, Neil Young and Stephen Stills.
But Pocket Full of Mumbles will show up on Riverside — four days before Christmas — withan eclectic set of Christmas songs in tow, some of them requiring no instrumentation whatsoever. These a cappella selections include:
- While Shepherds Watched their Flocks, a venerable English hymn (dating to the 16thcentury) that describes the “Annunciation to the Shepherds” who, having watched the angels gatheron high (and the wise men roll in from the East), rightly wondered what exactly was going down in their sleepy little town (of Bethlehem). Some folks may recognize this song but even they may not realize just how popular this carol used to be. In fact, it was the only Christmas-specific hymn authorized to be sung by the Anglican Church prior to 1700, along with the Psalms of David.
- Away in a Manger, another standby (but not quite so old) that boasts a curiously international backstory. Legend routinely ascribed the lyrics to Protestant reformer Martin Luther; many went so far as to call it “Luther’s Cradle Song” or “Luther’s Cradle Hymn”, arguing that its English lyrics had been translated from Luther’s German. It is in fact wholly American in origin, the work of two late 19th century hymnsmiths, William Kirkpatrick and James Ramsey Murray. For whatever reason, it remains extraordinarily popular in England, where a 1996 Gallup poll ranked it joint second among all Christmas carols.
- Comfort and Joy, Simon & Garfunkel’s spare but compelling take on God Rest Ye Merry Gentlementhat appeared on the 1997 anthology, Old Friends. It was recorded in 1967.
Mike and Hal are keeping their options open prior to the Allagash gig; there may well be more seasonal additions to the set list.
But one thing’s for certain: On Dec. 21, the duo will perform Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me, a tune written by Aaron Schroeder and Claude Demetrius but made famous by the one and only Elvis Presley. This song first appeared in 1957, as part of an RCA Victor 45 EP, Elvis’ Christmas Album, along with Santa Claus is Back in Town, Blue Christmas, and I’ll Be Home for Christmas. Not surprisingly, the album would eventually reach#1 on the Billboard EP chart.