Friday, December 30, 2022

2022: That's a wrap!

It's time to wind down another Christmas season here at Merry & Bright.  It felt like a good year - some pretty good shares, a great interview with Laurie Berkner, a fun Q&A with Jessy J, some awesome new music to feature, and a lot of new songs to round up and get the word out about.  

Christmas here in Kansas City was a White Christmas.  Although we didn't get fluffy, new Christmas Eve snow, the ground was still covered with the snow from the preceding Thursday, as we went into a major deep freeze following the snow, so there was no melting.  It's tough to melt with a high of -2.  As my son put it, it was a perfect white Christmas - snow on the ground but the road were clear.

Kansas City White Christmas 2022, 7:00AM

Christmas Day in our household brought all five of our children, their spouses/significant others, and the new granddaughter.  For gift exchange, with a couple exceptions, we always open one gift at a time, so that everyone can enjoy what everyone else is opening.  (Having done the crazed giftageddon of simultaneous opening before, I never want to do it again).  So, gift opening took a solid two hours, after which we had over-proofed dinner rolls and ham a bit on the dry side, but dinner was till awesome.  

One of the exceptions to the one-gift-at-a-time process is the opening of the Beverage Santa gifts.  A few years ago Beverage Santa began leaving a beverage for each child under the vintage aluminum tree.  These are distributed and opened all at once.  This year, Beverage Krampus also made a stop and left each child and spouse/SO a wrapped can of Fruitquake Mountain Dew (fruitcake flavored soda).  

One of our many Christmas trees

So, after snacks, gifts, dinner, dessert, and beverages, it was a wonderful and joyous Christmas!

As I wrap things up here, I'll make one final shout out to some of the amazing independent artists that sent me their music this year.  Please seek out these musicians via their internet presences and support them however you can - buy their music, add their songs to your streaming playlists, spread the word about them to your like-minded friends.  So here's to Cristina F, Carol Crittenden, Mackenna Swann, Jason Beers, Lee Langdon, Ren Geisick, Sofia Talvik, Jessy J, and Laurie Berkner.

I'll be back next season, and have a couple ideas brewing already.  Hope to see you all here too!  Have a prosperous 2023!

Aaron Henton (Der Bingle)

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone!  

I didn't get to my usual Christmas Eve post this year, because of changes to our usual Christmas Eve/Day schedule.  The Bingle children are all adults, and we have a new Bingle granddaughter this year, so we are happily adapting to new traditions.  We started with a Christmas Eve brunch at our son's place, came back home to watch some NFL football, went to Christmas Eve Mass, picked up Chinese food on the way home, and hung out with the oldest Bingle child and her husband (I guess she would be nee Bingle, to be all society and whatnot), the youngest Bingle, and the dogs.  Had some Glogg (delicious!), hung out, watched A Christmas Story.

Christmas Day saw me up at 6:30, because I love 7:00AM on Christmas Morning.  Tended to the dogs, tended to some stockings, and settled in with coffee and, later, mimosas with breakfast.  Later this afternoon all of the children will be here for gifts and Christmas dinner.  A wonderful day it will be.

I posted on my Facebook today what has become my favorite line from a Christmas song:  "The secret of Christmas is not what you do at Christmastime, but the Christmas things you do all year through".  I truly believe that, and hope the sentiment reaches each of you in your own way.

Many thanks to all of my Christmas music brethren - you're an amazing community to be a part of.  Thanks Ernie, Greg, Rob, Brad, Martin, Joanna, Jason, Tim, Mitchell and everyone else who contributes to the joy we get from sharing joy through music.

And thanks to everyone who stopped in and read a story, heard some new music, learned about a new artist, and downloaded some old music.  It's much appreciated.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Fox and Goodman: A Double Share

Today I have a double-share for you to wind up sharing season here at Merry & Bright.  I'll be back with at least a couple more posts to wrap up 2022, but this is the grand finale for shares.

First up, "A Virgil Fox Christmas" 14 Carols for Organ and Chimes.  But, best of all (as the cover art reveals) there are Sing Along Lyrics, and instructions for the at-home carolers anticipating a joyous, rousing evening of caroling by the stereo!  Here in the 21st century, with the downloaded music and the ability to bring up the back cover image on your preferred mobile device, no longer must you be shackled to the room with the phonograph.  You can have Virgil Fox's organ and chimes accompany you throughout your neighborhood, caroling from door to door!

The back of the album has Instructions for Carolers (watch out for the modulations between verses!), and also a directive on which carols You Don't Sing.  Don't be caught singing these four (but, who can resist singing Silent Night?), lest the spirit of Virgil Fox (1912-1980) come a-calling.  Sing those four at your own peril.

Fortunately, the approved sing-along carols are the beloved, familiar songs we all know and love, so most of you won't need the words.

Please enjoy singing along to "A Virgil Fox Christmas"

<download link>

The second share is "1000 Strings at Christmas" by Al Goodman and his Orchestra.  "1000 Strings..." has eleven popular carols, a magnificent retro (well, it wasn't retro back in the day) cover, and a place on the back cover to write your name, if you were giving this album as a Christmas present.  Too bad folks!  I know what Mrs. Der Bingle is getting for Christmas now!  :-)  

The music on this record is quite well done and very enjoyable.  Most Christmas music collectors span many genres of the music, but many (born no later than the first half of the '70s) drift back toward the classic sounds of their youth, at least at some point each season.  These were the sounds of Christmas we grew up with, and Al Goodman's "1000 Strings at Christmas" is a perfect fix for our nostalgia cravings.

Enjoy Al Goodman's "1000 Strings at Christmas"

<download link>

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Living Voices "Holiday Get-together"

Today's share answers the pressing questions "Is 'Get-together' one word, two words, or hyphenated, and is 'together' capitalized?   Now we know...

"Holiday Get-together', a 1974 album by the Living Voices, is another fine entry in the "Living _______" series.  The music is delightful, splendidly produced, and performed with gusto.  Much like the Living Trio from earlier this season, it is what an experienced Christmas music collector would expect.

There are 10 tracks on the record, 8 of them medleys.  The medleys are labeled 'Medley 1', 'Medley 2', etc in the download files. The two solo songs are "Do You Hear What I Hear" and "Out of the East", a less familiar carol.

Not much else to say, except I think you'll enjoy "Holiday Get-together" by the Living Voices.

<download link>

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

20 Questions with Jessy J!

Jessy J, California sax player extraordinaire, released one of the top new Christmas albums this season, California Christmas 2.  The contemporary and Latin jazz musician has emerged as one of the top musicians in SoCal.  Jessy released "Blue" earlier this in 2022, an 8-song album of original compositions, prior to California Christmas 2, with it's 9 traditional songs, reimagined as soulful Cali-jazz tunes.  Jessy is also a member of Ray Chew's house band for Dancing with the Stars.  

This isn't Jessy's first venture into the world of Christmas music.  She released California Christmas in 2016, and was a featured performer on Merry & Bright favorite Rehya Stevens' song Fly Past My Roof on Rehya's album Celebrate.

Jessy has been very busy this season, performing gigs across the county and playing selections from California Christmas 2.  Between shows, Jessy found time for a 20 Questions feature for Merry & Bright, a fun little exercise in rapid-fire Q&A, so you can learn a little bit more about Jessy!

Visit Jessy J's website

California Christmas Vol. 2

20 Questions with Jessy J

1. Favorite Christmas Song
Feliz Navidad

2. Favorite SoCal Christmas Activity
Going to the Beach

3. Best Celebrity Dance Competition
Dancing with the Stars

4. Fruitcake? Yes or No

5. Musician Who Inspires You
John Coltrane

6. Favorite Holiday Sweet Treat

7. Number of Instruments You Play
More than 10

8. Surprising Fact About Yourself
Born in Oregon

9. How often are you confused with Jessie J?
Not that much anymore

10. Your level of Christmas decorating – None, Light, Moderate, OMG It’s Blinding!

11. Artist you would most like to meet

12. Favorite Family Christmas Tradition
Singing Carols

13. Dogs, cats, or other?

14. Career recognition dream – Grammy, Oscar, EGOT?

15. Favorite Christmas Recording Artist
Bing Crosby

16. Favorite food

17. Favorite charitable organization or cause you support
LA Mission  (Editor's note:  Click here to visit and support the LA Mission)

18. Best concert ever that you attended
Tom Petty

19. Would you like to say a few words to your fans?
MERRY CHRISTMAS and Happy Holidays!

20. “A California Christmas 3” in the future?
That's a possibility….:)

Monday, December 19, 2022

"Merry Christmas from Blood City, USA" - Christmas Noir by Jason Beers

"Merry Christmas from Blood City, USA" is the latest album  from Kansas City musician Jason Beers.  Much like the "NOW That's What I Call Music!" series-in-perpetuity, it's another year, another Christmas, and another Christmas album from Jason Beers.

From the mind what gave us "Garth Dohlie's Christmas Party", "Music for Seasonal Affective Disorder", "Having a Marfy Christmas" (Mrs. Helen Marf, tympani virtuoso) and "Still Having a Marfy Christmas" (Mrs. Helen Marf again) comes the 4th soundtrack for the Blood City, USA movie series.

Yes Virginia, there is such as thing as Christmas Music Noir, or perhaps Christmas-electronica-noir, because here it is, in all its glory.  And smack me upside the head with a dadgum mistletoe, this music works!  I've heard Jason say about a million times "the bongos really tie this whole thing together." Well, this time it's not bongos (bongoes? bong-gos?) it's sleigh bells.  "Sheila Undercover" is as noir as you can get, and there are sleighbells for rhythm throughout the whole song.  And it's perfect!  It's Mike Hammer skulking down a dark alley wearing a Santa Hat.

"Merry Christmas From Blood City" opens the album with a familiar Christmas melody, accentuated and enhanced with electronic moods.  Party on!

"Slay Ride" - I swear the Spirit of Mort Garson Past invaded the soul of Jason Beers for this one, composed and performed a masterpiece of electronic music, and added sleigh bells.  So many sleigh bells.  But they really tie the whole thing together.

"Billy Stagger and the Sex Elf" - well, this is a family blog...

"Snowball Fight" - the intensity builds.  With sleigh bells.  It's like Quarry lining up his hit while wearing an elf costume.

"Ho Ho Ho" - there's a lotta ways to interpret that title in the context of "Blood City USA".  Remember that time in another song when Santa Lost a Ho, and all he said was 'Ho Ho'.  I digress.  "Ho Ho Ho" is groove-funk, with a sleigh bell/drum break.  Remember the Zeppelin Christmas tour of '71 when Bonham did "Moby Dick" entirely with sleigh bells and a slide whistle?   Oops - digressed again.  "Ho Ho Ho" is danged cool.

The album wraps up with "Blood City Christmas Party".   Listening to this, you can just imagine Nero Wolfe sittin' on his XXXL keister knockin' down a gallon of eggnog.

To all my Christmas mixtape buddies out there, who are always looking for something different:  You want different for your 2023 mix?  Add "Slay Ride" - I dare you.  It has sleigh bells, therefore, it IS a Christmas song.

"Merry Christmas from Blood City USA" Liner Notes 

Here is the 4th soundtrack for the Blood City, USA movie series - action movies following the adventures of Billy Stagger in Blood City. Merry Christmas From Blood City was, admittedly, a cheap money-grab movie for the holidays. There was no theatrical release as it went to straight to video, exclusively in Jumbo Video stores in Canada. Infamous for the X rating it received due to graphic sexual penetration scenes and intense violence during the climax of the movie, Merry Christmas From Blood City, USA was banned in the United States and much of the rest of the world until 2022, 35 years after its release. And yes, this is the movie that launched the internet meme of "Come hither, Sex Elf, and witness the demise of my enemies!!!!" If you can find this movie, I recommend NOT watching it with the family on Christmas Day.

Der Bingle's recommendations from the Jason Beers catalog:
Crumbling Towers
How to Open a Portal to Hell
The Clyle Davenport Efron's Flight Series
The Blood City USA Series
Sasquatch Jazz
actually, I recommend everything....

R.I.P. Wild Larry

Hallmark, Belafonte, & Warnes

Tonight's share is "The Traditions of Christmas", a Hallmark Cards album released in 1991, their seventh Christmas record.  Seems like vinyl was nearing its hiatus about that time, so this must have been one of the last vinyl Christmas records produced by Hallmark.  

They made some very good records - top musicians, excellent production - and this one is no exception.  "The Traditions of Christmas" features Harry Belafonte and Jennifer Warnes, with the American Boychoir and the London Symphony Orchestra.

What would a Harry Belafonte Christmas album be without "Mary's Boy Child"?  Fortunately, we don't have to find out, as his trademark Christmas song leads off the album, a new recording done for this record.  Mr. Belafonte sings four other carols, including "The First Noel" and "The Baby Boy".

Jennifer Warnes is also in exquisite voice for this record.  She begins with with "O Little Town of Bethlehem", and adds "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "I'll Be Home For Christmas" as her contributions to this album.

The American Boychoir adds four songs, making this an excellent addition to your collection.

With only 6 days left until Christmas, please enjoy "The Traditions of Christmas".

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Artist Spotlight: Mackenna Swann

Sometimes, you are just wowed by a new artist.  Something about hearing them sing penetrates you through to your soul.  It's a rare experience, but one you never forget.  For a musician to do that with their first single, their first song released to the world, is even more extraordinary.

Mackenna Swann, with her debut single, made for that "Wow!" experience for me.  "Christmas Together" was included in the New Music Roundup Part II post a few days back.  But, Mackenna's talent and her original song made her more than worthy of a breakout from the Roundup into an Artist Spotlight, so I can share more about her and "Christmas Together".

Mackenna, a recent graduate from Belmont University, has an incredibly mature voice for such a young artist.  To complement her vocal depth are qualities of effortlessness and ease that combine for a richness that is inspiring.  Rhiannon Giddens and Karen Carpenter were blessed with such distinctively natural, effortless singing talents, and while I'm hard pressed to place anyone into their echelon, they were the first singers to come to mind when I listened to Mackenna.  She sounds like neither Ms. Giddens nor Ms. Carpenter, but the grace of her vocal gifts earn her a mention alongside those two legends.

As a student at Belmont, Mackenna's focus was on songwriting.  "Christmas Together", a song first imagined in 2019 and evolved through subsequent years, is a gorgeous work.  You'll learn more about her inspiration and story of creating it below.  As a debut, and especially as a Christmas song, it's breathtaking.  One can only hope for many more Christmas originals from Mackenna in the near future.

Mackenna has a pretty amazing backstory worth your time.  At age eleven, discovering some physical limitations in her knees, she was diagnosed with a rare bone disorder.  She has had three surgeries and lengthy rehabilitation therapy, including three years of non weight bearing recovery.  It was during this time that she became inspired by music, and began writing songs and discovering her skills as a musician.  A link to a Belmont University article about Mackenna's journey is below.

And now for a real treat - Mackenna graciously spent some of her busy holiday time to answer a few questions from Merry & Bright about herself, her career hopes and plans, and "Christmas Together".  I hope you enjoy this brief Q&A with Mackenna Swann.


Merry & Bright: Your first single is “Christmas Together”. Why did you choose to write and record a Christmas song as your initial release?

Mackenna Swann: I have been waiting a long time to release my first single. I recently graduated from Belmont University in 2022 and have written many songs, but never recorded them. After graduation, a lot of things opened up for me; I had a life changing knee surgery that has taken away the majority of the pain that I was facing due to my knee condition and I had a lot more time to focus on my music career. I wanted to put out my first single and I had written this one in 2020 so it was completed. Since August is usually a great time to start the recording process for Christmas songs, I decided to go for it!

MB:  What can we expect to hear and see from Mackenna Swann in the near future? More singles? An album? A tour?

MS: I will be moving to Nashville in the near future to further my music career and perform in Nashville. I am currently an independent artist so I'm seeing where God leads me in terms of what I'm meant to do. I have a lot of unreleased songs and I will definitely release more; hopefully this year. "Christmas Together" was a really great way for me to learn about the release process so I can apply it to future releases! My goal is to put an album out as well, and I'm hoping that with the songs that I currently have and the future songs that have yet to be written, one will be coming in the near future!

MB:  Do you believe that music can have a positive impact on people and society? How so?

MS: One of the most amazing and humbling things to me is when people listen; when they completely soak up something with open ears. That is something I don't think I'll ever get over. I believe that the arts directly influence people more than any other form of media or societal influence. Music, especially, cuts straight to the heart of people. This is why it's so incredibly important for artists to understand that they have a responsibility when they create and put out music. Music influences so many young people and can shape the culture of a generation. I am constantly aware of this when writing music and message is one of my main priorities over any other songwriting element.

MB:  What is one of your favorite Christmas traditions?

MS: At Christmas, I love driving around with my family and looking at the Christmas lights. We usually do this every New Year's Eve. I also love decorating the tree with my family and seeing all of the decorations we've collected over the years. It's so nostalgic!

MB:  What experience do you hope listeners will have when they listen to “Christmas Together”?

MS: When I wrote "Christmas Together," I thought about the features that make up a great Christmas song that is played over and over through the years. One of the concepts that I thought of was timelessness in terms of melody. Christmas songs usually have a large range; this was something I kept in mind. When writing the lyrics, I thought of the song "Happy Xmas (War is Over)" by John Lennon & Yoko Ono. When listening to this song, I imagined Christmastime being a time of peace where everything kind of slows down and wars end. In 2019, I came home from college and sat by the fire and watched the Christmas tree; something that was so peaceful in that moment. I thought of the chorus; "logs on the fireplace, hope for the human race, sit back and watch it glow, darlin' it will be better if we spend Christmas together..." I recorded it on my phone and there it sat for a year. It was still one of the songs that had been at the forefront of my catalog and in 2020, the lyrics really started to connect with what was going on globally & socially. I was then able to put real meaning to my lyrics and form the rest of the song around the chorus. In the quarantine, the song really fell out of me; I wrote the verses which were really kind of me dreaming about a time of peace and togetherness. 2022 is now a perfect time for the song to be released because we are able to be together and have found more peace as a country than in 2020. I hope that this is a song of healing and makes people understand what Christmastime is about; a time to be at peace, connect with loved ones, and reflect on the birth of Jesus.

MB:  Who are the musicians that inspire you?

MS: I absolutely love Sara Bareilles and Tori Kelly. Sara has taught me almost everything I know about songwriting and playing piano from listening to her throughout the years. Her passion & zest for life as a recording artist has inspired me so much. I love Tori Kelly because of her character and how much love and positivity she brings to the music industry (and her incredible voice!).


Mackenna Swann performing "O Come All Ye Faithful"


Mackenna Swann website

And one more time, Mackenna Swann's "Christmas Together"

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Good Night John-Boy

Everyone who lived in America during the 1970s and had a television in their house recognizes the phrase "Good Night John-Boy".   "The Waltons" aired on CBS from 1972 - 1981, and was a significant part of television culture during those years.

"The Waltons" was based on a book by Earl Hamner, titled "The Homecoming".  It's a beloved Christmas tale, published in 1970, and adapted into the film "The Homecoming: A Christmas Story" in 1971.  From the success of the movie came the television series, and, in 1974, a record album - "The Waltons' Christmas Album".

The album features classic Christmas carols, such as those that may have been sung by families in the 1930s and 1940s, the setting for the series.  In addition to the carols, performed by The Holiday Singers, Earl Hamner provides narration, connecting the carols into a flowing story of Christmastime.  A highlight of the album is "Grandpa's Christmas Wish", featuring Will Geer, who portrayed Grandpa Walton in the series.

"The Waltons Christmas Album" is a fine record, and will certainly rekindle fond memories for those of us of a certain age who remember John-Boy, Jason, Mary Ellen, Erin, Ben, Jim-Bob*, and Elizabeth and the rest of the Walton family.

Please enjoy "The Waltons Christmas Album"

<download link>

* At the time the album cover photo was taken, Jim-Bob was fishing :-)

Thursday, December 15, 2022

A Share with a Story

As a collector of many things Christmas, not just music, tonight's share has a special story to go along with it.  For several years now I've collected the editions of "An American Annual of Christmas Literature and Art".  The Annual was published by Augsburg Publishing House (now Augsburg Fortress) in Minnesota.  It was published from 1931 through 1997, with a special 'best of' edition published in 1999.  For fifty years, 1931 - 1980, the magazine was edited by Randolph Haugen, founder of Augsburg Publishing House.  The Annual continued past his retirement following the 50th anniversary issue, and remained a staple of Augsburg following Mr. Haugen's death in 1985 until the final 1997 edition.

This year was notable for me, as a collector, for two reasons.  First, I finally found the elusive 1931 edition for a reasonable price on eBay, completing my collection.  It had been the only missing issue for several years.  I had only seen one copy listed on eBay, and it was beyond my budget.  But earlier this year I revised my usual search criteria and lo and behold, there it was.  I won the auction and completed my collection.  My 1931 edition is in fairly rough shape, and actually has a 1932 cover over the original 1931, but the edition is complete - no missing pages.  It's curled on the corners, and I had to do a little restoration, but I'm thrilled that I now have a complete set.

The rare 1931 Christmas Annual

The other interesting aspect of this collection is that the eBay search turned up a record, "Christmas Carols - Favorite Carols from 'An American Annual of Literature and Art' ".  In 1976, Augsburg produced an album of Christmas carols arranged and directed by Robert Schultz.  Each edition of the Annual contained the words and music to a few Christmas carols.  For the album they selected a variety of songs that they had published over the years.  The performers and singers are musicians from the Minneapolis area.

It's a very nice album, the musical selections smartly arranged and performed with reverence and holiday spirit.  The recording was very clean, so the digital transfer sounds fantastic.  The song selections include a few that may be new to you, such as "Now It Is Christmastime", "How Far Is It To Bethlehem?". and "All Men Poor and Humble".  

So, please enjoy "Christmas Carols", produced by Augsburg Publishing House, and enjoy some of the magnificent covers of the "Annual of American Christmas Literature and Art"





1980, 50th edition

1997, final edition

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

New Music Roundup Part II

More new music!  I've had so many great submissions this year, I had to create a New Music Roundup Part II.  As with the first Roundup, please listen to the artists and google them for more info. Many times you'll find fascinating stories about these musicians from your web search, much more than I can provide here.  For instance, Mackenna Swann has a truly inspiring backstory, worth your search time.  Enjoy these great artists and songs!


Stereo Glow "River"

Ethereal melodic rock duo Stereo Glow are presenting fans with the gift of music this season as they unveil their new holiday single and video “River.” Available now on all DSPs the song is part of a charity initiative entitled Joy To The Burg, which raises money for the homeless population in Harrisburg, PA through an album of locally-produced seasonal songs.

“We were inspired to contribute something we love to help with this complex issue in an actionable way,” said Mark Burke of Stereo Glow. “it also helps keep the local arts community alive with a fresh collection of songs for everyone to enjoy during the holidays – all created from the power of many artists coming together.”

Stereo Glow’s track “River” was originally written by Joni Mitchell, and according to the artists, is one that they always held dear “as an homage to the darker side of the holidays.” However, to add their signature sound to the classic, Jessica Jellen and Burke of the duo decided to incorporate parts of "In the Bleak Mid-Winter," a poem from 1872, then a song in 1906, to further accentuate the moody atmosphere they wanted to create in their interpretation.

Anastasia Khomenko  "Magic Christmas Night" 

Anastasia Khomenko is a singer-songwriter from Ukraine. To date she has released 17 singles, and is hard at work on her debut album.  Anastasia has released "Magic Christmas Night" as a holiday offering this season.

Mackenna Swann  "Christmas Together"

Mackenna Swann is a new artist based in Nashville, TN. Mackenna has a newly released Christmas song called “Christmas Together” reflecting the themes of peace, hope, and restoration at Christmastime.  

In 2018, Mackenna attended Belmont University to further pursue her talents of singing & songwriting. She recorded and wrote songs in Los Angeles and collaborated in the vibrant community of Nashville. In 2019, Mackenna was asked to open for Kelly Clarkson in the CHOC Children’s Hospital of Orange County’s Annual Gala. Mackenna has performed in many gigs in Nashville, sharing her voice with the community around her. She has recently graduated as a songwriting major and has finished recording her first single, “Christmas Together.”

Bailey "Live From Graybox - A Very Merry Christmas"

Soulful songstress, Bailey, is ringing in the holiday season with a nostalgic Christmas EP "Live From Graybox - A Very Merry Christmas" featuring Bailey's own twist on classics such as "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" and "Someday at Christmas". Other tracks include "This Christmas" and previously released "Merry Christmas, Darling". 

Incorporating her own emotion and past experiences into these iconic Christmas classics, Bailey grasps the attention of listeners with her soulful twist and beautifully unique tone. Dedicating the EP to her late father, Bailey poured every bit of emotion and love into these special covers.

Bailey "Live from Graybox - A Very Merry Christmas" Spotify link

Corvair "I Believe in Christmas"

Corvair has released a new original Christmas single, “I Believe in Christmas” exclusively on Bandcamp and YouTube on December 2rd and on Apple Music and Spotify December 15th.

The song describes a holiday that comes at the end of (yet another!) difficult year, with a narrator who is torn between cynicism and surrendering to the Christmas spirit.

Corvair’s Heather Larimer says of the song: “Brian and I are both unabashed Christmas dorks. We love it. The rest of the year we are borderline misanthropes, but we just give ourselves over completely to hope and beauty at Christmastime. The song is about that internal tension. How you can be such a cynical adult, but it’s still impossible not to see Christmas with the eyes of a child.”

Larimer: “The song was inspired, like all of our Christmas songs so far, by Omaha where I grew up. In Omaha, you desperately need Christmas and all of its glowing lights by the time December rolls around. The landscape is frozen solid and everything’s colorless and harsh. But that just makes all the earnest un-ironic Christmas decorations so much more magical. They feel pretty miraculous among that bleakness.”

Alexis Cunningham "Let It Feel Like Christmas"

Hailing from Philadelphia, singer, songwriter and guitarist Alexis Cunningham, has released her retro-rock with a twist infused, original holiday song, “Let it Feel Like Christmas”. Co-written and produced by Eric Bazilian (The Hooters).

“I didn’t just want to make another Christmas cover song,” says Alexis. “This is a song about letting yourself believe in the magic of the holiday (like when you were a kid) and escaping the outside world, even if it’s just for one night.”

Maggie Cubillos  "A Colder Christmas (Live)"

21-year-old Colombian/Cuban/American vocalist Maggie Cubillos has released her live recording of "A Colder Christmas", recorded at Berklee's Valencia, Spain campus, where Maggie is currently completing a semester abroad.

Maggie grew up in Hermosa Beach, a small Southern California coastal town, with its own rich musical history steeped in both Jazz and Punk Rock. Her songwriting is influenced by artists like Adele, Phoebe Bridgers, Gracie Abrams, Sara Bareilles, and Coldplay, who have all helped shape the indie pop and singer-songwriter sound she performs.

Havanna Winter  "Daddy's Kissing Santa Claus"

Burgeoning viral modern pop star Havanna Winter’s newest single “Daddy’s Kissing Santa Claus!” is out, produced by Nevin Sastry (JoJo, Eurovision Song Contest Soundtrack, Phem) and written by Maya K, Havanna, Nevin Sastry, and Carlos Guevara (X Factor).

The single is accompanied by a fun 1980’s, ugly Christmas sweater, chaotic family Christmas-themed video starring Havanna, Marsha Molinari as the neurotic perfectionist Mom, Carlos Guevera as Santa, Vince Rossi as the Dad, Jordan Xidas as the Creepy Uncle, Jonnie Reinhart as the strict Grandma, Justin Love as vain Aunt Beth, Terrell Jones as the cookie eating Brother, and Niels van den Heuvel and Jonah Almanzar as Santa’s elves.

Winter says, “Daddy’s Kissing Santa Claus is such a fun song. It’s chaotic and catchy, and it gets stuck in your head. I feel like it’s very relatable, because most of us have experienced some Christmas gatherings that didn’t go as planned. I think that with all the serious things that have been going on in the world lately, people need a break from it, especially over the holidays, and to just be able to relax and have a laugh with some funny and happy vibes.”

Monday, December 12, 2022

Lee Langdon "What's a Christmas Eve Without My Baby?"

What do you get with swingin' music, an 8-piece jazz band, great lyrics, and a croonin' singer?  You get Lee Langdon's new single "What's a Christmas Eve Without My Baby?", a groovy new song for the holidays this year!

Hailing from Edmond, Oklahoma (known as the jazz capitol of Oklahoma County in the State of Oklahoma), Lee Langdon wrote the lyrics and melody to "What's A Christmas Eve Without My Baby?" in 2019, and then began the journey to arrange it into a swingy jazz number.  Collaborating with some of the top cats in the Oklahoma City jazz scene, Lee turned his composition into a rollicking good time, reminiscent of the best jazz singers of the golden era.

About Lee:  

"After being raised in Tabernacle, New Jersey, Lee ventured south for his college years. After spending four years in Arkansas, Lee moved to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma where he met his lovely wife, Aime. Three boys, a girl, and many domesticated animals later, life in the Langdon family is fun, and very good. Over the years Lee has coached many of his kids' soccer games, attended countless dance recitals and orchestra concerts, and has cherished every last minute of it all. And through it all, Lee has never wavered in his love for writing and performing his own music, and for extra-cheese and Italian sausage pizza. Lee and his family now reside in Edmond, Oklahoma. You can listen to Lee's music online wherever music streams or just go to"

Of late, a personal criterion for a good Christmas song is that it is light on the tropes.  Now, for it to be a Christmas song, you gotta sing about Christmas.  But some songs just seem to rapid-fire the holiday words and phrases at you.  Not so here.  Lee has written not only a good Christmas song, but just a good song, period.  Like not adding a tablespoon of nutmeg when a half teaspoon will do, Lee has just the right amount of Christmas in this song about being with a special person on Christmas Eve.  Awesome!

Please watch and listen, and groove along with Lee Langdon!

Lee Langdon website

Lee Langdon Bandcamp page

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Saturday Share: An Old Met Christmas

Tonight's share is one of the most interesting records I've picked up in recent years.  "An Old Met Christmas" is a 1986 collection of recordings from opera singers who have performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.  It's completely an A-list affair, from Enrico Caruso and Rosa Ponselle to Marian Anderson and Rise Stephens.  

Side 1 is in mono, opening with a 1916 recording of Caruso singing Cantique de Noel and closing with a 1950 performance of Silent Night by Helen Traubel.  Side 2 is in stereo, opening with Marian Anderson's 1951 record Angel's Song, and closing with Leontyne Price singing O Holy Night, from 1968.  With 19 tracks in all, this is truly an exceptional collection of historic recordings.

Please get your opera on - enjoy "An Old Met Christmas"  

Thursday, December 8, 2022

New Music: Sofia Talvik "Snowman"

A new Christmas song from Sofia Talvik is as expected each season as the arrival of a certain jolly old elf, and surely as welcome.  Every year since 2007 Sofia has gifted the world a new Christmas song, all originals, all beautiful.  On her splendid 2017 album "When Winter Comes", a collection of all of her Christmas singles, she included her only cover, a rendition of "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day".

Sofia continues her tradition this year with "Snowman", a beautifully composed and performed song that incorporates hints of jazz and pop into her natural folk style.  The gorgeous music will evoke images of a light snowfall, a windless night, a deep chill in the air, a serene wintry scene.  

And then you listen to Sofia's magical voice, singing some very dark, perhaps a tad unsettling lyrics.  Turns out ol' Mr. Snowman is a bit of a bad dude.  Sofia has long written songs that lean toward the dark aspects of Christmas.  Her 2019 single "Christmas Train", for example, is an allegory about Krampus.  Maybe her Scandanavian roots and the Yuletide legends of that region of the world (heard of Jólakötturinn, the Icelandic Yule Cat?) contribute to the undertones of her songs.  

Photo by Jonas Westin

Sofia's music is enchanting, beautiful, and in it's own way, superbly refreshing in its darkness.  She is a darling of the world of Christmas music, treating us once again to a unique, exquisite song for the holiday season.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

37 Sounds of Christmas

I'm happy to share with you "Sounds of Christmas", a 3-record boxed set from the Symphonette Music Service featuring 37 timeless classic Christmas songs.  I don't recall where I acquired this set - maybe given to me by a friend, maybe picked up for a couple bucks at a thrift.  The box is in fair-at-best shape, but the records inside are extremely clean, apparently rarely played, so the transfers to digital came out very well.

Among the 37 tracks are a couple medleys, a couple songs that aren't as familiar as the usual A-listers, but generally these are the songs you know, the ones you grew up with and still love to hear every season.  They are very well orchestrated and performed, and hit that 'symphonette' sweet spot of style.  Just imagine 1960s/1970s symphonette carols, and that's what you'll get with this excellent set.

I don't know much about the set or the Symphonette Music Service.  I know there are collectors out there (especially one in Arizona) who are experts in the world of vinyl box sets.  Maybe one of them will comment with some background.

While we wait for the experts, please download and enjoy "Sounds of Christmas"

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

New Music: Ren Geisick "I'm With You and It's Christmas Too"

Ren Geisick is one of Merry & Bright's very favorite musicians.  In fact, if we created a Merry & Bright Hall of Fame, Ren would be a first ballot inductee (Note to self:  consider creating a Merry & Bright Hall of Fame in 2023).   We are overjoyed to announce that Ren has new Christmas music for us this year, "I'm With You and It's Christmas Too", featuring James Lanman, with Chris Motter accompanying on guitar.

"I'm With You and It's Christmas Too" is a beautiful song of love and companionship set in the serene joy of the Christmas season.  It's cozy, warm, and snuggly :-) Break out the hot chocolate, add a touch of butterscotch schnapps, and queue up "I'm With You and It's Christmas Too" from your playlist.  It'll be a perfect evening!

Oh, and hey!  Before you go - if you liked the sound of Ren and James in their wintry duet, you'll find them together again performing "Baby, It's Cold Outside", in all of James' streaming platforms.  Here's a Spotify link:  "Baby, It's Cold Outside"

Enjoy Ren Geisick and James Lanman performing "I'm WIth You and It's Christmas Too"

Ren Geisick website 

Ren's Bandcamp page  (I recommend you buy them all!)

Monday, December 5, 2022

New Music Roundup - 2022 Edition

Continuing a tradition of the past few years here at Merry & Bright, here are some of the best new Christmas songs of the 2022 season.  As always, I encourage you to support these artists by purchasing their songs, adding them to your playlists, and dropping a couple extra bucks if you get to Name Your Own Price.  They appreciate it :-)

One note:  Social media and websites for all of these artists are easily found with a google (or your favorite) internet search.  With a few exceptions, I've excluded links to their socials/sites in the interest of space.  Please google the artists to be led to more information.  Thanks!

Modern Temple "Reason for the Season" 

Indie pop husband and wife duo Modern Temple are releasing a music video for their holiday hit "Reason For The Season." Originally written last December, the single is being brought back to life with this new music video featuring friends and family, as well as the couple’s daughter taking some of her first steps… perfectly encapsulating the message of the song. A low-key but joyful vibe, “Reason for The Season” reminds listeners what is truly important about the holiday season…. spending time with family and friends.

Modern Temple website

Kayley Manarchuck "George Bailey"

“George Bailey” by Kayley Manarchuck captures the beloved Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” in song. With sweeping melodies, warm vocals and plenty of references to delight the fancy of major fans of the film, Kayley serenades you with the story of George's life well lived. “Growing up, I admired George, a big dreamer with an even bigger heart. Though he desired to see the world, he found the fullness of life sharing it with those he deeply loves at home,” describes Kayley. She dances you through his dreams and development while listeners delight in the comfort of the season. Get cozy with the chorus and enjoy this tune with your family this Christmas season.

"George Bailey" is the featured track on Kayley's EP "Warmest Warmths", which includes Kayley's performances of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "O Holy Night".

Kayley Manarchuck Instagram

The Gleeman "I Love Christmastime"

There is nothing as heart-warming as witnessing the wonder on a child's face at Christmas – we all connect with that feeling. Leaving out mince pies & carrots, struggling to sleep through excitement, listening for the faintest sound of sleigh bells. "I Love Christmastime" takes us all back to that childhood innocence and reminds us of the joys of Christmas, no matter our age.’ – The Gleeman 

Phil Firetog Trio & Co. "Long Island Christmas Eve"

Long Island, NY-based alternative acoustic rock band, Phil Firetog Trio & Co., has released a heartwarming, festive, and nostalgic holiday single, "Long Island Christmas Eve". Fusing elements of acoustic styling and layers of jam-band-influenced orchestration, the band presents an ode to reuniting in their hometown. Based on their own experiences of reuniting with long-distance friends and family for the holidays, "Long Island Christmas Eve" has fans full of Christmas spirit and reminiscing on their own holiday traditions with their families.

Sydney Boys Choir "My Home Town"

A new Christmas Carol, composed by Finn Twist, performed by the Sydney Boys Choir.  Find out more about the composer at

Jennifer Saran "Songs of Christmas... Come Dance with Me" 

Contemporary jazz singer-songwriter Jennifer Saran has released an all-new holiday single, “Songs of Christmas… Come Dance with Me” – a fresh collaboration with her longtime creative partner and producer, Grammy and Emmy winner Narada Michael Walden.

Laura Cheadle "On This Christmas Night" 

Worldwide Recording Artist Laura Cheadle is unwrapping a surprise for fans as she debuts her new holiday single and video “On This Christmas Night.” Available now on all DSPs, the song is described by Cheadle as “the perfect backdrop to the Christmas spirit.”

Paul Bill Jr " Y.O.U for Christmas"  

Paul says "My song is called Y.O.U. for Christmas.  As an artist, the life of traveling and being away from home can be very hard on any relationship. The inspiration for this song comes from a conversation with my wife who only had one request. She pleaded "Just be home on Christmas, because it wouldn't be Christmas without YOU" As you listen to this upbeat Holiday song you could feel many emotions: happy, sad, excitement and love. But the song is relatable. We all desire to spend our most special moments with someone we love. Who's Your YOU?"

Ivor Game "Christmas Morning", from the album "Fine Summer Rain" 
"Christmas Morning" is a short, sweet, beauty of an instrumental song that summons up the holiday feelings.  

Melody & Harmony "The Christmas Story"  This was actually a 2021 release, but it came to my attention this year.  Enjoy!