Chesapeake Country Sings Christmas
Local flavors to spice up your holiday diet
by Rob Goskowski
Ah, the holidays. With them inevitably comes familiar holiday music and sometimes, it’s just a little too familiar. Mom might love that Bing Crosby Christmas collection, but you sprint for your iPod from the old crooner’s first note.
In the season to make a joyful noise, Bay Weekly went hunting through Chesapeake Country for songs to refresh your collection, maybe reunite the family. We’re even dreaming of coming across a song so right for the mood of the season that we’ll have another White Christmas …
An Annapolis Christmas I & II
These inclusive albums sum up the Annapolis music scene during the holidays. The first is out of print, but performer and album contributor Matt McConville assures us that this favorite Christmas compilation will be available next year. Don’t tell Matt, but there are three copies for sale on www.Amazon.com. Buy one and listen to gems like “Blue Christmas,” by Clones of Funk, the very last recording local guitar virtuoso Mike McHenry did with the band.
The Christmas spirit inspired the album and the efforts that sprang from its release. In 1998 the album’s artists convened for a charitable performance at Ram’s Head to finance it, bringing together a musical community notoriously territorial and paranoid about gig-stealing. A couple of years later, they reconvened to raise money for Mary Byrd Brown, an artist on the album who had fallen ill and was unable to work.
Then McConville got a bright idea: Why wait until something goes wrong to raise money? And so, the Annapolis Musician’s Fund for Musicians Inc. was born to help area performers in need. “It became cool to be one of the good guys,” says McConville.
II will be available at Ram’s Head’s annual An Annapolis Christmas Concert, which features artists from the album and a host of other local performers. The rock-and-roll feel of the newer album makes it a great choice for a Christmas party where formal attire isn’t required or where folks don’t mind getting down in their evening wear. After all, the go-go rhythm in Blue Miracle’s “Silent Night” is meant to make you move.
Find it at: www.amazon.com and at the show:
An Annapolis Christmas Concert: 2 and 7pm (ages 21 and over) Sun. Dec. 16 at Ram’s Head On Stage, West St., Annapolis at 2pm. $30: www.AM-FM.org.
The Jeff Archer Group: Starrlite & Starrbrite Songs
for the Holidays 1 & 2
The JA Group’s Christmas contribution is two children’s albums of original music. Archer’s partner and Bowie toy store owner Joe Salik published a children’s book about twin reindeer, Starrlite & Starrbrite, who give St. Nick a hand with his ever-increasing workload. Archer flipped when he read it and offered to record music to accompany it. Thus was born his first album of Christmas originals.
The duo got such a kick out of recording the album that they combined elements from it and the book to make one project. The lengthy first track of the second album features a reading of the entire book with backing music by the band. More originals follow. Either CD in tandem with Salik’s book Starrlite & Starrbrite, The Reindeer Twins makes an excellent children’s gift.
Find it at www.NALrecords.com, CD Baby and iTunes.
Cindy Bauchspies: Remember the Lamb, a Christmas Concert; Peaceable Kingdom
Music listeners seeking the Christian element of Christmas need look no further than these two albums. Bauchspies, a choral director at Annapolis Area Christian School, has one live and one studio album. Her minimalist approach to performance often with only her voice and husband Todd on guitar is tasteful and engaging, with a little gospel flavor on songs like “Go Tell it on the Mountain” interspersed with Bible readings and other traditional Christmas songs. Her recorded music follows suit, featuring inspirational songs about faith and Christianity.
Find it at: www.Marblehallsmusic.com, iTunes.
Deanna Dove: Merry Christmas Dahling
In her third album of ’07, Deanna Dove releases an upbeat compilation of traditional Christmas songs recorded during her productive time in a Nashville recording studio. Dove gets the reindeer in high gear on a few tracks, using a rock beat behind songs like “Santa Baby” and “Please Come Home for Christmas.” Displaying a little versatility, she jazzes up other tracks and, says the artist, “leaves the corn out of the title track Merry Christmas Dahling.”
Find it at: www.DeannaDove.com
Meg Murray: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Meg Murray is an Annapolis treasure. Her sophisticated yet highly accessible album jazzes up Christmas classics. She’ll make you want to sing along with her on a rousing version of the title track if only you had her impeccable timing. On “Blue Christmas” she’ll sit back in the pocket with the band and let the melancholy lyrics drift out when she’s good and ready. Murray gives the band including several Unified Jazz Ensemble members time to shine on Christmas jazz standards like “My Favorite Things.”
The use of delay, an echoing effect on Murray’s vocals in “Midnight Clear,” makes the song mesmerizing, unlike any other version. If you only purchase one album from this list, Meg Murray’s is it. Warm, spicy and a little intoxicating like a cup of mulled wine, it’s one you’ll look forward to every winter.
Find it at: 49 West, www.megmurray.com, iTunes.
Maggie Sansone; Sounds of the Season, Vols. 1 and 2 (CD and DVD)
Plus, with Sue Richards: Merrily Greet the Time; with Ensemble Galilei: Ancient Noel and A Winter’s Night: Christmas Music in the Great Hall; with Bonnie Rideout: A Scottish Christmas
For listeners with diverse musical tastes, the prolific hammered dulcimer player Maggie Sansone and her numerous collaborators have a host of Christmas albums. Expect World Music, Folk, New Age and Holiday genres to pop up on your iPod as you listen to these albums drawing from Celtic, folk, medieval and Renaissance traditions.
In each album, the music is as enchanting as it is expertly performed; listen on a relaxing evening with a glass of eggnog while reading O. Henry or Dickens. Depending on how many Christmas cookies they’ve had, children may by soothed as you read to them with this music in the background or else inspired to mercilessly demand their holiday sing-along favorites.
The Shady Side resident and her labelmates have received national attention including the New York Times and Washington Post. We’re lucky that she considers the area home.
Find them at: iTunes, www.Maggiesmusic.com.
Them Eastport Oyster Boys: An Oyster Boy Christmas
This album opens with an instrumental, hushed version of Greensleeves that would sound great with the lights down low and chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Them Eastport Oyster Boys’ collective skill as musicians shines on this and other tasteful instrumental tracks, creating a balance with the whimsical lyrics.
Give these consistently creative Boys credit for creating holiday originals. Hearing “Eastport Parade of Lights” is almost as good as bundling up on a chilly night to watch the decorated boats.
“The 12 Dog Days of Christmas” is the Eastporeuricans’ take on the Christmas standard. “On the second day of Christmas my yellow Lab retrieved … two left-hand gloves” only has to stay funny for a month; next year, after an 11-month hiatus, you’ll be ready to chuckle again. There’s no doubt that the little ones will have fun belting out this one.
A spoken-word track about George Washington adds to the album’s variety, in the company of several worthy renditions of holiday standards. This one belongs in the rotation of homes on either side of the Eastport Bridge.
Find it at: Fawcett’s Boat Supplies, www.CDBaby.com, iTunes, www.oysterboys.com for music & show dates.
Unified Jazz Ensemble: Make a Joyful Noise
Never fear, the Unified Jazz Ensemble sled cruises past smooth and schmaltzy jazz to keep it fresh and modern on this album of holiday classics spiced with a smattering of original compositions.
“We had been playing a lot of these songs for years,” says Mike Noonan, Ensemble vibraphone and trombone player. “People at our shows told us we had to put out an album of Christmas music because they went over so well live.”
You may have already heard them this season. Their “O Tannenbaum” is featured in the holiday film This Christmas, currently out in theaters, as part of the movie’s score.
Find it at: 49 West, where they play every Tuesday, or www.unifiedjazz.com for CDs and other show dates.
Chesapeake Country’s hardworking musicians have made it easy to get into the holiday spirit. Online, many can be added to your iPod’s playlist in minutes.