Bing Crosby’s “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” was written in the middle of World War II and found something universal in the aching melancholy experienced by military families for whom being together was not an option. The ending line “If only in my dreams” sums up the feeling and is a frontrunner for one of the saddest couplets in all Christmas music.
Los Angeles-based folk-pop trio Fairground Saints (Mason Van Valin, Elijah Edwards and Megan McAllister) didn’t make things easy for themselves by trying to cover the song and bring out something new — but they succeeded. With a galloping beat, dense harmonies and bright acoustic guitar strums, the group’s rendition makes it sound more like a promise than a wish.
The band agrees with that assessment, offering that “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” with its generally sad message, relates with all people who are away from family during the holidays or any milestone event. “I think when we re-arranged it, it brought out a new aspect of the lyrics we didn’t hear before,” says the trio’s Elijah Edwards, “the more hopeful view. And that resonates with us.”
Fairground Saints’ self-titled debut was released in August 2015 and features harmony-rich songs like “Ain’t Much for Lyin'” and “Turn This Car Around” that find a sweet spot between bluegrass and pop-country. On January 14th, the band will perform at New York’s Rockwood Music Hall.