Posted tagged ‘Christmas’

BALSAM RANGE, “It’s Christmas Time,” Mountain Home. Six tracks

November 6, 2017

There’s no doubt that “It’s Christmas Time” is a Christmas EP — six songs rather than a dozen.

But is it bluegrass?

That’s something the purists and the progressives can debate this holiday season.

Violins, violas, saxophones and cellos are not normally heard on bluegrass albums.

And the Nashville Recording Orchestra doesn’t usually perform on bluegrass CDs.

But if you’re broadminded about your bluegrass, this is a Christmas album you might want to consider.

It opens with Doc Watson‘s “Christmas Lullaby” and closes with an instrumental version of “Jingle Bells.”

“The First Noel,” a Christmas classic that dates back to at least 1823, features the band’s classic three-part harmony.

“Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree,” a 1958 megahit by Brenda Lee, features a saxophone in a nod to the late Boots Randolph.

The Stanley Brothers‘ “I’m Going Home, It’s Christmas Time” is the EP’s only song done in traditional bluegrass style.

“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” which dates back to at least 1739, does include a banjo and mandolin.

The North Carolina-based band is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2017.

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VARIOUS ARTISTS, “Christmas: The Mountain Way,” Rural Rhythm Christian. CD, 15 tracks. DVD 16 tracks

November 19, 2012

Back in June, 11 bluegrass acts performed a live Christmas show, “Christmas: The Mountain Way,” at the Bell Theater in Pineville, Ky.

It was filmed and recorded. And now, just in time for Christmas, Rural Rhythm Christian is releasing it as a combo CD/DVD pack.

Each is just under an hour of mostly spiritual songs. The only secular material is Mike Scott’s instrumental version of “Jingle Bells,” Cumberland River’s “Christmas In The Mountains” and the title cut performed by Dale Ann Bradley and Steve Gulley.

Not all of the sacred songs are what people generally think of as Christmas songs, but they are about Jesus.

That list includes Bradley’s “In The Sweet By and By,” Mike and Brenda Scott’s “Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus,” Audie Blaylock’s “A Voice of Our Savior,” Common Strings’ “Nothing But The Blood,” Don Gulley’s “In The Garden”  and Debbie Gulley’s “Amazing Grace.”

More traditional Christmas material includes Blaylock’s “Joy To The World,” Cumberland River Music Academy’s “Go Tell It On The Mountain,” Marty Raybon’s “Silent Night” and “There’s A Way In The Manger,” Brad Gulley’s “O Holy Night” and Steve Gulley’s “Away In The Manger.”

The concert is also a Gulley family affair. Steve Gulley is joined by his wife, Debbie; son, Brad; and father, Don, on the show.

The DVD includes interviews with the artists and a behind-the-scenes look at the concert.

Good addition to the Christmas holidays.

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DONNA ULISSE, “All The Way To Bethlehem,” Hadley Music Group. 11 tracks.

October 29, 2012

Concept albums, which were somewhat common in country music in the 1960s and 1970s, have never really caught on in bluegrass.

But Donna Ulisse has created what she calls a “dramatic story told in song” with “All The Way To Bethlehem.”

It’s a musical journey of all the elements in the story of the first Christmas, leading to the birth of Jesus.

There’s “I See The Light of the World,” which sets the stage; “Elisabeth,” the cousin of Mary and the mother of John the Baptist; “He’s Not Mine,” the story of Joseph; “You Will Be Delivered,” the angel’s message to Mary; the title cut, a duet with her husband, Rick Stanley, about the journey to Bethlehem; “You Cannot Stay Here,” the innkeeper says he has no room

“Let The World Wait A Little While,” Mary wants time alone with her baby; “He Is Here,” the angels message to the shepherds; “I’m Gonna Shine,” the star’s song; “We’re Coming To Worship Him,” the journey of the Magi; and “Morning in Bethlehem,” when the elements all come together.

Ulisse wrote or co-wrote all 11 songs in the production, which she and her band will be performing at concerts during the Christmas season.

The musical lineup includes Keith Sewell, Andy Leftwich, Victor Krauss, Rob Ickes, Byron House, John Mock, Wendy Buckner Sewell, Ana Sewell and Stanley.

Bluegrass purists may find fault with electric guitars, a concertina and a penny whistle that appear on a couple of tracks. But, for the most part, it’s an acoustic album

And it’s a good way to get in the spirit of Christmas early.

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VARIOUS ARTISTS, “A Skaggs Family Celebration: Volume Two,” Skaggs Family Records. CD 10 tracks, DVD 26 tracks.

November 21, 2011

“A Skaggs Family Christmas” is a two-fer — a Christmas CD and a DVD for one price.

It comes six years after 2005’s “Volume One.”

But it’s worth the wait.

The CD makes good background music during the holidays as well as some good sing-along time in the car. The two-hour DVD makes for a pleasant evening of TV watching around the Christmas tree.

It’s not exactly a bluegrass package. There’s bluegrass on it, but you’ll also hear some country, western swing and even a little classical music with The Nashville Strings.

The CD features 10 tracks — a mix of studio and live recordings — of Christmas songs.

The DVD was shot in Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium last year as the final stop on the the Skaggs Family’s eighth annual Christmas tour.

It features Ricky Skaggs, The Whites (his wife, Sharon, father-in-law, Buck, and sister-in-law, Cheryl), the Skaggs adult children (Molly and Luke) and niece (Rachel Leftwich), Skaggs’ band, Kentucky Thunder, and The Nashville Strings.

The songs include a mixture of secular and sacred carols.

It’s a good package for Skaggs’ fans as well as fans of country Christmases.

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