Saturday, December 30, 2017

Winding Down the Year

It's New Year's Eve Eve, and it's frigid in Kansas City here on 12/30/17.  Right now, 4:29PM, it's 9 degrees.  In Omaha where my middle daughter lives, it's 4, and is supposed to get to -18 on New Year's Day in the early AM.  And then you can add the wind chill into that.  I do love Winter, really.

Friend Ernie in Florida, I'm so glad you got your Air Conditioner fixed :-)

I just wanted to do one final post for the year 2017.  It was a good Christmas here for us Bingles [not our real name ;-) ], and most of us will be together again on New Year's Day, when I will attempt a prime rib roast.  Two years ago, best I've ever eaten.  Last year, messed it up royally.  We also have one more gift exchange, tomorrow night with dear friends from college and since.  It's a 'steal-a-gift' (white elephant, dirty Santa, Yankee Swap, whatever you want to call it) and in our version the gift is indeed something desirable, not a piece-o-crapola from the basement.  Fun times.  The host of the gathering ventured into Christmas Comp-ing for the first time this year, and made a wonderful CD of Christmas music for friends and family.  So, with these events upcoming, the holidays are not over yet, just starting to subside.

I spent this afternoon packing away (most of) my Christmas CDs.  Not really "away" - they are in their 12 tubs right next to my computer desk, where they will stay all year unless I seriously remodel the downstairs room (aka the "Elvis Room" - if you want to know, you must ask).

So, as I wind down, a couple of things to share:

  • I'll be back, I'm sure, with at least a couple dispatches from Planet Comicon, which is in February this year, earlier than ever before.  I am below the, let's say, 60th percentile of nerdery in the population that attends, but I really do enjoy it.  So I'll be posting a few things, supporting the local artists/authors/etc.
  • And, in Christmas music news, I am planning to start a feature here called "Der Bingle's Essentials", highlighting what I think are the absolute best Christmas albums/CDs, and should be part of any Christmas music collection.  Of course, the opinions are strictly my own, your mileage may vary, but I'll be sharing a few thoughts about the ones I think are best.  Some I've had for decades, and some are recent acquisitions.  I hope you enjoy these posts, which will keep the spirit of Christmas flowing at Merry & Bright all year long.
So - with that, I hope your holidays continue to be joyous, and have a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Thanks and Acknowledgements

I'd like to take a few minutes here for some thanks and acknowledgements to the folks that help keep this blog going through their support and kinship in Christmas music.

First, thanks to all the readers who stop by here during the season.  This blog is a hobby, but I try to provide good, informational, and entertaining material for you each season.  I'm especially happy with the artist interviews each year, and grateful for the musicians who agree to spend some time being "interviewed" via e-mail.  I hope you all have enjoyed the interviews, features, and shares this season.

And thanks to:

  • Russ Hitt, Katie Garibaldi, and Cassandra Kubinski for being the interviewed musicians this year
  • Old Sound, Bett Butler, Sophia Talvik, and all the other musicians that sent music my way
  • Kasey Rausch and Scottie Stanton, hosts of River Trade Radio on KKFI 90.1 for letting me come aboard for an hour again this year and play some Christmas tunes on your show.  You really make it easy and fun every time!
  • Christmas music buddy Greg - it's great to hang out with a fellow Christmas music nut a few times each yet
  • Buddy Tom for loaning his records for sharing this year
  • Ernie - for setting a high bar for Christmas music sharity
  • Stubby - take care of yourself, my friend.  So happy to see your late season posts!  Hope you make it back for a full season next year.
  • All the guys/gals at Christmas Underground, Christmas-a-Go-Go, Hip Christmas, and all the other blogs doing such a wonderful job at promoting the best new Christmas music every year
  • Joanna at Christmas TV History - a new friend made this season!
  • Brad - who, for me, was the catalyst that really got this thing started
  • All the folks at MyMerryChristmas
  • Jon Solomon - 25 hours, once again
  • Tim Neely - another great year of your Christmas Song of the Day, which I will of course seek out and find them and get them into a playlist
  • And Matt at 200 Days of Christmas - thanks for letting me be a part of your awesome Facebook group - it's an honor and a pleasure!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Christmas Eve Mass - check.
Christmas Eve dinner and watching "A Christmas Story" - check.
Stocking stusffed - check.
White Christmas - check.  :-)
Guess who was the first one up in our house this morning - yep, none other than Der Bingle.  When the youngest Bingle child is 16, there's not quite the mad rush in the morning anymore.  So it was me, ready for the morning coffee...
(Well, actually it was the oldest Bingle child who was up first, but that was because she had a 6AM shift as a hospital pharmacist...)
All children here, presents opened, merriment and joy by all - check!
Now we're preparing for the 2nd half of the day.

Check back in here through the new year for a couple of wind-down posts, and news about a recurring feature I'm planning to run throughout the year that will keep Merry & Bright from hibernating quite as hard as in years past.

Once again - Merry Christmas!  Happy Hannukah!  Joyous Kwanzaa!  Many festive wishes for you however you choose to spend the holiday season!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Eve in a Season of Change

Here in Kansas City, in the north part of the city where I live, Snow Miser finally visited us early this Christmas Eve morning and left us with about an inch or so of fresh snow, our first snowfall of the year.  It was a welcome site, making for a beautiful Winter's day, and, with temps not expected to top 30 degrees, guaranteeing us a White Christmas for the first time in several years.

So it's with the oft desired wintry backdrop that we enter into a Christmas Eve and Christmas Day of change this year.

We gained a daughter this past Summer, as my son married his long-time sweetheart, on, literally, the hottest day of the year.  The thermometer reached 99 degrees on that July day, but the heat did not damper the celebration.  So we welcome Kristina to her first Christmas as an official, recognized by church and state, part of our family.

We have a bittersweet change this Christmas Eve.  For the past eleven years my mom has lived in Kansas City, and the past several Christmas Eves have been spent with her.  Earlier this year she moved to Tennessee to live with my sister and her husband.  She moved, at age 97, and she recently celebrated her 98th birthday.  She is doing wonderfully, eating well, being more active than in recent years, and enjoying the Tennessee countryside.  While we will miss her this evening, we are very glad that she is happy and healthy as she prepares for her 99th Christmas day tomorrow.

And we have had sad change this year as well.  We lost my dear father-in-law early this year, and while the circumstances were, in some ways, as good as can be possible, it was still a time of great sadness and loss.  Fortunately for our family as we celebrate Christmas, we have many years of great, happy memories that will counter the inevitable sense of missing that everyone will feel.  His wife, four children, their spouses, and twelve grandchildren will celebrate and remember over these next two days.

As I write this, I'm about an hour and a half away from starting the festivities.  Four o'clock mass, followed by, instead of dinner with my Mom, a lighthearted dinner with my lovely wife and children at my son's apartment, where we will, in the apartment complex's "theatre", watch "A Christmas Story" for the hundredth time, east soup, sandwiches, and Chex Mix, have a few holiday beverages, and enjoy the Eve.  Oh, and the children will open their very special presents from their Tennessee-resident Grandma, which will surprise them greatly, I predict.  And then back home for the night, to see if Santa will still visit the children who are here with us at home this holiday.  Even though they are 22, 19, and 16, I suspect he will.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Final Share of the Year: The Bells of Bethlehem

For my final share of the year, I present the three-album set "The Bells of Bethlehem", a Columbia Special Products package featuring "A Christmas Festival of Song from the Holy Land, Europe, and America".

Record 1 in the set is "Christmas in the Holy Land", opening with the Bells of Bethlehem and continuing with a recording of a holy Mass at Christmastime.  Record 2 in the set is "Christmas in Europe", featuring traditional carols from England, Germany, Austria, France, Poland, and Czechoslovakia.  Record 3 moves to America with performances of traditional and American-written carols from such artists as the Philadelphia Brass Ensemble, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Norman Luboff Choir, and the great Mahalia Jackson.

I have kept this share as six distinct sides, without attempting to break down each side into individual tracks.  Sides 1 and 2, the recording of the Mass, are especially more proper as single continuous recordings, so I decided to retain the entire set this way.  For the adventurous and skilled with Audacity, I have a separate link to wav format files, if you would like to break them into single tracks on your own.

Also included in the set is the 6-page booklet that accompanies the records, with information about the collection and about the individual tracks.

Booklet page 2

So, in time for the penultimate evening before Christmas and a day prior to Christmas Eve, here is the three record set of beautiful music "The Bells of Bethlehem".  I hope you find time to enjoy these as the season winds down and we approach Christmas day.

download link

wav file download link

As Local As It Gets: Christmas on Beardsley Rd

Last night on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, in the quite pleasant 30 degree temperature, I stopped and listened to one of the local street musicians that grace the plaza this time of year.  Between songs I chatted with him just a bit, as he had copies of "A Christmas on Beardsley Rd" available for a donation.  The musician, Mark Brown, shared that he had produced this 6-song EP, which features himself and seven other Kansas City buskers, those who play on the plaza, at the River Market, and at other locations around the city.  Liz Lambson, Paul Carter, Steve Burns are the principle musicians along with Mark, and guests include "The Mysterious Piano Maestro".

I do what I can to support local musicians - going to their shows, featuring them on my rare guest DJ appearances on local radio, buying their music (bolded and italicized for your convenience), dropping a couple of bucks in the buskers' buckets, and for what it's worth, giving them a shout out here on Merry & Bright. 

This EP is a super little collection of Christmas songs.  A highlight is Mark Brown's recording of "O Holy Night", recorded live one chilly night on the Country Club Plaza.  You can even hear the sounds of traffic in the background as it passes by on 47th St.

"Christmas on Beardsley Rd" isn't available commercially, so for now you have to be in Kansas City and happen upon Mark (and perhaps some of the other musicians) performing to get one.  KC peeps - donate a few dollars and pick up a copy if you see a musician with them.  Do what you can, large or little, to support local music.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Friday Two-Fer: Rod and Roger

It's the Friday before Christmas and we here at Merry & Bright are heading toward the final shares for the season.  Working in to today's schedule (after "The Last Jedi" this morning and prior to fancy pizza followed by the fancy lights of the Country Club Plaza here in KC) I have a pair of albums to share with you, both on loan from buddy Tom (although only one has the mysterious "W" on the front cover...).

First up is "Rod Kincaid Sings Both Sides of Christmas".  Rod Kincaid, a local Kansas City talent according to the album's back cover, performs songs from the spiritual side of Christmas on Side 1 of the album, with selections such as "O Holy Night", "What Child Is This", and "God of Miracles".  Side 2 showcases the more secular side of the holiday with "Home for the Holidays" and "White Christmas", among others.  Slightly unusual is the mini-medley of "Exodus/Born Free" that is included on Side 2.  Not something you usually hear on a Christmas album, but listen, lift a glass to Elsa the Lioness, and enjoy the bari-tenor talents of Rod Kincaid.

Rod Kincaid download link

Next up is "Christmas Time" by Roger Williams.  I recall Roger Williams being a well-known performer, and was somewhat surprised to not find this available in any of the usual digital formats.  It's a fine selection of music - well-orchestrated instrumental accompaniment to Mr. Williams piano.  The album contains twelve holiday favorites, including "Jingle Bells", "Silent Night", "Santa Claus is Coming to Town", and "The Christmas Song". 

The album contains twelve songs, however the download has only eleven.  Try as I might, I could not get a clean rip, or even a listenable attempt on track 4 - "The First Noel".  So I had to omit it from the share package.

Even one song short, I think you'll enjoy this album by Roger Williams.  It's the type of music to serve as a great background to your at-home Christmas activities - baking cookies, trimming the tree, staring down the elf on the shelf, and so on.

So, please enjoy Roger Williams "Christmas Time"  download link

And thanks one last time to ol' buddy Tom for loaning me some Christmas records this year!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Solstice Share II: Robert Rheims

What better way to celebrate the longest night than with another Christmas music share?  So, that's what I'm-a gonna do.

Waaaaay back in 2010 I shared out "Merry Christmas in Carols" by Robert Rheims.  So, now seven years later I have a companion piece "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" by The Robert Rheims Choraliers. 

Under Mr. Rheims' direction, his Choraliers - Chorale, Chimes, Harp, Organ, Symphonic Carillon - give us twelve tracks of Christmas carols, each track being a mini-medley of two or three songs.  There are a few songs that may be unfamiliar, most notably "The Christmas Chimes Are Pealing", which is paired with "Here We Come A-Caroling", but most are the old familiar tunes that make us nostalgic ans warm.

Musically, the arrangements are quite good and pleasing.  The record transferred pretty well too, so the tracks are clean, with nice depth and audible separation of the vocal parts.

The 2010 album I shared out was in a red album cover and pressed in beautiful red vinyl.  This album by Mr. Rheims has a striking green cover, and the record is pressed in - hey! - what's this? - beautiful red vinyl.  Must have been able to buy red vinyl in bulk back in the day.

And the astute readers of the blog this year will notice the slightly askance "W" crayoned on the front cover, meaning that this is another album from my buddy Tom (courtesy of his Mom).  Thanks Tom!

Please enjoy "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" by The Robert Rheims Caroliers.

download link

Solstice Share: A Musicale

Yes, that's right, a Musicale.  A Holiday Musicale, to be exact, by the Murk Family, spanning not only Christmas but also Easter and Independence Day, with an homage to family and spirituality included along to way.

The Murks are father Jim, mother Donna, and children Beverly (14), Bill (12), Becky (11), Brenda(9), and Barby (7).  The Murk family, through singing and playing, give us a very spirited, happy, and cozy album of holiday songs.  The album sounds like a family sing-and-play along in the living room the Murk home.  There are a few medleys and some classic Christmas carols on side 1 of the album.  Side 2 is mainly devoted to other holidays throughout the year, although Christmas does sneak back in with "Love Came Down at Christmas" and a "Shepherd Medley".

This is a bit of a different kind of Christmas album.  The songs and arrangements are familiar, but the feeling of "family" really comes through.  Sorta feels like you're sitting there with Jim and the fam, sipping an eggnog while they are happily singing their holiday musicale for you and their guests.

There is a wealth of information on the back cover, so I won't repeat it here.  The sharp-eyed reader may notice that the back cover is signed in the upper left corner - cool!

One note:  there are a couple skips that I couldn't get fixed during the ripping process.  So, my apologies, but it's a vinyl-world risk.

Enjoy The Murk Family Holiday Musicale!

download link

Monday, December 18, 2017

Chimes at Christmas Time

What would a Christmas season be without a share of Christmas music featuring chimes?  Hardly a Christmas season at all, mate!  And lest we spoil the anticipation of the annual chimes record by, perish the though, not having one this season, Der Bingle is here to assuage your fears.  For tonight, I have "Chimes at Christmas Time", featuring Lew White at the Organ and the cĂ©libataire nommĂ© Frederico on the Chimes.

There's a lot to like about this album starting with the credited artwork on the cover.  The original painting "Chimes at Christmas Time" by the notable illustrator Tracy Sugarman graces the album cover.  Mr. Sugarman was a Navy veteran who turned his talents to art, illustrating hundreds of books, articles, and albums.  "Chimes at Christmas Time" is one of many Mr. Sugarman's works for The Grand Award Collection of records.

Next is the fact that they led off this album of 18 songs with "Silent Night".  Yeah man!  No waiting for the last song on the album for Lew and Frederico, not like everyone else.  Kick off the show with the classic.  Kind of like if Rush opened a concert with "Tom Sawyer".  You'd dig it. 

Mainly though, I like the music.  The album was very clean, so the rip to digital turned out well.  The eighteen (18!) songs are mainly standards, although there are a few that will be new to many listeners, including "Shepherds Shake Off Your Drowsy Sleep", "God Give Ye Merry Christmastide", and "Beautiful Savior".  There's only so much arranging one can do for the simple combo or organ and chimes, but it is finely done here.  It's enjoyable music for the season, produced by the incomparable Enoch Light. 

The back cover is practically an encyclopedia of information about the album, songs, Mr. Sugarman, recording technical data, and much more.  Just nothing about the mysterious Frederico.  Hmmmm....


download link

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Super Saturday Share: Stradivari Strings


For your listening pleasure this Saturday night, I have "Christmas Strings" by the Stradivari Stings.  "Christmas Strings", on the Spin-o-Rama label from the Parade Record Co, is an album of twelve Christmas favorites from the opener "O Come All Ye Faithful" through the everpresent closer "Silent Night".  If we strung the first words of these twelve classics all together, we would have

O Hark White, God, O Joy, Deck The Good, O We Silent

commas added at my discretion.  Can you name the songs without looking at the track list?  No more clues....

The music on this record is quite good.  Orchestral, emphasis on strings, as you might imagine, and very well arranged and performed.  "White" is exceedingly pleasant.  "God" has the strength of performance that we have come to expect.  "Good" is quite majestic, and an outstanding arrangement of a song that, when done well, is one of my favorites, and when done poorly can be simply plodding.  The Stradivari Stings do it exceptionally well.

As the back cover says "Fine records needn't be expensive", so please enjoy "Christmas Strings", and I hope you enjoyed the little riddle of the songs tonight.  Enjoy!

download link

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Request from Der Bingle: Buy Music!

This is my second post this evening (scroll down just a bit for the first), and it's a bit of an editorial piece (you're forewarned). I want to encourage all my readers to buy music!  Especially during the Christmas season when you're looking for that perfect gift, buy music!  Music is truly and absolutely the gift that keeps on giving, to use a familiar cliche.  Give your friends and family the gift of music, and they can enjoy it for days, weeks, months, and years.  Whenever they play it, they'll think of you!  Yeah, you can give fruitcake, which I know everyone loves, but once it's joyously devoured, it's gone.  Music can last a lifetime.

The Country Duo, Kasey Rausch and Marco Pascolini (photo by Carlo Pascolini)
But the main message here is the "buy" part of buy music.  Whether you're buying for a friend or for yourself, support the musicians that made the music happen.  There are countless outlets for streaming on the internet - free services, fee-based services, sample before you buy venues, subscriptions, and many more.  Many independent and local musicians - local to me, local to you - depend on streaming and download services to get the message of their music out, to get exposure, to let you sample before you buy.  But they depend on sales to earn a living, and to be able to keep on making awesome music.  You like what they do, you gotta buy it so they can keep doing it.

Hot Breakfast!
And you're not just supporting the name on the album.  You're also supporting the session players, backing singers, producers, engineers, songwriters, and everyone else that makes the music happen.  The $10 you spend to buy a CD or the $6 for a legit download goes to a lot of people.  Buy music!

Lorie Jo Bridges
Even when you can "name your price" on Bandcamp or Noisetrade or any of these other great websites where you can hear music from hundreds or perhaps thousands of musicians, leave 'em a tip.  I personally have to get a lot better at that - I'm guilty too, of naming a price of "Free!".  But I'm going to get better at tipping - at least a couple of bucks.  Or, you can go ahead and download it for free and listen, but if you really like it, go back and leave that tip.

Melinda Mullins - The Johnny Mullins Collection
Thanks for listening, er, reading.  The artists that I've met through Merry & Bright, either in person or just via e-mail, have all been wonderful!   They are amazing, dedicated musicians that really deserve the financial support of their fans.  I hope that you can join me in supporting them, not just now during the Christmas season, but all through the year with all kinds of music.  Below are links to some of my favorite musicians' music stores, and many have their music available on Amazon, iTunes, and the other usual music outlets.  Again, thank you, please pardon the editorial in the middle of the holiday season, and please, buy music!

Laurie Cameron
P.S.  Buy merch too!  Nothing like wearing a t-shirt from your favorite band while listening to their music that you bought!

Kelley McRae and Matt Castelein (photo by Brandon Dickerson)

Der Bingle's Favorites

Old Sound
Katie Garibaldi
Russ Hitt
Thisbe Vos
Phoebe Gildea and Noah Brenner
The Country Duo
Lorie Jo Bridges
Victor and Penny
Melinda Mullins
Hot Breakfast!
Laurie Cameron
Kelley McRae

Photo credits noted where available.  Artists, please send photo credits and I'll update the post.

Direct from Germany: "O, du frohliche"

Two posts tonight - this is the first, an album of Christmas music from Germany.

"O, du frohliche" is an undated collection of twelve traditional German Christmas carols.  If you've listened to many German Christmas records, you'll find many of these familiar:  "Kling, Glockchen, klingelingeling" and "Ihr, Kinderlein, kommet" will ring familiar, and of course "O Tannenbaum" and "Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht" are well known to us, regardless of language.

Each side begins and ends with the ringing of the Christmas celebration bells, and the music is very well done.  A robust chorus is accompanied by minimal but essential instrumentation, especially the pipe organ leading in the vocalists on "O Tannenbaum".  And I really dig the powerful organ on the title track.

An interesting thing about the record is that it came in a paper sleeve only, not the usual cardboardy album cover.  The paper is slightly thicker than usual, but still different than the usual album covers.

So, here it is, for your listening pleasure, straight from the traditions of old Germany -  "O, du frohliche".

download link

Monday, December 11, 2017

20 Questions with Cassandra Kubinski

Singer/songwriter Cassandra Kubinski has a rich resume as a musician, entertainer, and actor.  Her music has been featured on the Lifetime television series "Dance Moms" (of which I, with a currently 16 year-old dancer in the house, am way too familiar), "One Life To Live" and "RuPaul's Drag Race".  She has appeared on screen in the series "Spin City" and in the motion picture "Finding Forrester".  Cassandra has shared the stage with such greats as Lady Gaga, Goo Goo Dolls, 10,000 Maniacs, and Dickie Betts.  She has collaborated on a song with Billy Joel.  Pretty impressive stuff.

Even more impressive is Cassandra's commitment to giving, the artistry of music, and leadership and positive influences though such organizations as Women in Music (Cassandra is a board member), and Swish, the gay-straight alliance.  Cassandra has also been very active with Autism Speaks, and 100% of the proceeds from her inspirational anthem "Not So Different" are donated to The Institute for Autism Research.

Wow.  Talented.  Busy.  Inspirational.  Focused.  Good.  Kind.

And, now she has released a Christmas EP!

Cassandra Kubinski's six song EP "Holiday Magic" showcases her talents as a singer/songwriter with three original songs and three interpretations of traditional carols, including an excellent piece combining "I'll Be Home for Christmas" with "Homeward Bound".  Her originals "Christmas Is All About" and "It Doesn't Feel Like December" are upbeat, snappy, and very catchy, while "New Year Comin'" is more contemplative, looking back at the year gone by and looking forward to the hope in the coming year. "Holiday Magic" is available for digital download through iTunes and Google Play, as well as streaming through Spotify (details here).  Even better, through Cassandra's PledgeMusic site you can order CDs of "Holiday Magic" and also many other goodies, even meeting Cassandra for hot chocolate!

Cassandra kindly agreed to a "20 Questions with..." interview with Merry & Bright so that you can get to know her better as an artist, musician, and person.  Please check out the links to Cassandra's website and other information following the interview.  Without further ado, here are 20 Questions with Cassandra Kubinski.


1. Favorite Christmas Song: Charlie Brown Christmas - whole album

2. Fruitcake: Yes or No? No Thanks!

3. Musician Who Inspires You: Billy Joel, Rob Thomas, Sara Bareilles, Jason Mraz

4. Story behind your song “It Doesn’t Feel Like December”: I was out for a walk in December 2007 and kinda in a depressed mood. I think the song was a gift from the universe to cheer me up. It just started playing in my head, and basically wrote itself. I don't remember writing it down... Which is the case with many of my songs!

5. Favorite Family Christmas Tradition: Baking and decorating sugar cookies with mom, opening stockings Christmas morning, going to a movie all together the night of Christmas

6. Musician You Want to Record a Christmas Duet With: Michael Buble

7. Thoughts on the Importance of Giving Back: This is something I've always incorporated into my approach to music. From performing at Relay for Life events, mentoring younger songwriters, and donating portions of sales for marriage equality and animal rescues, to my song "Not So Different", which is a benefit for Autism and has raised tens of thousands of dollars through sales and the version I recorded with the Goo Goo dolls and 10,000 Maniacs

8. One Accomplishment in 2017:
I got married to an incredible, wonderful partner! There's nothing like being on a winning team, and with him, I am.

9. One Goal for 2018: Stay married! Just kidding. One goal would be to share our music more widely by being in regular rotation on radio across the world, especially Sirius XM!

10. Why You Made “Holiday Magic”: I loved all our holiday albums and movies growing up... WHITE CHRISTMAS, FROSTY, RUDOLPH etc and I know how many moments are created with music. I wanted to add new warmth, magic and memories to the mix and freshen up some old classics too!

11. Musician/Band That Everyone Should Listen To: I'm a big fan of my duet partner Matt Cusson... He mixes up pop, R&B, jazz, and works with some serious pop and theater artists too. I recommend his Christmas EP and all his records!

12. One Thing That Makes You Happy: Dark chocolate. And taking a leisurely coffee break for Mrs. London's almond croissants in Saratoga Springs.

13. Best Lady Gaga Story: Before she was super famous, I went out clubbing with her and my friend Esseri, now a radio DJ and personality in Nashville. Stephanie was a bit of a wild child but a lot of fun! I didn't last the whole evening, but there was definitely a lot of dancing on booths in VIP!

14. Favorite Thing about Christmas in New York City:
How all the stores light up! The lights are truly beautiful. I also love the skating rink at Bryant Park.

15. Favorite Food: I love a hearty salad with maybe roasted chicken, kale, butternut squash, cranberries... At this time of year, I crave hearty yet healthy foods that help keep the colds away... Especially even I don't have to cook! I also love a delicious thin crust artisan pizza!

16. Christmas Tree: Real or Artificial? Grew up with an artificial one and still have artificial as an adult.

17. Breads Bakery Chocolate Babka: Just How Scrumptious Is It? Never had it! It sounds like a NYC delicacy though.

18. Story of your song “Not So Different”: My friend has two sons on the Autism spectrum. She asked me to write an anthem for them. I interviewed her and other families with members on the spectrum and wrote the song from first person. It has been used at countless Autism walks, events and fundraisers, and I've been honored to perform it at Barclays Center for the NY Islanders, at Buffalo State university with the Goo Goo Dolls and Mary Ramsey of 10,000 Maniacs, and for Autism groups nationwide.

19. Why is Music Important: Music is healing. It's literally changing the vibration of your cells each time you are exposed to rhythm, melody, harmony. It has tremendous power to heal, inspire, relax, invigorate, spur action and change, and empower us. Those who make music wield that power and I believe we should use it responsibly.

20. Message to Your Fans:
Be kind. Be generous. Especially at the holidays, we have so, so much. It's cliche, but all we give returns to us tenfold.

Cassandra Kubinski website
Cassandra Kubinski PledgeMusic site for "Holiday Magic"

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sunday Share: Bluegrass & Brass

Today's share is one of the best of the season.  It's the 1970 album "Christmas with Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass", which features 10 classic Christmas carols performed with a cheery fusion of brass and banjo, for a very unique and cheerful holiday sound. 

The album opener "Jingle Bell Brass" almost made it on to my annual comp this year.  It's really catchy, lively, and happy.  Mr. Davis' take on "Winter Wonderland" is a little reminiscent of the Mexicali Brass sound, with the addition of very nice breaks to feature banjo and steel guitar.  Overall, the album clocks in at only 23 minutes, but it's a super little unique Christmas record.

When checking the internet for this album, I found on iTunes and Amazon one called "The New Danny Davis & The Nashville Brass Christmas Album", with the same song titles in a different track order.  But in listening to the samples, it seems to indeed be a whole new recording, with a bit of a softer sound.  I haven't found a trace of this one in CD/download format, so I'll share it out, at least for a while.  It's a really excellent album, and I'd love to see it reissued.  Download and enjoy Danny Davis & The Nashville Brass!

|link removed - now available on digital media|

Friday, December 8, 2017

An Old Sound Christmas

Every now and then a new Christmas CD comes around that just makes me smile.  Oh, there are plenty that I like and play often (seriously - just ask my family).  But the ones that really, literally make me smile when I listen to them for the first time, and every time after, are relatively rare.  "An Old Sound Christmas" by the Kansas City band Old Sound, is such a record.

The seven song EP just gushes with energy, love of the music, and fun!  This is one of those records where it sounds like the band had a blast recording the album.  The song arrangements and the quality of the musicians' performances make it a really good album of Christmas songs, but it's the lively spirit that takes it from good to great.

Old Sound is Grady Keller, Chad Brothers, and Greg Herrenbruck.  Their music, as their name "Old Sound" would imply, comes from down home America.  It's folky, rootsy, and bluegrassy.  You can listen to some samples from their album "Rain Follows the Plow" on their website and hear for yourself their energy and passion for this style of music.

With "An Old Sound Christmas", the band brings their style to beloved Christmas songs.  "A Holly Jolly Christmas", "Go Tell It On The Mountain", and revered classic "Jingle Bells" come to life from Old Sound.  A highlight from the EP is their cover of Tom Petty's "Christmas All Over Again".  The band has shared the story that they had learned the song a year or so back, but when we lost Tom Petty just a few months ago, they decided they should include it on the album.  And I'm glad they did - it's excellent.

Old Sound at Winterfest in Kansas City
On the album, Chad, Greg, and Grady are joined by Damon Parker on piano and Mikal Shapiro on background vocals.  (Side note: Mikal Shapiro and Chad Brothers perform together as Shapiro Brothers <-- click the link for more info).

For all you Christmas music lovers outside of Kansas City and the surrounding area, please visit Old Sound's website for more information about "An Old Sound Christmas", including how to order a copy for yourself.

Old Sound at Winterfest in Kansas City
For those of you in or near Kansas City, a very special treat is waiting for you in this late Fall and early Winter 2017.  Old Sound is playing nightly at Worlds of Fun during the park's Winterfest celebration.  Every hour on the hour at the Country Junction stage, you can catch Old Sound playing their Christmas songs.  And, bonus!  They don't just play what's on the EP, nosirree.  For the Winterfest shows, they've added extra songs to their live performance playlist.  Including, believe it or not, I found it hard to believe myself, a really, really GOOD version of "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer"!  This is not Elmo & Patsy, good folks. This is Old Sound - give 'em a listen :-)

Old Sound website
Old Sound music store
Old Sound on Facebook

Old Sound provided a CD to Merry and Bright.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

From the Buddy Tom Collection: Let's All Sing Christmas Carols

For tonight's quick share (quick because I've got like a dozen things all rolling at once, it seems like), is another album that Ol' Buddy Tom dropped by my place on our way to the Wilco concert.  This one is called "Let's All Sing Christmas Carols" from the Palace label, and has the trademark "W" crayoned in on the album cover to let me know that it is from Tom W.

Although the album cover doesn't credit musicians, the label itself does.  It's The Malvin Carolers with Sy Mann at the Wurlitzer.  Sy Mann!  How about that!  Ol' Sy shows up frequently on Christmas music shares across the 'Net.

The album has 12 songs, all standards, nothing surprising in terms of song selection.  Nothing unusual snuck in like some albums from this era seem to do.

Now, the album cover - looks pretty seasonally typical.  Adorable kids, snow.  The one on the left kinda looks like the one kid from "The Sandlot".   So, they're leaning on snowy bricks.  Are the looking down a chimney?  Doesn't seem plausible.  Into a fireplace?  Wouldn't be snow on the fireplace.  Top of whatever they're looking into is rounded.  Drainpipe?  They are pretty astounded - maybe they've found Pennywise's lair?

Ok - it's getting late....

The music on here is pretty good.  It's well performed.  Brother Sy is at the top of his game.  It's enjoyable stuff if you're in a vintage mood.   So, enjoy the album, and sing along with Sy and the Malvin Carolers!

download link

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Saturday Night Share: The McGuire Sisters

Tonight's share is one of the best this season, so I decided to share it out early so you can enjoy it throughout the month of December.  I found "Greetings from the McGuire Sisters" at a Half Price Books warehouse clearance sale this Summer (an enormously overwhelming event, I must say) and was very pleased when I put it on the record player.  It's a wonderful album, and the sisters - Christine, Phyllis, and Dorothy - are quite talented, making for a very nice collection of Christmas songs.

The McGuire Sisters were a popular group through the 50's and 60's, performing with Arthur Godfrey for many years, and hitting the variety show circuit with Perry Como, Dean Martin, Ed Sullivan, Milton Berle, and others.  They have an extensive discography, mainly with Coral Records.  "Greetings from the McGuire Sisters" is on the Coral label, CRL 57225.

There are a few well-known standards on the album, plus several less familiar songs, such as "Give Me Your Heart For Christmas", "Christmas Alphabet" (my personal favorite), "The Cactus Christmas Tree", and the innuendo-y titled "I'd Like To Trim A Tree With You".  This is a really good Christmas album from the golden age, my friends.  So, please download and enjoy!

This album is being released by Real Gone Music in 2018, so the download link has been removed.  Real Gone does top-notch remastering - visit their website and support their efforts.
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