With Christmas almost here much of what I’ve been doing musically is related to the season. For the last month I’ve been playing lots of my own instrumental arrangements of Christmas tunes at my regular Saturday morning gig at The Daily Brew Café in nearby Cataumet. There are basically two types of Christmas songs: religious type melodies (Oh, Holy Night; Good Christian Men Rejoice; Angels We Have Heard on High, etc.) and more lightweight fare (Walking in a Winter Wonderland, Jingle Bells, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, etc.). What I’ve found very interesting is that most people tend to prefer one or the other. I’ve thought about this and my conclusion is that those who had a fairly church-oriented childhood are attracted to the religious ones and people for whom Christmas was not primarily a religious event (as it was for me) like the other stuff better. This is all well and good. The fact is, all Christmas music that is primarily vocal (versus classical music such as selections from The Nutcracker) is very tuneful and people love to sing or just hum along. As I’ve said in this space many times, I think EVERYONE should sing, no matter how much they believe they are not so good at it. Singing just makes you feel better and the joyful and positive nature of Christmas songs reinforces those feelings even more.
Now, from a musician’s standpoint, those songs can be a bit daunting, not because they are hard to play in most cases but because they are all so well-known. That is, if I screw up the melody to a little ditty like Let it Snow, Let it Snow, everyone in the room knows it – even those who may not be actively listening! I know I should begin practicing them again in, like, September, but who the heck wants to play Christmas songs in September?! So those first couple Saturdays at the Brew always seem to feature some rather, shall we say, creative interpretations of the Christmas classics! The irony is that I have them down pretty well at this point, but I’ll only get to play them once more (tomorrow) and then back in the mental music vault they will go. I swear I’ll start practicing them in the fall, next year. Yeah, right.
Anyway, they’re fun to play and people seem to enjoy them so I guess I’ve done what I set out to do.
On to another subject. I happened upon a really great country musician recently by the name of Jamey Johnson. He was highly recommended in a year-end retrospective on music in the Boston Globe and I bought his latest album after hearing just one song. Here is a guy who is a throw-back. His love of real country music is obvious and I think his style is timeless. If you are dismayed as I am at the current state of commercial country music, check him out: www.jameyjohnson.com
I was saddened to learn that one of my favorite Americana-style groups, the duo The Civil Wars have officially decided to call it quits after their rapid rise in popularity in the last year or so. They performed their song “Barton Hollow” on the Grammy award show last Spring and they were fabulous. It is rare to hear a man and woman’s voices blend and compliment each other so perfectly. Their Facebook page says: “We sincerely apologize for the canceling of all of our tour dates. It is something we deeply regret. However, due to internal discord (SP) and irreconcilable differences of ambition we are unable to continue as a touring entity at this time. We thank each and every one of you for your amazing love & support. Our sincere hope is to have new music for you in 2013.
- Joy Williams & John Paul White.”
Most fans I think assumed they were romantically involved but Joy is married to the bands’ manager Nate Yetton. She and her husband had a baby boy last summer. Whether the rumors are true, or if Joy just wanted to spend more time with her baby, only the parties involved know. All I know is that I hope they do get back together and produce more great music. The pressure of fame. That is a sad, old, familiar story.
Well, I think I’ll change my strings and get ready for the Brew tomorrow. And oh yeah – looks like we’re OK – the world didn’t end today. IN YOUR FACE, MAYANS!
Peace & good music,