With his signature beard and enthusiastic hippie warmth, Jim James seems like a far more likely holiday crooner than Scott Weiland. But now you can make the call yourself: Does the Stone Temple Pilots frontman's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year spread more cheer than My Morning Jacket's holiday-themed iTunes Session EP? As Hidden Track points out, you can download one track for free right now from the MMJ disc and start comparing.
The mournful, country-tinged ballad "When the Bells Start Ringin'" is a cover of a tune by longtime Neil Young guitar tech Rocky Roberts, originally released on 2007's Rocky Roberts & Friends. My Morning Jacket's rendition is sweetly nostalgic, featuring honky-tonk piano, waltzing acoustic guitar, weeping steel guitar, and of course, James' reverb-soaked croon, amid a gently swelling chorus that recalls Will Oldham's gorgeous "New Partner." Seattle folk-poppers the Head and the Heart get into the spirit on guest vocals.
The Tunes Sessions EP is available for purchase starting today. Reportedly recorded in Amsterdam last month, the effort also finds these Kentucky rockers covering familiar holiday standbys "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "I'll Be Home for Christmas," and "Please Come Home for Christmas." There's also what appears to be a new song, titled "Welcome Home," plus a version of "Wonderful (The Way I Feel)," from this year's resurgent Circuital.
James, a vocal supporter of indie retailers, isn't forgetting about the little guys. Next week, My Morning Jacket will also release a limited-edition 7" single, which will be available only in independent record stores. The record includes rejected The Muppets movie track "Friends Again" on the A-side and an "alternate universe take" of Circuital's "Outta My System" on the B-side.