“Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” just got one-upped in the holiday bummer department. When Corb Lund, a Canadian with a dusty Cormac McCarthy soul, sat down to write a tune for his label New West’s Christmas compilation, An Americana Christmas, he didn’t go for mistletoe and cheer. Instead, he penned “Just Me and These Ponies (for Christmas this Year),” a solemn ode to the darker side of December — to loneliness, absent families and those who tip a little too much spike in their eggnog. And the video, premiering here exclusively, reflects just that.
“The literal narrative of the story is kind of an amalgam of a few people I know, people who lead lonely lives,” Lund tells Rolling Stone Country. “Christmas tends to be an extra sad time for them. My personal pick for the low point of the song mood-wise (high point art-wise) is when the old guy has gone to the trouble of buying and wrapping gifts for his loved ones, just on the slightest chance they might show up, but knowing they are almost certainly not. The theme of being old and alone resonates with me personally too, as I’ve spent 110% of my adult life building a career, not a family.”
In other words, as Lund would say, “Christmas isn’t a party for everybody.” And in this song, it most certainly is not — Lund tells of a desolate horseman, “80 years old and spending Christmas alone” while his grandchildren run the waves in Maui and his kids don’t bother to call. But the video looks one step deeper, towards the sometimes desolate path of the performer, who turns on the charm and twinkling lights to make others’ holiday season filled with carols, but ends up solo in a dreary hallway when the cameras shut down. No presents, no pretty paper, just the weight of a guitar case on his arm.
Lund and his labelmate, Nikki Lane both crafted original tunes for the An Americana Christmas compilation, which also features Robert Ellis, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, John Prine, Dwight Yoakam, Emmylou Harris, the Band and more doing classic holiday odes (lest anyone forget what Dylan sounds like when he sings “ho ho ho.” Which, of course, is awesome). And Lane’s “FalalalaLove Ya” is an old-school burner that could be a tipsy confessional underneath a Christmas tree in the corner of a Seventies Nashville abode (leather fringe instead of tinsel, naturally). Either way, it’s a bold and difficult move to try and create a new holiday anthem.
“At first I wasn’t very optimistic about coming up with a Christmas song, because 90% of what makes a holiday song work is the fact that it’s already familiar to people,” Lund says. “It seems like Christmas songs have to stick around a few decades before they resonate properly and actually make us feel nostalgic. All you can do is put in sleigh bells and use the word ‘Christmas’ a lot and hope for the best.”