Christmas with a Z: Zara Bode KO's COVID with a Holiday Special All Her Own

Snowmen! Puppies! Disco Balls! And tunes, lots of tunes. If you only watch one holiday-y thing this year, let it be this.

I first heard the voice of Zara Bode when she and her band, The Sweetback Sisters, opened for Loretta Lynn during her 2011 tour. At that time, The Sweetback Sisters were a Brooklyn-based swing & honky-tonk phenom with a loyal fanbase, but it was their annual Sweetback Sisters' Country Christmas Singalong Spectacular Tour that drew the sort of following to which  televangelists and cult leaders aspire; every show routinely sold out fast, undoubtedly to the same ticket holders who attended the year before. You could take  your seat, look around the audience, and see all the same faces. It was like our annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

Because Covid put the kibosh on live performance, much less a tour, it looked very much like the Spectacular was a no-go until Bode made her pivot. Instead of what would have been their 12th year of the holiday show, she created a "tribute" broadcast, Zara Bode's Hunkered Down Holiday Special. Hosted from the living room of her epic, three-story Victorian, Bode leads us through a jam-packed, two-hour (it doesn't feel that long) holiday meander through solos, duos, special guests, and band vids, with plenty of the unexpected and some of the positively post-modern.

And there's the voice. Although her (non-biological) "sister" Emily Miller—the other half of  Sweetback's spine-tingling harmonies—makes appearances too, the broadcast allows for some stylistic departures for Bode, and her solos are some of the real scene-stealers. Chief among them, her cover of the arcane and rarely-heard, "After the Holidays," which probably hasn't been performed in a live broadcast since an unwell Judy Garland sang it from a chair, too frail to stand, on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show in December of 1968.

Zara Bode's Hunkered Down Holiday Special rebroadcasts today at 3:00 EST today, here. A potential rebroadcast is tentatively scheduled for Christmas Eve. Double-dipping encouraged.