Soundtrack Of A Photograph, The Christmas Editions, Part 11

Song- The Wonder Song

Artist-Indigo Girls

Along with Bruce Cockburn’s Christmas album which I wrote about in Part 4 of this series, the Indigo Girls 2010 album Holly Happy Days is another strong contender for my favorite Christmas albums. From start to finish it has a great choice of cover songs, some classic Christmas songs, and a few self-penned ones too. Those trademark harmonies that have been at the core of the Indigo Girls sound since their beginnings show no sign of going away. They also came up with some subtle new arrangements on the well known Christmas songs such as O Holy Night which just like with Bruce Cockburn’s album tweak them ever so slightly away from the typical arrangements and sound fresher as a result. I was also endeared to the album because the original songs were all reproduced on Christmas ornaments that come with the CD! The song I chose today  is one of those self-penned songs, written by Amy Ray and called The Wonder Song.

It is one of two songs on the album that has a bluegrass sound to it, replete with fiddle, mandolin and of course banjo. And those harmonies which I am always a sucker for. What I like about it is the running theme throughout-that of a simple gift. One thing I have alluded to in a few of these Christmas blogs at this point is the idea of allowing Christmas to be what you want it to be, and not falling prey to the over-hyped barrage of commercialism. The Wonder Song conveys those ideas nicely. Much like the songs from yesterday’s blog about John Fahey, The Wonder Song has a rural sort of feel to it (which of course explains the bluegrass sound). A stocking sewn from a sack of cloth and hung on a nail, a tree strewn with berries and popped corn from the field, a starlit walk on a path to the river, a tree that gathers people together sets the rustic mood of the song. From when I first heard the song I was struck by the opening line of the stocking. In my family we always opened the stockings first, then went for the presents under the tree. Other people I know did it in reverse. Some families got rid of the stocking altogether while in the not so distant past, for some families the only thing they may have gotten for Christmas was in that stocking. I have fond memories of coming down on Christmas morning with my sisters, and since we did not have a fireplace in our house, the stockings were hung over a big  radiator grill which sat under the stairs. They were held in place by pushpins and I remember mine was red plastic with the white fake lining across the top. I liked that ours did not match, and did not have names on them, though if I remember correctly they were always hung oldest child to youngest (which was me!).  We would wait for Mom and Dad to come down the stairs and after the assistance of some coffee for them start opening the stockings, which usually contained some candy, walnuts and various little trinkets. Though I never got a stocking filled with coal, I believe my parents fiendishly placed a lump of coal in each stocking as a reminder of who was really in control! Stockings all opened we would then move on to the presents under the tree, but I always enjoyed the starting ritual of opening stockings first. When my wife and I started sharing Christmas together several years ago now, we also decided to open the stockings first. We hang them on our bookshelves now, in our crowded little apartment, but the memories of opening them back when we were children remains for both of us.

I think the idea Amy Ray employed in writing the song with the idea “will my love fill it with silver, will my love fill it with gold, or will my love just fill it with wonder” speaks to that notion of a simpler gift. Whether we lead a comfortable life and can give the people we love nice presents this time of year, or whether we are struggling and can barely afford to get the most basic gift, this song is a beautiful reminder of what is truly the greatest gift, however you wish to see it. My parents always instilled that notion into us and I try to keep it in mind in these days of a consumer driven Christmas. For it is not what we get or give this time of year, it is how we get or give these simple gifts that is what is really important.

The Wonder Song-Written By Amy Ray

All photographs by Robert P Doyle All images in this blog are available in limited supply for purchase as unframed prints. Sizes may vary. Contact via for details.

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