Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Christmas Keeper!

Christmas on the BorderChristmas on the Border

...A Spicy Holiday Recipe of Texas Blues, Hot Country, and Mexican Salsa as well as a project and production from the town of Nashville, Tennessee, a place doesn't exactly border Mexico (or Canada, for that matter). "O Holy Night" and "What Child is This" are rocked-up essential classics; I could listen endlessly to a memorably haunting "The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy" or "I Wonder as I Wander." The style of "Joy to the World" and "God Rest Ye, Merry Gentleman," both just enough different from what you're used to that you listen more carefully all make for a CD to play over and over and recommend, too. Except for the definitely secular "Up On the Rooftop" the songs are classic North American (USA and Canada) Christmas worship, church pageant and radio top-40 favorites.

Since I included playlists from my other two Christmas CD reviews, here are the songs on this one:

1. Children Go Where I Send Thee
2. Joy to the World
3. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
4. Go Tell It on the Mountain
5. The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy
6. O Holy Night
7. I Wonder as I Wander
8. What Child Is This?

How apt and how fun this is as an example of contextualizing the Gospel and incarnating Christianity with cross-cultural musical styles, a little of this and a little of that, each still in its original idiom yet woven into the other idiom. It reminds me of the C.S. Lewis Dawn Treader quote on my Facebook page: "...said the Lamb, "For you the door into Aslan's country is from your own world." ... "There is a way into my country from all the worlds," said the Lamb...and he was Aslan himself..."

Christmas on the BorderI have the impression the CD title is supposed to reference Tex-Mex style and culture, but cross-culture border styles of Southern California/ Northern Mexico and Southern Arizona/ Northern Mexico I'm familiar with aren't exactly like this CD. "Christmas on the Border" and chili pepper art both suggest songs sung in Spanish or at least partly so--in these here parts we've been known to have macaronic English/Spanish liturgies and many of us speak passable Spanglish. That's simply a passing comment, though, and I predict you'll enjoy the energy, twang, and harmonic color of Christmas on the Border (the CD).

my amazon review: A Christmas Keeper!

cool jazz christmas: CD

Cool Jazz ChristmasEric Darken and company bring an enjoyable Christmas music collection with another project from Nashville, Tennessee in
Cool Jazz Christmas, Refreshing Holiday Instrumentals."

For the most part the music conveys a sort of New-Agey, cool, casual and offhand sensibility that passes time pleasantly with an occasional sequence or riff that makes you want to listen again because it was unusual, unique and... repeatable. The sound is excellent and over all Cool Jazz Christmas is well-produced, but it's more the kind of performance you have playing in the background instead of sitting down with to savor every sound. However, "O Come, All ye Faithful" with Mark Baldwin on keyboards and sax by Mark Douthit is worth the price of the CD--I wanted to say there was a best out of all of tracks, and happily there is. The playlist is church, mall and radio standards, but even with quite a few newer songs and carols, what would the season be without these?
1. Winter Wonderland
2. Joy to the World
3. Deck the Halls
4. We Three Kings
5. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
6. Here We Come a Caroling
7. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
8. O Little Town of Bethlehem
9. O Come, All Ye Faithful
10. Pat-a-Pan
Cool Jazz Christmas

Front and back cover designs are beautiful enough (almost) to make me want them in LP-album cover size—remember when we used leave our currently best and favorite ones out for show? The credits conclude with, "Above all, thanks to the Creator of such wonderful and meaningful music. Merry Christmas!" Amen!

For a Cool Jazz Christmas: my amazon review

sounds like...

Community Christmas at the Cathedral!

Red Hot Christmas Blues front

Released in August 2007 and featuring producer Mark Baldwin's guitar that often sears, sometimes sings and at times laments, Red Hot Christmas Blues reminds us of the frequent messiness of life, the apocalyptic hope of Advent and the surprise of God's Nativitytide appearance in the Bethlehem manger. Except for the introductory "Christmas Blues" vocal bewailing wintry conditions of broken life and broken bank account, playlist titles are Christmas carols you get to sing in church and listen to on radio and MP3 throughout the season.

However, in liturgically logical order:

1. Christmas Blues
2. What Child Is This?
3. Silent Night
4. Go Tell It On The Mountain
5. I Wonder As I Wander
6. O Holy Night
7. Angel Shuffle
8. The First Noel
...these jazz illuminations carry a revelatory twist and provocative style you don't often get on the radio or at church. I cannot help but imagine Christmas Eve at the downtown cathedral or tall steeple, or just as easily these offerings could be from a smaller nearby parish with wide-open doors that invite and include all comers.

In 4 minutes and 47 seconds "Angel Shuffle," a wildly improvised version of "Angels we Have Heard on High" probably is my favorite among favorites on this CD. I won't try describing it but can assure you it's worth the price and the storage space—from someone (me!) who doesn't buy many CDs these days and gave away quite a few quite a while ago. Walter Bruggemann says only grief enables newness (something about getting out of denial, maybe?) and "Angel Shuffles" brings together sorrow, regret, loss and anger with the surprise of God's renewing presence in our very midst.
Red Hot Christmas Blues back

And would you believe, bible specialists Thomas Nelson published this music CD?! Not surprisingly, I love the artwork and package design by Christie Knubel. Finally, you easily can find Red Hot Christmas Blues on eBay and Amazon, so go for it!

my amazon review: sounds like... Community Christmas at the Cathedral!