As is usually the case for this time of the year, new recordings are few and far between but there are a couple of dandies we should mention. First off, there’s a lovely new seasonal EP from B.C. born and Oakville raised Vanessa Marie Carter called ‘Merry Christmas To You’. On it, she covers ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ which was first recorded way back in 1944 by Judy Garland. Next up is ‘Please Come Home For Christmas’ originally recorded by bluesman Charles Brown, but the version that you’re more likely to hear in malls is by the Eagles. Carter puts a refreshing new stamp on these chestnuts but saves the best for last on a splendid cover of, wait for it, ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’. In light of the #MeToo movement, some thought the song was too suggestive of date rape culture and it was pulled from the playlists of several radio stations. Since then the number has made a bit of a positive comeback and one station in Kentucky has even taken to playing it on a marathon basis. Regardless of which side of the fence you are on this, the one thing that’s certain is that Vanessa and American actor and budding musician Rob Mayes have a really sweet vocal blend.
One of the most touching new seasonal songs is ‘I’ll Be There Christmas Eve’ by former Great Big Sea frontman, actor and Russell Crowe buddy Alan Doyle. It’s a sentimental tale written by the late, great East Coast artist Ron Hynes, about a homesick sailor who’s determined to come back to see his “darlin’” before Yuletide.
Putting a cap on a banner year, The Dungarees are celebrating the holiday season with the release of their new single ‘Christmas Tradition’. The band has also filmed a festive music video for the song. And, in the spirit of the season, the Edmonton-based unit recently gave back to their community with their third annual 24-Hour Gig-A-Thon, raising over $20,000 for the Alberta Cancer Foundation’s patient financial assistance program. The band has now raised over $50,000 for the cause over the past three years.
Also playing a show for a good cause is Toronto blues/reggae/rock veteran band Big Sugar. The group is paying tribute to their long-time bassist Garry Lowe with a benefit concert on December 28 at the Danforth Music Hall featuring The Barenaked Ladies, Bedouin Soundclash, Broken Social Scene, Tom Wilson, Danko Jones, reggae legend Leroy Sibbles and many more. All proceeds are going to Garry’s family to help with the financial costs of his passing on July 7. Each of the artists is going to be doing a Big Sugar song for this show to end all shows in 2018.
A non-seasonal offering that bristles with energy is country chanteuse Kira Isabella’s five-song EP ‘Side A’ in which the Ottawa native once again showcases her strong set of pipes. The EP speaks directly to her desire to continue pushing the envelope, taking chances and debuting a new sound she’s been eager to unleash with confidence she’s never felt before. Side A will be followed by another EP ‘Side B’ the second part of a two-part collection culminating in a deluxe physical package entitled ‘Sides’. “The new work is about showing the evolution of my music,” says Kira. “I’ve come a long way since my first single ‘Love Me Like That’ in 2011, both personally and professionally, and I think this comes through in each new song. Working with some of the biggest talents in the industry invigorated a new sound in me, something vulnerable and brave that has taken my voice to new levels.” The EP gathers together the three singles that Kira released this year, ‘I Don’t Wanna Know’, ‘Little Girl’ and ‘Danger Danger’, plus two new tracks.
To close things off, Open Spaces was extremely delighted to speak to an artist behind one of its favourite Christmas songs, ‘Snoopy’s Christmas’. Chris Nunley was the lead vocalist for The Royal Guardsmen, the sextet that recorded the song in 1967 and remarkably he and another original Guardsman, bassist Bill Balogh, continue to kick out the jams in a group called the Crossfire Band based in Ocala Florida. We had often wondered where the sample for the verse of ‘O Tannenbaum’, which kicks off the song, came from and Chris reveals the source was not a sample. “As I recall we were walking into Allegro Sound Studios (in New York) to record some vocal overdubs to the basic instrumental tracks, and there was a male vocal group laying down the Tannenbaum intro. I’m hazy on whether there were three or four of them singing, and they may have double-tracked it to fatten it up further…I just remember that the playback sounded unbelievable”.
All the best for the holidays and New Year from Open Spaces. https://www.facebook.com/roman.mitz