In the face of what has arguably been the most challenging year for them, a handful of Maine musicians have released new holiday songs. I raise a cup of spiked eggnog extra high in their honor because they’ve done this despite having had to endure a year without doing what most of them love best: playing before a live audience. They’ve done this despite having the rug pulled out from beneath them and despite not knowing when they’ll be able to safely take to the stages of Maine’s venues and play before capacity crowds.

Among these five songs, three are new and the other two were written a few years ago but only recently released. Someday, hopefully soon, we all will be together hearing live music. Until then, we can more than muddle through with these terrific tunes.

“Gold Star” is the holiday single by An Overnight Low. Cover art by Ryan Eyestone

‘Gold Star,’ by An Overnight Low

Portland rock band An Overnight Low is Chad Walls on drums and bass and Sam Anderson on guitar and lead vocals. Their holiday single “Gold Star” also features backing harmonies from Chris White. The song is the good kind of infectious, and Walls told me he wrote it a few summers ago while recovering from an emergency appendectomy. “It’s a song about realizing that the ones you care about most can be found in your daily pursuits. If you let go of your ego and resign to the idea that you’re the sum of all the people you know from past experiences, then you can never really be lonely,” he explained. Among the lyrics: “Gold star stamped on a ticket/Gold star for VIP/Gold stars in the space exhibit/Just one on a Christmas Tree.”

‘Christmastime Blues,’ by Jonathan Edwards

Singer-songwriter Jonathan Edwards. Photo by Sandra Edwards

First off, my childhood would not have been complete without Jonathan Edwards’ hit song “Sunshine.” It’s made me happy for decades and always will. It’s entirely thrilling to me that Edwards has called Maine home for many years now.

Edwards wrote the holiday tune “Christmastime Blues” three years ago. It was just released last week. “I’m writing stuff all the time, and recording it if I’m lucky. Unfortunately, my creative mojo rarely extends very far into ‘OK! You wrote it, you sang it, you even recorded it … now what, big guy?'” said Edwards. A press release told the tale of Edwards at the Maine Mall two days before Christmas and how he felt completely overwhelmed with all the products, presents, decisions, shopping bags and blinding lights. Edwards repaired to a mall restaurant and “fortified” himself with a couple of pints of courage against the “flood of imported Chinese goods that make possible our modern shade of capitalism.” Edwards continued his retail excursion while the song wrote itself in his head, and he found himself humming it. The end result is a hilarious foot-stomper, complete with harmonica.

“Chestnuts and sleigh bells, can’t hear myself think. I’ve got the Christmastime blues/Happy birthday, Jesus, I need a drink,” laments Edwards during the highly spirited ditty.

Laurel Jordan. Photo by Dianne Croley

‘Christmas is Here Again (They Say It’s Christmas)’ and ‘It’s a Quiet Christmas,’ by Laurel Jordan

Singer-songwriter Laurel Jordan penned a pair of acoustic holiday songs and both were released on Friday. “Christmas is Here Again (They Say It’s Christmas)” was written last year during a songwriting class while her students were working on their own holiday songs. Jordan had forgotten about it until right after Thanksgiving, when the partially written song fell out of an old notebook, and she decided to finish it. Jordan told me that the bridge and the lyrics “It’s been a long year but Christmas is here” were written recently and were inspired by the pandemic and the relief that we’ve made it to the holidays and have something to look forward to.

Jordan’s other song, “It’s a Quiet Christmas,” was entirely fueled by the pandemic and the impact it’s having on the holidays this year. “I knew I wanted to write a song about Christmas during COVID, and what came to me was that it would be a quiet Christmas this year: no parties, less friends, no hugging, people not being able to see their loved ones,” she explained.

She sings: “Stockings are hung by the chimney with care/But old St. Nick ain’t going nowhere/He’s curled up on the sofa with Mrs. Claus/This holiday season put on pause.”

Dean Ford. Photo by Mia DeGiovanni

‘Wishlist (This Christmas),’ by Dean Ford

Pop singer and songwriter Dean Ford’s entry into the holiday music arena comes with a nifty video featuring live action and stop-motion elements, and the song, released on Dec. 10, has all the trappings of a modern Christmas hit. The video for “Wishlist (This Christmas),” had nearly 10,000 views as of last week, which is impressive for a local act. “Wishlist (This Christmas)” is one part love song and one part dance party with crashing cymbals, horns and what my ear is telling me is sleigh bells.

He sings: “It looks like I’m walking to the work in the snow/All the houses that I pass, decorated in red and green/Seems there’s something more here I’d never seen/And the music I can hear, is brimming full of cheer/But I can’t sing cause it don’t mean a thing/And this Christmas, you’re on my wishlist cause I don’t wanna be alone this year.”

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