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Joshua James - Fields and Floods

Unexpected computer problems (are there any other kind?) are forcing me to be a little more brief than usual with this post. 

Early this morning, I somehow managed to get "Blue Christmas" stuck in my head, so I thought that whatever I post about today should include a version of that song.  A quick search of the music I haven't yet posted about turned up two recordings of "Blue Christmas"; one is on today's album, and I'll likely post about the other one at a later date.

Fields and Floods by Joshua James is the name of the album, and the version of "Blue Christmas" here has a nice light country feel to it.  The entire album is also quite laid back, with a very hushed vocal style, which is great if you're looking for something relaxing to listen to.  "Joy to the World", from which the album's title is taken, is another highlight, building to a nice crescendo before the end of the song.  Happy listening!




Joel Rakes - festive.mood.inducing.music.vol.5

Ever since I started blogging about Christmas music, there are certain annually recurring releases that I always look forward to.  One of those releases is Joel Rakes' festive​​.​​mood​​.​​inducing​.​music​​, which just began its fifth installment today with the release of "Deck the Halls".

For those unfamiliar with these EPs, Rakes releases one new song every week during the few weeks leading up to Christmas.  Sometimes they are newly written originals, and sometimes they are traditional Christmas songs done in his own unique arrangements.  "Deck the Halls" falls squarely into the latter category, with the vocal melody being subtly played with on top of a mellow rock backdrop.  I love the layers of vocals in the bridge, which seems to end with a little teaser of "Jingle Bells" on the guitar - a hint at what is to come this year, or am I just reading way too much into it?  Either way, this is a great start to what should make for an excellent month of music.  I'll try to remember to post reminders about the new tracks as they come out.  Happy listening!



High Street Hymns - "Christmas & Advent Songs"

Christmas & Advent Songs is a sampler of, well, Christmas and Advent songs by High Street Hymns.  While listening to it, I thought it was an EP, but a closer look at the download page indicated that it is in fact a selection of songs from a longer album.  It's one heck of a sampler, though, so it's well worth a post and a listen (or three or four).

The genre on the download page is listed as folk/acoustic, but there's a lot more going on here than that would imply.  "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" is performed beautifully, starting with nothing but acoustic guitar and vocals and gradually building to a powerful crescendo with drums and electric guitar before coming right back to where it started.  "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" is a real surprise - the rapid guitar strumming and snapping percussion give it a somewhat aggressive edge; I'm actually reminded of Johnny Cash's version of "God's Gonna Cut You Down" when listening to it.  "In the Bleak Midwinter" is always one of my favourite Christmas songs, and this version, while more straightforward, is still very nicely done.  I was initially disappointed with "Love Came Down at Christmas", mainly because I was expecting something along the lines of Shawn Colvin's version, but subsequent listens have revealed the charms of this version as well.  I think that's one of the things I love most about Christmas music - everyone is free to put their own stamp on these songs, and if you're willing to do a bit of digging, there are some truly great gems to be found.

Okay, by my clock I have about 14 minutes left to post this if I want to get it up today, so I'd better go and do that now.  I hope you've been enjoying this year's crop of free Christmas music so far, and I'll be back soon with some more.  Happy listening!



Trans-Siberian Orchestra - "Dream Child (New 2010 Version) (U.S. only)

Full disclosure: I feel rather conflicted about writing this post, because the download is only available in the United States.  Being Canadian myself, and thus unable to access the download, I completely understand if anyone feels slighted in any way.  However, it is a weekend, and I'm not sure if I'll be able to get a proper post up today, so this will have to suffice for now.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra have rerecorded "Dream Child", a song from their 1998 album The Christmas Attic.  This version of the song features Tim Hockenberry, who sang "Believe" on last year's Night Castle, on vocals.  I really love the vocals on "Believe", so I really wish I could hear what he has done with "Dream Child".   If anyone who reads this manages to download the song, please leave a comment letting the rest of the world what we're missing out on. :)  Happy listening!


P.S. David has posted a free Christmas download over at Feedback, but you may need to act fast, as he believes it will only be available for four days.  Keep an eye on his blog, as he's planning to put up more free Christmas downloads on the four Fridays leading up to Christmas, and his excellent taste in music means that they will all be worth checking out.


Sean Wright - "Child Within"

"Child Within" is a new, original Christmas single by Sean Wright.  I love hearing original Christmas songs, and this one is very well done.  It starts off with acoustic guitar and vocals and gradually builds in intensity until the final chorus, when it explodes with a rocking drum beat amidst the repeated cries of "Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah -- let the child within rejoice, let the child within be free."  It's a really difficult song to categorize, and that is probably where a lot of its appeal lies - it really has its own unique sound.

The second song on this release (the B-side, if you will), is a nice live version of "Silent Night" done on acoustic guitar and vocals.  I would really love to hear more Christmas songs from this artist, both traditional and original.  Until that happens, though, these two songs should make a great addition to your Christmas music collection.  Happy listening!



Jed Luckless - Hundred Year Hall, December 23, 2009

Last year on December 23, Jed Luckless performed an incredible concert consisting of nothing but Christmas music.  That concert can now be downloaded from the Internet Archive.
The performance is practically a one-stop shopping resource for contemporary Christmas music, starting with "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," and moving through favourites like "Winter Wonderland," "Blue Christmas," "Feliz Navidad," John Lennon's "Happy Xmas," and "Little Drummer Boy."  I am a huge fan of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, so I was delighted to find a few songs from that movie on here, namely the title track, "Silver and Gold," and "Holly Jolly Christmas."  He also manages to combine music from two of my favourite Christmas specials by including a little snippet of "Linus & Lucy" (from A Charlie Brown Christmas) in the middle of "Frosty the Snowman."   There is even a great version of Adam Sandler's "The Hannukah Song" near the end of the show.  All of the songs are mostly done on just acoustic guitar and vocals, and they are all performed extremely well.  This is the kind of album that can be listened to in a variety of situations throughout the Christmas season.

I came across a little windfall of Christmas music last night in the form of a dozen releases from NoiseTrade, the site where I originally heard of the Sara Groves album.  That brings my total number of potential releases to write about up to 37 - in other words. I now officially have more than enough music to write about from now until Christmas, making my goal theoretically possible for the first time.  Happy listening (and a Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers)!



Sara Groves - O Holy Night Tour- Live: The Prison Show

O Holy Night Tour- Live: The Prison Show is a recording of Sara Groves performing for the women of an Illinois prison.  Not all of the songs are Christmas songs, but most of them are, and they are performed so beautifully as to make the album a must-hear for anyone who loves Christmas music.  You will need to enter your email and postal code in the little widget on her website to get the album; if you're okay with that, you'll receive a download code for the album in your email inbox.

I always love hearing new arrangements of familiar songs, and most of the Christmas songs on this album have been radically reworked; "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" is probably my favourite of these, although the chorus of "Angels We Have Heard on High" gets a beautiful treatment as well.  That chorus gets turned into a singalong at the end of the song, with the audience enthusiastically participating.  The following song, simply titled "Carols", is a medley of Christmas carols performed entirely as a singalong with the audience.

In case you're keeping count, this is day 2 of my 32 days of free Christmas music.  I did manage to download a few more albums last night, bringing the total of potential posts up to about 24 - still not quite what I need to accomplish my goal, but I'm getting there!  Enjoy this album, and I'll have something else for you to listen to really soon.  Happy listening!



Album Spotlight: VNDVR XMSEP

Hello there, and welcome back to Free Christmas Music for another season!  Those of you who follow my other music blog may know that I've been on a rather extended hiatus from blogging, but I'm hopeful that the Christmas season, and all of the wonderful music that usually accompanies it, will help me to snap out of that.  Today I came up with a somewhat crazy idea to help get myself back into the blogging habit: I am going to attempt to make at least one new post on this blog every day until Christmas.  By my count, that should make for at least 32 posts (33 if I can keep going until Christmas Day).  This idea is crazy on a number of levels: I've never even come close to writing 32 posts on this blog in one Christmas season, even when starting earlier in the year than this; I'm still busy with work and other things (and the Christmas season itself will no doubt bring even more things to occupy my time) and don't have tons of time to write blog posts; and, perhaps craziest of all, I don't even have 32 things to write about yet - a quick look at my playlist and downloads folder shows 18 potential albums and/or singles to write about.

So if you're willing to accept the fact that I am attempting something completely unprecedented, for which I have little time and even less material, then by all means, feel free to join me for the next 32 days - I'm sure there will be lots of great music, and most likely a few surprises, along the way.

First up is a little EP that I actually came across late last year during my search for new versions of "Auld Lang Syne".  The name of the EP is VNDVR XMSEP; I guess this is a vowelless version of "Vandaveer Xmas EP", since it is a Christmas EP by "alt-folk song-singing/record making/globetrotting project," Vandaveer.  I didn't download the whole EP at the time, but I loved the version of "Auld Lang Syne," so I made a note to come back to it this year.  I did, and it ended up being pretty much as awesome as I'd thought it would be.  All three songs (the other two are "The Little Drummer Boy" and "Silent Night") have a very relaxed feel to them, with very sparse instrumentation and some beautiful interplay between the male and female vocals.

I'm sure I won't always be relaxed over the next 32 days, so this is an oddly appropriate album to start with.  I hope you enjoy it, and I'll be back again tomorrow (and the day after that, and the day after that...) with something else for you.  Happy listening!