Sunday, December 15, 2019

It's Still a Marfy Christmas!

The 2018 Christmas Music season brought us such an unexpected treat with Mrs. Helen Marf's album de musica superba natalizia "Having a Marfy Xmas!!!"   We loved it.  We played it.  We played it loud.  We played it soft.  We soaked in the aural beauty of Mrs. Helen Marf's kettledrum mastery.  And we were left wondering, "Is there more?".  Do the Quilt Records archives, deep within the salt caves of West-central Missouri, contain another Christmas album from the enigmatic Mrs. Helen Marf?

Yes indeed.  Christmas Season 2019 brings us "Still Having a Marfy Xmas!!!"  Through ten tracks of yuletide musical merriment, Mrs. Helen Marf and her band deliver like Santa when he's runnin' late.

And oh that band - they are a veritable cast of Quilt Records All-Stars.  Hempal Goozer III on the Hammond organ.  Ms. Golly Awkward on drums.  Tubular Bells by Hubert Grackfellow.  Maria Losa on sleigh bells, and Trina "The Ghost" Frina on vibraphone.  Larry Trimpleskzyk-Klamph on bongos and congas.

From beginning to end, the mystical beauty of the Hammond organ leading the rhythm section and the tympani driving the melody is transcendent.  Right becomes left, in becomes out, down becomes up.  Left, out, and up, having been displaced, merge together into a nouveau chimera of the senses.  You'll quickly find your new equilibrium and then lie back and bask in the tympani-driven melodies of Marf.

The opening track, "The Holly and the Ivy", is like an explosive sleigh ride through the woods - holly to the right, ivy to the left, horses at full sprint through a snowstorm, galloping toward home.  Giddyap!

"A Marfmallow World", one of my personal favorites on the album, releases the tension from the frenetic sleighride and lets you settle in to the melody made famous by ol' Dino.  Those loyal horses got you home, out of the blizzard, and now you can unwind and be merry.  Cheers!

Promo Video for "Still Having a Marfy Christmas!!!"

"Up on the Housetop" starts with a jazzy little beat from Mrs. Awkward, in the style of the great Angelo Badalamenti, before the entry of a happy little trilly organ accompaniment for Mrs. Marf's jaunty, sprauncy, tympani.  If kettledrums were children full of energy and not able to sleep on Christmas Eve, this would be their joyous noise! 

Throughout the album, Mrs. Helen Marf treats us to classic Christmas carols, from some of the oldest around ("Here We Come A-Wassailing", from the mid-nineteenth century and possibly much older) to 20th/21st century standards ("White Christmas", "I'll Be Home for Christmas", "Holly Jolly Christmas""), with focused abandon on the tympani, driving the melodies, commanding our attention like a spotlit mistletoe hanging at the office Christmas party. 

By the way, Larry Trimpleskzyk-Klamph's bongos on "Here We Come A-Wassailing" are amazing.  As Keanu Reeves would say, "Whoa....".

The real gem of the album is "Dream of Rudolph".  Opening with tubular bells and light percussion, the song quickly becomes a tympani solo masterpiece.   There is a relentless quality to this retelling of the story of Rudolph, an urgency, with a touch of dark edginess.  It's as if Rudolph, in his later years, is recounting the familiar tale, but you can tell he knows what really happened that foggy Christmas Eve... There is no transposition to a minor key needed to give "Dream of Rudolph" an extra dose of intensity.  Mrs. Helen Marf''s dynamics in rhythm and loudness - nearly fortissimo drumrolls countered with piano phrasings - make "Dream of Rudolph" an unforgettable addition to your Christmas music collection.

The album's closer is a carol that goes back to 17th century France, revitalized and re-branded as "Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Mrs. Helen Marf".  As the French say, J'aimerais entendre des bouilloires jouer en mangeant mon escargot.  It is a finale befitting the 10-song musical journey that is "Still Having a Marfy Christmas!!!, closing with a rhythm section fadeout and an extended tympani solo, a solo from the Christmassy soul of Mrs. Helen Marf.

"Still Having a Marfy Christmas!!!" Bandcamp link


Mrs. Helen Marf is known to be inseparable from Kansas City musician Jason Beers, one of the most creative and prolific in the Kansas City area.  Jason released an amazing eleven albums this year, including the Halloween-themed "More Ghoulish Songs for Cretins", "East Virginia Banjo Tunes",  "Blood City III: The Return of Billy Stagger", and "Tales from the Blue Glider" featuring Mrs. Helen Marf and local poet C Woods.  A personal favorite of mine from Mr. Beers is "Sasquatch Jazz" from 2018.  And I'm privileged to own a limited edition of "Banjo Music from Schrodinger County", which may or may not (or, actually, does and does not) contain actual music (the CD case is super-glued shut, so I may never know).  For a healthy dose of musical entertainment, visit Jason's Bandcamp site.

While you're there, check out his newest release for the season, "Winter".

Jason Beers Bandcamp page

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