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NEW ON CD: Holiday tunes for all to enjoy

By Sean Hickey, Courtesy

Friday, December 22, 2017

Well, the holidays are here once again… And once again, we try to help all of our music lovers out there find just the right collection of music to enhance their celebrations and help to make these days all the more memorable. It’s a veritable musical minefields out there every season what with releases from the current ‘popular’ folks (Gwen, Blake, Sia, and the like) – to the ‘head-scratchers’ (like a holiday offering from Cheap Trick? “…I Want YOU to Want CHRISTMAS…” Really?!?) – We try to check out as many as possible and report our findings back to you so you can make a somewhat informed decision on how to spend your entertainment dollars this year… Here’s a selection of what we are enjoying this holiday season:

Various Artists

Holidays Rule (Vol. 2)


Following up on the success of the first Holiday Rules compilation back in 2012, comes Holidays Rule Volume 2, a joyful and diverse collection of seasonal music featuring an array of convivial contributions from across the musical spectrum.

Holidays Rule Volume 2 lets today’s artists put their own mark on tradition by offering wonderfully fresh takes on holiday chestnuts old and new. The set features 16 new recordings by beloved artists including Norah Jones (with a live version of Horace Silver’s “Peace”), Grace Potter (offering up an original piece called “Christmas Moon”), Rosanne Cash (delivering a charming version of “May Ev’ry Day be Christmas”), The Decemberists (covering Big Star’s “Jesus Christ”), and Lake Street Dive (with a super-fun version of “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”), alongside up and coming artists such as Barns Courtney (“Baby, It’s Cold Outside”), Albin Lee Meldau (delivering a soulful version of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You”), Vera Blue (“A Winter Romance”), and Kandace Springs (Everybody’s Waiting for the Man with the Bag”). Rounding out this collection are wonderful contributions to the holiday music songbook by Calum Scott, Judah & the Lion, Flor de Tolache, MUNA, U.S. Girls, and Andrew McMahon.

The album delves into an unusually rich assemblage of genres including Pop, R&B, Rock, Americana, Jazz, Mariachi, and more. But the stand-out track here has to be the new rendition of “Wonderful Christmastime,” a spirited new version of the Paul McCartney perennial favorite that was performed by McCartney, along Jimmy Fallon and The Roots on Fallon’s The Tonight Show back in December 2016. Truly ‘wonderful’ indeed!

A great companion piece to the original Holidays Rule release, or as a stand-alone celebration of the holiday season, it’s guaranteed to make your Christmas merry & bright!

Sultans of String

Christmas Caravan


For a decidedly international take on the holiday season, we offer to you the Sultans of String.

This is easily one of the most ambitious holiday undertakings, a resurrection and reconstruction of songs not widely known but should be and hopefully now will be. The really savvy part is the way they inject so many snippets of seasonal flavors in the songs. Sultan’s of String’s “Christmas Caravan” takes the listener on a journey around the world and every musician involved brought so much inspiration and imagination to these holiday songs, showing us what a wonderful world it truly would be, could be. Listen and you will be taken on a truly musical and spiritual exploration. From start to finish the album is surprisingly refreshing and brings a stocking-full of interpretive skill to these holiday gems and upbeat numbers to keep any holiday gathering moving and swinging.

Assisting the Sultans on this musical journey are some of the great names of music from around the globe including everyone’s favorite Irishman Paddy Maloney from The Chieftains, Panama’s Ruben Blades, Cameroon’s Richard Bona, Sudanese-singer Waleed Abdulhamid, Canadian vocalists Rebecca Campbell, Crystal Shawanda, and Nikki Yanofsky, Broadway’s Luba Mason, the African-American a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock, singer Mary Fahl from NYC’s October Project, as well as Alex Cuba, Benoit Bourque, La Bottine Souriante, sitar virtuoso Anwar Khurshid, and hang drum player David Charrier from France, and a recording collective of Turkish Roma violinists from Istanbul.

Sultans of String’s Christmas Caravan is culture mixing and genre bending without borders – And a great addition for your holiday listening.

Lindsay Stirling

Warmer in the Winter


Violinist, dancer, and performance artist Lindsey Stirling has delivered a decidedly 21st Century sort of Christmas release this year.

The hugely popular musician already has several releases under her belt, so it’s seems like a natural point in her career to add a holiday title to her outstanding catalog of music. This release features her own particular brand of instrumental pop, accompanied by some killer vocals that should really get the millennials in your household rockin’! Warmer in the Winter combines some of the season’s most familiar and beloved melodies with some hi-tech trickery that makes each song a unique and wonderfully new experience for the listener. So expect some techno beats alongside those sleigh bells, and some computer-generated blips, bleeps, and blops with those horses whose feet go clippity-clop.

Guests helping her out along the way are equally as fresh and current on the music scene. New Orleanian Trombone Shorty joins in on the title track while former Disney star Sabrina Carpenter lends her vocal support to their rendition of a fabulously merry “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” All Time Low frontman Alex Gaskarth sings along on “Time to Fall in Love,” and one of Lindsey’s fellow internet superstars, Becky G. adds her voice and makes their song “Christmas C’mon” something truly special and magical. Some of the instrumentals that flesh out the album, including holiday classics such as the gorgeous and sparkling “Carol of the Bells,” a heart-tickling “Angels We Heard On High,” the Irish jig-inspiring “I Saw Three Ships,” and the delectable Jazzy zest of “Let It Snow.” “What Child Is This” demonstrates exactly why Lindsey is an aficionado of divine melodies, along with her expressive “Jingle Bell Rock,” and the marvelously angelic and emotional “Silent Night.”

With Warmer in the Winter, Lindsey Stirling has delivered a wonderful set of holiday wonderment – Based in the traditions we’ve come to expect in this season, but quite modern and fun as well which really makes this record one to seek out and enjoy.

Various Artists

A Capitol Christmas (Volume Two)


A wonderful gift for all of us who remember those great ‘Firestone Tires’-type of records our Dad’s used to buy back in the day…

We recommended the first volume of this series last year and Capitol Records continues their 75th Anniversary celebration by mining more gems from their vaults for all of us to enjoy.

The album features a veritable who’s-who from the classic holiday music songbook including a couple of tracks each by Wayne Newton, the Beach Boys, and the late, great, Glen Campbell. Other stalwarts from a wide variety of musical genres appearing on the compilation are Lena Horne, the Lettermen, the Starlighters, Sonny James, Al Martino, the Louvin Brothers, Molly Bee, the Four Freshmen, Les Paul and Mary Ford, as well as Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians.

Additionally, the collection includes some very rare and unique recordings that have been really hard to track down and enjoy. Nancy Wilson’s interpretation of Frank Sinatra’s “The Christmas Waltz” only appeared on a 1968 promotional record that was sent out to radio stations. Dinah Shore’s lightly swinging rendition of “Jingle Bells” was originally sent out in Christmas cards to Chevrolet dealerships around the country at that time.

In the true spirit of the holidays, A Capitol Christmas Volume 2 has crafted a fun and nostalgic brew of holiday cheer. These two dozen timeless and magical recordings bring great memories and joy to our hearts and ears as they have helped to make this season bright for generations.

Jim Brickman and Five for Fighting

Christmas Where You Are (single)

Jim Brickman has been associated with the Christmas season for as long as we can remember, and this year, he’s teamed up with John Ondrasik of Five for Fighting and released a new holiday song as a tribute to the troops who are far away from their homes this holiday season called “Christmas Where You Are.”

Brickman calls this “a thank you to all of our men and women at home and abroad who are serving our country. It’s a message that wherever they may be fighting for our freedom, we’re thinking of them and that it is still Christmas where they are.” The idea for the song came in the spring of 2017 when the two artists got together with the intention of trying to write a Christmas song on a topic that hadn’t yet been covered. After kicking around a bunch of ideas, they realized there was no song specifically aimed at military families during Christmastime, so they wrote one. The song was recorded over this past summer at Ondrasik’s studio with John on vocals and Jim on piano.

The song is available at all of the usual download sites and the accompanying video can be seen as Folks in this area that would like to hear the song performed live have a great opportunity to experience that when Jim Brickman appears nearby at The Keswick Theatre, 921 N. Keswick Ave. in Glenside, PA on Friday, Dec. 22 at 7:30 PM. More information about that show can be found at