Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Day 21-36: Officially a Slacker...But the Music Goes On!

Yeah, so, like I said in my last post, I officially suck.  If I was out to build in some discipline with my writing by keeping this blog up to date day by day, well, you get the picture. 

Pretty sad when the title of a post contains about two weeks worth of days, right?

Anyway, today's not gonna be stellar but I feel obligated to share that the challenge does continue and, while my writing has not quite made it here, I have been listening and making some headway. 

So without further ado, here're the holiday albums I've rocked in the interim:

Hillsong - Celebrating Christmas

Bebo Norman - Christmas From the Realms of Glory

Over the Rhine - Snow Angels (Great record!)

Shane & Shane - Glory in the Highest (Fun but not a must have unfortunately...)

Neil Diamond - The Christmas Album (Hey, it's Neil!  Can you go wrong?)

Various Artists - Happy Christmas Vol. 2 (Nice change up from the usual Christmas flow...)

Various Artists - Sounds of the Season: R&B Collection

Various Artists - Christmas Time's A-Comin' (Gotta tap into that bluegrass vein...)

Various Artists - Mary Did You Know?

Leann Rimes - What A Wonderful World (Not as great as you'd anticipate...)

Sonos - December Songs

EmmyLou Harris - Light of the World (Pretty great!)

Natalie Grant - Believe (Great, upbeat and powerful vocals!)

Jimi Hendrix - Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

David Phelps - One Wintry Night (Not as strong as his others but still great...)

Michael Buble - Christmas (One of 2011's best Christmas records thus far...)

Etta James - 12 Songs of Christmas

The Isaacs - Christmas Spirit (Such a talented family...)

MercyMe - The Christmas Sessions (Still one of my more recent favorites...)

Beach Boys - Beach Boys Christmas (Can you go wrong with the Beach Boys?)

B.B. King - The Christmas Collection

Mark Lowry - Mary Did You Know

Selah - Rose of Bethlehem (Awesome, worshipful experience...)

Various Artists - Jesus, The Best Gift of All

James Brown - The Christmas Collection

Wynonna - A Classic Christmas

Okay, it's late and I'm tired and I just don't have the energy to keep linking.  I'll be back to it tomorrow.

I hope...:)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Days 13-20: Still Listening but Wrestling with Discipline...and more

So I apparently lack writing discipline.  Big time.

What began as an earnest, if goofy, mission to discipline myself to write each and every day has, at least at the outset, fallen on it's royal behind.

And my excuse? There really isn't one.

Sure, there've been a few difficult days, a few days where I've been gone from early in the morning till late in the evening.  Yes, I am a husband and a father (and anyone who's worn those hats truly gets what's being said there.) And yes, I have worked on some other writing elements, churning out some work for some of my other outlets. 

But in the meantime?  Well, I've been slacking.  But, I have been listening.

So, in short, here are the albums I've rocked over the past week:

Frank Sinatra - Christmas Through the Years (Gotta be honest; this one is a bit of a disappointment.  The Chairman is a legend but he doesn't quite shine on this one...)

Newsboys - Christmas! A Newsboys Holiday (Again, another disappointment; fun enough but, from an artistic standpoint, this one just feels phoned in...)

Various Artists - O Come All Ye Faithful (Not bad but there are definitely better compilations to be had)

Yule Logs - The Yule Logs (Absolutely fun, fun, fun album by guys who clearly dig Christmas...with jams like "Christmastime is Here (Again)" and "Christmas is Lonely (When You're a Jew)", what's not to love?)

VeggieTales - The Incredible Singing Christmas Tree (Can you tell I had help picking out what I was listening to?)

David Phelps - Joy, Joy (Not for everyone but for those with an ear for something more classical or sophisticated, Phelps is as good as it gets...Great voice, good arrangements, and the holidays are on!)

Diana Ross & The Supremes - Merry Christmas (Fun, classic, legit.)

Andrea Bocelli - My Christmas (Pretty much what you'd expect...)

Amy Grant - The Christmas Collection (Great collection of warm and heartfelt Christmas songs crafted over the years...Plus, you've gotta love the addition of "I Need a Silent Night"; a track parents can connect with.)

Celine Dion - These Are Special Times (Over the top, dramatic, and perfect for the holidays)

Various Artists - Christmas on the Border (One of those el-cheapo compilations that actually works with featured studio musicans, artists...)

So, like I said, I might've slacked on the documenting but I haven't dropped the ball on the listening.  Granted, I'm gonna need to step it up a bit but I think I'm on a good pace.

Stay tuned...I'm getting back on track...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Days 10, 11, & 12: Sting Disappoints, Paisley Smiles, and Hickory Farm Cravings

So, once again, I've dropped the ball.  It was a tough weekend, for whatever reason, and I just couldn't get myself to write.  I can't blame the fact that I didn't have time nor can I cite some other profound reason; I think I was just lazy.  So, clearly, the discipline that I'm longing for still has a way to go.

That said, I did listen to some Christmas music.  Saturday was a two-album day, with Sting carrying the brunt of the weight that day.  Sting's If On A Winter's Night... is not a traditional Christmas album by any means, combining a unique combination of carols, lullabies, and more.  The result is something that's interesting, and certainly worth a listen, but that fails if you're getting jacked for the holidays.  It's the sort of music that might go along with some wintry, snow-filled meditation but, if you're looking for warmth and nostalgia, look elsewhere. 

The ship was righted with my next weekend listen, that the various collection, A Very Special Christmas.  Granted, it has some very dated tracks alongside some favorites but, to me, it just speaks a lot more of Christmas.  We're talking U2's "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," Run DMC's "Christmas in Hollis," and, even though it's at track that drives me crazy, the Eurythmics' "Winter Wonderland."  Much more Christmas...

Sunday was slim pickings, with only one album on the slate and it was Brad Paisley's Christmas.  Paisley is one of those guys that I just love, with such a chill, down home sense of humor and who's wicked talented.  That's no less evident on this holiday album, with great rendtions of classics, plenty of smiles, and even a song Paisley wrote as a thirteen year old that makes all of this seem like drivel.  Which I guess it is.  Either way, great album.

Monday (aka today) was a two album affair.  Another various record Holiday Sounds of the Season 2002 led off, with a nice jazzy appeal that set the day up just right.  The afternoon found the indie-flavored sounds of Rosie Thomas' A Very Rosie Christmas closing the day out.  There's a playful notion to Thomas' album that I really appreciate and it was a nice way to bring the work day to a close.

They were a few interesting days.  I became an uncle once again as my sister-in-law gave birth to a beautiful bouncing baby boy.  I attended my first ever roller derby prom.  And my Christmas experiment continues to raise eyebrows.  And, frankly, I'm starting to develop some cravings.  For Hickory Farms summer sausage.  Which, as I shared with a friend of mine, is ironically named.  I mean, it's summer sausage but it's biggest time of year is winter.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Day Nine: A Day of Christmas Conviction

It's funny because, sure, even though a good part of the canon of Christmas songs are faith-based ones like "O Holy Night," "Silent Night," and "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" (lots of nights in there too), you never quite think about them as songs of conviction.  Yeah, they're pretty and many may even leave you with some hair raising goosebumps if performed right (for such an example, head here, just wait for the song and you'll see) or certainly some warm smiles and nostalgic feelings.  But conviction, not usually.

Yet, when I popped in Superstar Christmas, that's exactly what greeted me once again this year.  The album is a collection of various artists, showcasing everyone from Mariah and Cyndi Lauper to Pavarotti and Barbara Steisand and has been one of my favorites of the years.  I picked it today because, after listening to full albums by one artist at a time, I was in need of some diversity.

But, alas, the conviction.  The first bit of that came with the very first track, John Lennon and Yoko Ono's legendary "Happy Xmas (War is Over)."  That song has haunted me for the past several years and, in my here and there blogging days, I've blogged about it before.  There's something haunting and terribly challenging about the line, "So this is Christmas/And what have you done? Another year's over/A new one's just begun." 

That's a powerful point of assessment in what is otherwise a happy and joyous song.  That challenge resonates within me, "What have I done?", and I frankly wrestle with the answer.  What have I done this year?  Certainly, I've grown in some areas, accomplished some things (being a part of Third Option Men and having some great friendships there has helped), and have learned a lot.  But, if I'm honest with myself, there are a lot of things that have gone undone as well.  There are things that have been thought about but shelved, points of laziness given into, and sins allowed to fester.  It's a strangely powerful question and is one I think I'll continue to wrestle with.

But the album's convicting presence doesn't end there.  Because, just a bit further down the tracklist, we run into country star Collin Raye's "What If Jesus Comes Back Like That?"  It's a song that I've heard tons of times and have stuck on mix discs for friends around the holidays but, on this day, the lyric really hit home.  Raye sings:

"What if Jesus comes back like that
On an old freight train in a hobo hat
Will we let him in or turn our back
What if Jesus comes back like that
Oh what if Jesus comes back like that"

He develops the imagery further:

"What if Jesus comes back like that

Two months early and hooked on crack
Will we let him in or turn our back
What if Jesus comes back like that
Oh what if Jesus comes back like that"

Eventually, he concludes:

"What if Jesus comes back like that

Where will he find out hearts are at
Will he let us in or turn his back
What if Jesus comes back like that
Will he cry when he sees where our hearts are at
Will he let us in or turn his back
What if Jesus comes back like that"

These are questions that haunt me because, ultimately, I believe that God, in some ways, has come back like that.  Jesus said that as we do unto the least of these, we have done unto Him.  As we drive down the street and look into the eyes of the homeless man, we see Jesus.  When we engage the sickly child, we see Jesus.  Likewise, as we engage our next door neighbor, our local shop clerk, and our spouse, we look into the eyes of Jesus.

The question for us is, what do we do?  How do we act? 

How do I act?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Day Eight: Merry Melodies with McRoberts, Isaak, Kensrue, and Groban

I realized last night as I was posting my Christmas experiences of the day that, for whatever reason, my experiment thus far had been rather estrogen-heavy.  I'd listened to Jewel, Mariah, and more but, for whatever reason, the fellas hadn't really been represented. 

So today I grabbed a handfull of records geared toward righting the balance.

The day kicked off with Chris Isaak's simply titled, Christmas.  It's easily one of my most favorite albums in the collection and one more listen only solidified it's status that much more.  Isaak, in his signature style, captures a sound from long ago but manages to deliver it in a way that transcends generations, appealing to early rock n' roll as well as something more contemporary.  Smooth vocals, killer musicians, and a great sense of humor lend themselves to a simply great listen.

It was a great album to lead through a day of work-filled business.  We taught, we assisted, we ran here and there.  But, I've gotta tell you, through it all, this little bit of Christmas cheer I'm kickstarting my days with is giving me a little bit of extra juice.  Kind of a nifty realization throughout.

When "second work" rolled around I had to intersperse Christmas among some more current albums as my review schedule is fairly littered with work right now.  But the experiment must go on so I sallied forth with Dustin Kensrue and This Good Night Is Still Everywhere. The Thrice frontman does a fine job working solo, showcasing something of a moody take on old and new songs alike and offers a nice, indie flavored record that plays well out of season as well as in.

Next up was my buddy Justin McRoberts Christmas EP, another recording that is definitely on the top tier of my collection.  McRoberts delivers no-frills acoutic Christmas with a heartfelt poignance that hammers home the power of Christmas with earnest honesty.  It's a set of songs that deserves a careful listen and that's not something I was able to afford it this evening.  I'm thinking this one will get a repeat listen this year.

In honor of his guest spot on The Office tonight as Andy Bernard's brother, I had to grab Josh Groban's Noel.  As you'd expect, Groban's record is flawless, orchestrated to the max, and arranged masterfully by David Foster.  Groban is spot on throughout, sharing some nice duets, and, for whatever reason, really sets the tone for fireside chats and who knows, maybe a bit more?

Thus far, I'm still wrestling with why I'm doing this.  I'm pretty much deferring to the idea that it's building in me a sense of discipline for writing which, thus far, it has as I've been pretty consistent and have seen it influence my other work which has flowed a little more freely.  It's also helped me to work toward multi-tasking my writing as well.  All in all, I guess that can't be a bad thing, right?

But should I be concerned that I'm starting to mentally put together a Christmas list for me and the family?  Too soon?  Or can we ever start too soon? 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Day Seven: Unbelieving Looks and Mariah Carey...

So today marks the first day that I really got some unbelieving looks regarding this rather foolish holiday listening journey I'm on.  The disbelief came with some friends at work as we worked with our clients in the computer lab.

"Did you always have a blog?" JD asked.

"You have a blog?" Ricardo shared.

"Yeah, man," JD replied. "Haven't you seen it?  He's been posting all this Christmas stuff up?"

"Christmas?  In October?"

So I had to explain.  And I've got to admit, the more I explain it, the less it makes sense to even me, save fot the fact of wanting to simply use something you have, vis a vis the Christmas music.  But, through it, as I shared with them, I'm hoping to maybe see some things in myself, see if by Thanksgiving I'm ready to skeet shoot the next CD with "Jingle Bells" on it, and so forth.

But, of course, I still got the shaking heads and the curious looks.  (They're good guys though, even if they're not down with Frosty and the boys...)

It was a light Christmas music day for me though.  I unfortunately only had the chance to really rock out one album due to some other pending reviews I needed to write which, of course, requires my listening to those albums as well.

But I did choose today's album very intentionally.  Today's selection was Mariah Carey's Merry Christmas and it was picked with severe intentionality.  So why so intentional?

I listened now so I wouldn't hate it later.

Let me clarify.  Mariah's record is fine and boasts some solid songs and, of course, her soaring vocals and runs.  It's produced to the nine's and is really a great Christmas album.  But here we encounter one of the greatest issues of the holiday music genre/industry/whatever you want to call it.

That problem?  The hit song.

Every year there seems to be that one song that catches fire and just lurches through the airwaves, seeming to be in rotation every other song.  At first, that's kind of fun.  It's a great song and you're loving it.  But three weeks later and you cringe with the first three notes.  It's a fine line.

And with Christmas songs, this is perhaps that much more evident.  I mean, it's a limited period of time these songs get played, right?  And, with the nostalgia factor, shifting tastes, and the mindset of radio programmers apparently everywhere, you end up with much of the same for the holiday season.

And for the past several years, that song has been "All I Want for Christmas (Is You)" by none other than Mariah Carey.

To be fair, it's a fine song and, heard a few times here and there, is great.  But over and over and over and over and...well, you get the picture.  Enough is enough.  But one time today was okay.  I'm just hoping that programmers can latch onto something new this year. 

Although, I wouldn't argue if Mariah would send the royalty money for one season's worth of plays on that song; I'm pretty sure it would put my kids through college!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Day Six: Smooth Sailing with Martina McBride and Dave Barnes

One thing I can definitely say that I've learned today is that music, and even holiday tunes, is greatly affected by a sense of context.

Let me explain.

Today began with a bit of a jumble, unsure if my wife, who'd stayed home the previous day sick from work, was going to be up and at 'em this morning.  Therefore, I was rushing around a little bit more than usual, gathering the kids' things together, making lunches, and trying to take care of some of my own business in the meantime.  Thankfully, my wife was feeling better (although, as we speak, she's sitting on the couch sniffling and breathing more through her mouth than nose) but by the time that knowledge was secured, the damage was done.  The day was begun in middle American chaos.

So, without breakfast in my belly, I hurriedly grabbed a random handful of Christmas records on the way out the door, hoping for the best.

As fate would have it, God was on my side.

Here's where context comes into play.  If I had grabbed something wicked engaged, overwrought, and super-upbeat, I might have not made it.  However, the first album to hit the CD player was none other than Martina McBride's White Christmas. For those who haven't heard the album, it's a very sophisticated, very smooth record.  McBride's powerful vocals weave themselves in and out nicely with the orchestration, keeping things on an even keel throughout.  And with the morning I had, that's just what I needed, smooth and even.

The beauty was that it helped smooth out my nerves as well, preparing me for the day that was to come.  Which, of course, was befitting it's full moon notoriety as we ran to and fro like the proverbial chicken with it's head cut off.

So you can appreciate, if even for a bit, as my second album of the day, in between jobs, was Dave Barnes' Very Merry Christmas. While not an album that took my breath away when it released last year, today it fit the bill, with Barnes' cool, romantic holiday tunes soothing the weary soul, making me long for that cold snowy night (something I've frankly never known as a Florida native) "trapped" with my special girl.  Again, it fit that smooth bill just fine.

Barnes' carried me through Work #2 and onto my small group night, which was great.  And, again, context being taken into consideration, after our warm and engaging conversation, I finished the night off with Sugarland and their Gold and Green. Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush's vocals ooze warmth, home, and the full-on holiday spirit and capture the sense of family, and yes, fun, with the best of them.  A great finish to a roller coaster of a day.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Day Five: David Crowder and Jewel Ring in the Day

I got back on track today.  In order to appease my son and keep him on my side, we kicked off the commute to school with the David Crowder Band's Oh For Joy, a great new Christmas release we'd picked up a few weeks ago.  My son seemingly endures the majority of the album, enjoying it, but eventually turning and asking if we can switch it to track eight, the DC*B's fun take on Trans-Siberian Orchestra's "Carol of the Bells/Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24.)"  It's a great jam for sure and closes out a great album in a grand way.  (For those that care, there's definitely a review brewing on that bad boy!)

After dropping the kids off and finishing off the Crowder record, I moved on to a new acquisition to my collection, Jewel's Joy: A Holiday Collection.  I'd picked it up somewhere along the way earlier this year and, for whatever reason, hadn't listened to it yet.  It was a pleasant surprise, as Jewel, rather than opting for the Andy Williams vibe or in overworking these tracks, had the good sense to keep things classy, letting stark symphonic arrangements set the table for her multi-faceted vocal.  A good snag, that one.

I've gotta say that today's Christmas excursion was pleasantly enjoyable.  I found myself smiling on the way to work as DC*B's takes on "O Holy Night" and "Silent Night" reverberated throughout my car.  There's something calming about this music, and the season, that brings a legitimate peace to those looking for it.  Particularly in such a crazy world.  But you do have to be open to it.  Otherwise, you're toast.

The other thing that I'm finding is that my mind is jumping ahead toward the holidays.  I'm thinking of Christmas food (maybe a big family party?), I'm thinking of Christmas gifts (yes, I've mentally started my list and brainstorming thoughts for others), and I'm thinking of the season overall.  How can we better celebrate Advent this year?  How can we give more to others this year?  And yes, how can we step up the decorations this year too?  (I'm not all cerebral and holy...)

Does Christmas music do that to you?  Am I crazy doing this?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Day Four: No Progress and a Lot to Go...

So today was the first full-on fail day of the experiment so far.  Which, only four days in, doesn't bode well for the future. 

Why? Well, one could argue multiple things but, the bottom line was that imposing Christmas music upon those not engaged in such a social experiment as this is a rather dicey thing.  Just knowing my wife, I had a pretty good idea that, were I to suggest that we rock out to some "Jingle Bells" along the way to church or as we munched on our wholesome chicken nugget lunch with the kiddos, she'd simply give me the finger.  Or something akin to that.

So I kept things on the DL today.

I did take the opportunity tonight, as my wife and kids were away for a few hours, to finish listening to the Garth album.  I'm a slave to certain rules and, in giving myself this challenge, I've committed to listening to each album in it's totality and, since I didn't finish Garth up yesterday, I felt obliged.  So I did.

Meanwhile, in order to give some perspective, I tried to dig through my music collection and get some idea of exactly how many albums I have to listen to between now and Christmas day.

The total? 236 albums, give or take a few that may turn up in the next bit of time.  Plus, let's be honest, the collection will undeniably grow this year as well so we're staring down quite a monster.

Gearing up for some big holiday cheer tomorrow...

Day Two & Three: Off to a Slow Start...

So this experiment is offically off to a slow start.  After a big kick off with five albums being enjoyed (and no real mockery being experienced as of yet!), we hit the weekend and, with it, a bit of a standstill.  Some of that came from the sheer fact that, by it's very nature, there's not as much commute time (or at least time where one can listen to Christmas music undettered) and a whole lot more family time, ideally.  And there has been.

So, all that to say, the Christmas journey has been a very subtle one this weekend.  Friday saw me revisiting Antsy McClain in the morning, and despite the protestations of the young 'uns on the way to school.  McClain just nails such heartfelt honesty and humor that I felt compelled to listen that second time.  And frankly, I feel like that's going to be one of the issues with this whole experiment.  Many of these songs and these albums have that feel of old friends and family and, much like those holiday times when loved one's come together, you long for one more warm hour with them, one more moment to share over old times and share old stories.

Now, to be fair, I did follow that up with Christina Aguilera's My Kind of Christmas to finish up the afternoon in hopes of winning the kids back to my side.  Granted, they weren't terribly overwhelmed but let me have my way since it was the weekend.  Aguilera's album continues to be a fun listen as, much like Michael Bolton, she lays it all out there and plays up the over-the-top factor with the best of them, letting her runs and trills run rampant throughout the record but, for some reason, you just don't mind.

Saturday was a pretty light day for us and the only real listening time that availed itself was in a quick commute to pick up my son from roller derby practice.  So, keeping in stride, my daughter reached in and, after much deliberation and telling me that'd she'd help me pick one out later, we grabbed Garth Brooks & the Magic of Christmas and headed out.  Brooks' album is, in some ways, a bit of a disappointment.  From someone who made such a mark as a full-fledged entertainer, you'd expect a bit more connection with a holiday recording but this, while still enjoyable, falls a bit short.  It also led my son to voice the first discontent with this experiment as he questioned, "Why do we keep listening to Christmas music?  We shouldn't be hearing this for another two months!"

I have found myself questioning why I'm even taking this journey, of why put myself toward even documenting something that, for all intents and purposes, is somewhat foolish and pointless. Yet, for me, the reason is multiple. One, I hate the fact of owning things that I don't use. I don't want to just consume for the sake of comsumption. So I think it's a shame when things like great albums get passed over some years for the latest and greatest.

Secondly, I guess I'm just longing to engage the spirit of Christmas and get it going early. I want to remember the nostalgia, the heartbeat, and, yes, the true reason as I journey forth. Plus, I'm really morbidly curious to see if I can in fact burn myself out on this stuff. Only time will tell...

(On a bizarre side note, Chevy Chase's National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation was on today...Guess I'm not the only one thinking ahead...)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Day One: Bolton, Caterer, McClain, and More!

(Note: It's obvious that this is not being posted exactly one day after my last post...Let's just say, I have children and leave it at that...)

Okay, so day one of the Christmas music experiment and I arise rested (right!  Like I said, I have kids...) and ready for the day.  I've gotta admit, as geeky as it sounds, and it is geeky, I'm pretty excited about giving myself permission to rock the holiday tunes so early in the year.  So I reach into my grab bag of music, digging out a handful of albums and head off to start the day.

So the morning commute begins with none other than that bastion of blue-eyed soul, Michael Bolton, and his first holiday offering, This Is the Time: The Christmas Album.  I know, I know, you either hate the guy or you celebrate his entire catalog.  I've got a little lame in me so I guess I skew toward the catalog end although, let's be honest, we can't quite celebrate the whole deal.  This album, however, is well worth the listen.  It's wonderfully out there, taking on the sacred and the secular with plenty of gusto, finding Bolton dueting with folks as diverse as Pavarotti and Wynonna, and is pleasantly over the top.  A good way to start the day.

I will confess that, as it is at that time of year in our sunny Florida where the weather has made that wondefully pleasant change, dropping into the low 60's and into the 70's, I was rocking Mr. Bolton on my commute with the windows and sunroof down and, at times, I did feel a little conspicuous.  I was at a traffic light as a few high school students walked by, my car stereo blaring out "Joy to the World," and yeah, I just kept my eyes facing forward.

But the day went on and I didn't get to listen to my next album until I arrived at my second job at Living Word.  This is a job that affords me primo listening time as it's me, the CD player, a computer, and tons of boxes filled with products to be received.  And if they're not being received, they're being sent back.  So it's pretty ideal.

Josh Caterer's The Heart of Christmas EP was up next, an album that I'm reviewing for SSVMag.com (review forthcoming) and it was a nice, indie segue into the evening.  Jason Crabb's Because It's Christmas followed hard after that, the southern gospel magnet invoking some nice R&B and gospel elements into an album that starts slow but ends pretty strong.  Another new album followed in after that, with TobyMac's Christmas in Diverse City taking center stage.  It's another one that's got a review coming here so I'll say little about it.

Last but not least came the shining gem of the day with an album that I'd not heard in some time.  Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours' Merry Christmas From the Trailer Park.  I know, it sounds like some sort of cheesy Weird Al sort of thing but, rather, it's a really funny and surprisingly poignant look at what, for me, is a real person's holiday as opposed to those personified on TV and in movies.  This is middle America at it's best, with McClain weaving humor and hymns together effectively and melting your heart in the process.  Let's be honest, this is a guy whose catalog is a little more worthy of celebrating.  (For some extra fun listening, give Trailercana a shot.)

So that concluded day one.  And I've got to say, the only weird thing is that I'm thinking Christmassy now, if that makes sense.  I'm ready for some gingerbread or eggnog or something...We'll see what day two brings about...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Christmas in October?: A Personal Challenge (and Experiment)

I've got a confession.
I love Christmas.
I love all the trappings, the cheesy lights, the giant blow up Santa's and his reindeer on the lawn. Everything. I love the outdated Christmas specials, the Peanuts music, and the cheery sight of red and green everywhere you look. And yes, I do secretly dream of amassing a Cosby-sized collection of the most
God-awful Christmas sweaters imaginable.
And, tying it all together, I love Christmas music. A lot.
In fact, I love it so much that, well, I've been dipping into the stash just a hair before the season. Yes, I know the leaves haven't even turned yet, that ghouls and goblins still deserve their fair opportunity to roam prior to the pilgrims' landing but I just haven't been able to help myself. A little Elvis here, a bit of Bing here; nobody will get hurt, right?
(And, just for the record, no one's been hurt, save for my wife's pride in her husband, perhaps.)
Anyway, as I've begun this bit by bit step into the holidays way before the actual holidays, I found myself taking account of all the Christmas music I actually have. I have a bunch. Some (my wife again), might say, too much. But I disagree wholeheartedly.
See, Christmas music, despite the obvious religious implications, which I do draw strength from, also carries a wicked sense of nostalgia and peace for me. Whether or not its simply remembering those chilly mornings sliding open the door to our living room, seeing those glittering lights, the presents spilling out from underneath the tree, accompanied by those classic songs by John Lennon, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and more, or just sheer goofiness, this music brings me to a simpler place. Yes, some of it is repetitive as there is a very set selection of songs folks seem to choose to interpret. But, even within that, there is a sense of warmth and community.
I could go on and on but, let's be honest, you really don't want to hear about that right now, do you? I didn't think so.
Well, here's what's happened. I've decided that yes, I do have a lot of Christmas music. I've also decided that I'm okay with that. But I've decided to give myself the challenge, a bit of a mental and social experiment we'll say, to listen to each and every holiday-themed album that I own, in it's entirety, by the end of Christmas this year. For some, that would be an easy task. But this kid boasts a collection that exceeds 200-plus records in this genre. So I gotta get cooking.
Along the way, I'll be posting what albums I've jingle belled to that day, maybe a review or two as well, alongside revamping this nifty little blog that I've called home, albeit way too infrequently, for a long, long time. I invite you to stop by, read a little, chat a little, and join in the Christmas cheer with me.
Now I gotta get started; only 80 days till Christmas!