Favorite Sounds of the Season

Yes, my avid music blog subscribers, it’s that time once again; time to trim the tree and hang the stockings with care while listening to Yule time tidings of comfort and joy. This holiday season, three particular releases have not only caught my attention, but have found a permanent place amongst my ever-growing Christmas music collection:

1) Josh Rouse: The Holiday Sounds of Josh Rouse – Longtime favorite singer-songwriter Josh Rouse has gifted us with a full-length Christmas record that will delight the senses and warm the cockles of your holiday hearts. Rouse’s Holiday Sounds is a short, but essential set of nine new seasonal selections that are tailor made for group Christmas gatherings as well as cuddling with your significant other.

The laidback opener “Mediterranean X-Mas” is guaranteed to take away the stress of your hustling and bustling while reminding you to slow down and enjoy the reason for the season. Likewise, the luscious “New York Holiday” embraces echoes of Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack (coincidentally referenced in the closing track), while concurrently sounding fresh, familiar, and classic. Other key tracks include the forlorn, but upbeat “Heartbreak Holiday,” the picturesque “Sleigh Brother Bill” and the gorgeously referential album closer, “Christmas Songs.”

The Holiday Sounds of Josh Rouse’s first pressing includes three acoustic bonus tracks: “Up on the Housetop,” “Let It Snow” and a cover of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” all of which add the perfect touch for a holiday bonfire singalong.

And speaking of Mariah Carey…

2) Mariah Carey: Merry Christmas Deluxe Anniversary Edition – After already owning the original release, plus the red vinyl LP, I’ll admit I initially deliberated if I needed yet another version, but I ultimately took the plunge and I’m glad I did! Loaded with remixes, bonus tracks, live performances from Mariah’s 1994 John the Divine concert, plus a few newly recorded treats, this 2CD expanded edition of Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas has never sounded more joyful.

And finally,

3) Jim Reeves: Twelve Songs of Christmas – This country classic was produced by the legendary Chet Atkins, and has finally been beautifully remastered by Vic Anesini at Sony’s Battery Studios. Reeves’ Twelve Songs of Christmas is a sentimental journey back to the days of Nashville’s iconic countrypolitan sound. Also, two seasonal bonus tracks: “Snowflake” and “Scarlet Ribbons” have been added to make this the quintessential version of Jim Reeves’ beloved Christmas album.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

 

Various Artists: ‘Reggae’s Gone Country’

Reggae's Gone Country

What happens when two very distinctive musical worlds collide? The answer is Reggae’s Gone Country. Imagine classic country songs such as Jim Reeves’ “He’ll Have to Go,” Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” and George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today” performed reggae style by some of Jamaica’s best vocalists and musicians. No, this isn’t Kenny Chesney’s latest album of Jimmy Buffet-like island music, but instead it’s a new collection of country standards delivered in a captivating and authentic reggae tribute.

Although the concept may initially sound like a musical recipe for things to go horribly awry, it actually works quite well. After all, commonalities of lost love and spirituality link reggae and country together lyrically. And believe it or not, country music is very popular in Jamaica, which is how and why this album’s concept came to fruition. Reggae’s Gone Country is a labor of love for Grammy nominated producer, VP Records executive, and country music buff Cristy Barber, best known for producing 2003’s successful Def Jamaica, a collection of assorted reggae flavored hip hop tunes.

The bulk of the album was recorded in Kingston, Jamaica’s Grafton and Tuff Gong recording studios by reggae producer Dean Fraser. The tracks were then sent to Nashville, where John Rich supervised flourishes of pedal steel and fiddle which were added into the final mix. The compilation includes standout performances by notable island vocalists Tarrus Riley, Tessanne Chin, Beres Hammond, Etana, and Romain Virgo, among several others.

While traditional country purists will most likely be unimpressed, open-minded, genre leaping music aficionados will be pleasantly surprised. Even if the thought of beloved country hits re-worked into reggae versions may seem absurd to some, the end result is an unexpected and highly satiating combination. Frankly, Reggae’s Gone Country’s reimagined Jamaican versions of George Strait’s “The Chair,” Alabama’s “Feels So Right,” and Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler,” make any locale feel like paradise.

© 2011 ForASong Media, LLC