By Bob Deakin
This Christmas is the only time I’ve ever written a review of one song. It’s been a few years since Wes Lachot wrote and recorded ‘Christmas Is the Only Time,’ which appeared on Christmas Time Again, an assorted mix of tunes by a collection of singers and bands from the southeastern U.S., but it’s new to me and will be for a long time.
I loved the melody immediately. It doesn’t sound like a Christmas song as it does a mellow rock song with Roger McGuinn on 12-string Rickenbacker and The Byrds on backing vocals. I thought of the Dan Fogelberg song ‘Same Old Lang Syne’ because it expresses a melancholy sentiment lodged within a Holiday theme.
Lachot, a multi-instrumentalist/singer/songwriter, now spends his time as a recording studio designer and builder but was an engineer and producer for years. Steeped into the sounds and musicians of his corner of the country, he came into circles of players such as Mitch Easter, Peter Holsapple, Don Dixon (each connected with R.E.M. at some point), and others, including Chris Stamey, who produced ‘Christmas Is the Only Time.’
After listening to the song for a few weeks and not finding any information about this Wes Lachot guy, I decided to find out for myself. I could only find a website for a studio design business but figured how many guys could be named Wes Lachot, so I took a shot.
I emailed and arranged a phone call and immediately discovered a kindred spirit. Laidback and generous with his time and info, he rattled off an answer to every question I had and then some. As I do with any interview, once I have all my things together, I call back and check facts, and I had a hard time hanging up the phone as I could have chatted for hours about the music scene in the southeast.
“He’s a great producer,” Lachot said of Chris Stamey from his new home in North Carolina. “I think at one point I credited both Chris and myself as the artists because he had so much input, but on the record, he gave credit to me.”
The song was recorded in 1995 but released for the first time in late 2006. Lachot wrote the song as a sarcastic tribute to his ex-wife shortly after their separation.
I’ll never know for sure if we were ever meant to be, I don’t know if I miss you or I miss the memory
Those are a couple of the lyrics, sung over a warm, lush arrangement in a gentle, loving voice: hence my confusion.
I discovered the song because I knew “Christmas Time” by Chris Stamey from the album Christmas Time Again by The dB’s & Friends, which has had multiple versions over the years. Lachot’s song was on one of them.
I was relaxing in December, listening to my newfound treasure of a Christmas song, when my girlfriend made the following comment: “That’s not a nice thing he’s saying about this girl, is it? That’s the only time he thinks of her?”
I hadn’t noticed the sentiment because I was so taken with the melody, but she posed a great question. That’s when I decided to find out for myself.
“I had recently split with my first wife, and the song is a nostalgic look back at my life with a woman I met in high school and loved for 17 years,” Lachot explained. “I guess that’s why the opening melody sounds so mournful.”
Sad story, I thought to myself, but it must have been therapeutic to put those words and chords down on paper to memorialize the relationship. I’m still struck by how sweet the song is, considering how sad the sentiment is. He explained the story making light of it, so I wasn’t pressing him with a tough interview.
Lachot sings lead and backing vocals and plays acoustic guitar and Rickenbacker electric on the track. He is joined by Stamey on the same instruments and vocals, John Howie on drums, Mitch Easter on bass, and Brent Lambert on nylon string guitar. An accomplished group, although they were never a group.
Easter has a host of credits in addition to producing REM’s Murmur. Howie sings lead for alt-country band ‘Two Dollar Pistols,’ and Lambert is a mastering engineer.
“Chris Stamey produced the song, and I give a lot of credit to him,” Lachot said of his friend of many years. “I originally had the second bridge, where it slows down, at the end of the song. He made the change, though, [to put it earlier], and that’s how it ended up. Sometimes, when you hear criticism like that, you say Hmm, but it worked, and that’s what makes him such a great producer.”
Stamey was the founder and lead singer of the dB’s, known for their ringing electric guitars and country sensibility.
The dB’s ‘Christmas Time’ is the staple song of the Christmas Time Again album. The song gained some fame after its initial release in 1986 and has gained growing popularity ever since as a fixture on online Holiday mixes, retail stores, and other locations. At first listen, the song is recognizable with high energy, innocent lyrics, clever melody, jangling guitars, and Beatles-like harmonies.
The Christmas Time Again album is available on Amazon and other major retailers and downloads at select sites. Lachot has never released a song or an album as a solo artist but knows what it's like to have fans and admirers.
“From time to time, people find me on the phone, or they email me telling me how much they like the song,” he said. “Peter Holsapple told me it’s his favorite Christmas song.”
Lachot is busy with his studio design business but doesn’t stray too far away from the recording business and continues to play for fun.
He’s a graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston and is primarily a keyboardist and a sought-after player of the Hammond B-3 organ. He has also played countless sessions on guitar, bass, vocals, and whatever other instruments you can find in a recording studio.
“I haven’t let go of the music,” he said, despite the demands for more than a handful of new studios each year from Wes Lachot Design. “I never seem to forget it, and it’s a little more fun for me ever since I got back into it.”
As for Lachot’s ‘Christmas Is the Only Time,’ I can only hope it gets more exposure somewhere. Those who haven’t heard the song are missing something special. Many people like myself look for new Christmas gems each year, and this time I found one. I hope you do too.