Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday Specials for You

As I've noted before, I started this blog primarily to share information about my annual holiday mixes and the various tracks I've selected for them. It never occurred to me to review new holiday music releases in this space, nor do I feel especially qualified to do so. Over the years, however, I've allowed the scope of the blog to expand, and, as a consequence, I now receive upwards of several dozen messages each season from artists, agents and record companies looking to promote various new holiday releases here. I've got no problem with that. I enjoy the exposure I'm getting to different styles of new music, and it's easy enough to listen to what comes in. But make no promises about promoting any of the material that's submitted. That's just not what this blog is about. If it's new stuff you're looking for, there are several excellent holiday music blogs that focus primarily on new releases. The best of these, for my money, is Stubby's House of Christmas, but several of the other blogs in my list of "Favorite Holiday Music Sites" (they're listed to the right) are also terrific at highlighting new music.

With all that said, I do occasionally take note of some of my favorite new releases each year. Here are some of the standouts from this season:

The Angel Gabriel, by PC Munoz, featuring David Worm
San Francisco artist PC Munoz is best known for his work as a percussionist and beatmaker, and he's worked with an impressive and diverse array of artists including Jackson Browne and longtime Prince collaborator Dr. Fink. He is also a talented and innovative songwriter and producer whose work spans a variety of genres and styles. He recently released a remixed version of a track he recorded last season called "The Angel Gabriel," based on the beautiful Basque folk carol more commonly known as "Gabriel's Message." the lyrics tell the story of Gabriel's descent from Heaven to tell Mary of her selection to bear the child of God. It's a beautiful song, typically performed in an ethereal-sounding arrangement that dates back to the late 19th century. Munoz, not surprisingly, offers a different take. Framed by the sung vocals of vocalist Dave Worm, Munoz's version features funk beats, hurdy-gurdy, xylophone, and Gregorian Chant -- yet as incongruous as these elements may sound at first, the result manages to bring things current without sacrificing even a smidgen of the song's classic beauty. 

It's Merry Christmas Time (A Living Christmas Record), by Miranda Dodson
It's difficult to call this six-song collection a new release, as all but one of the tracks are at least a year old. And next year it'll be difficult to call it a six-song collection. You see, what makes this a "living Christmas record" is that once each year, a new track is added. Interesting notion, no? Well, interesting or not, Miranda Dodson, a singer-songwriter from Austin,Texas, has the chops to pull it off. The current version includes a mix of original tunes and familiar classics that hold together well. I wonder what next year will bring?

Snow Globe, by Kristin Chambers
Seattle singer-songwriter Kristin Chambers attracted notice with her 2014 debut album Everything Woman, and she's doing it again with her sophomore release, Snow Globe. A mix of classic carols and original compositions, it's the latter group that works best. The opening track, "Christmas Eve," is a soothing and peaceful number with the air of a children's lullaby. "It's Not Christmas (Without You)" is a bluesy number lamenting the absence of a loved one, while "A Magical Guy" features Casey MacGill singing the part of Santa Claus. My favorite is Chambers' "Frozen Heart," a beautiful and optimistic song that showcases her vocal talents. This one's a nice collection that's sure to appeal to listeners of all types.

Today is Black Friday, and I see from the news that there have already been injuries and arrests at several WalMart locations. I have no intention of shopping today -- in fact, I may not leave the house. Plenty of leftover turkey here, and besides, it's cold out there!

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