Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Jeanne's Music Picks

Even though I can’t carry a tune in a bucket and people who love me will find excuses to leave if I try to sing, I do love to hear Christmas music. Occasionally I’ll hear a new tune I like, but mostly I favor old standards. I have to say that TV commercials have introduced me to some songs that I might not have heard otherwise, and I’ve used Main’s music CD collection to listen to some of them without being sponsored by a major department store. I recommend Christmas Belles, which offers ten turns by wonderful female singers: “Santa Baby” by Earth Kitt, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Connie Francis, “Silver Bells” by Brenda Lee and other numbers by Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Loretta Lynn, Dinah Washington and The Andrews Sisters.

Another favorite CD is Christmas on the Mountain by Sheila Kay Adams & Jim Taylor. Sheila is a seventh generation ballad singer from Sodom, NC who plays a fine banjo and sings with a distinct mountain rhythm. Her husband, Jim, plays the hammered dulcimer. For some reason, a hammered dulcimer always sounds like snow to me: bright, crisp and shining. This particular CD includes two shape-note hymns, “Sherburne” and “Star in the East.” I wasn’t (and still am not) very familiar with this style, but I think these two songs are beautifully done. Surprisingly, another of my favorite selections on this CD is “Away in a Manger.” I say it’s surprising because this is a song I’ve heard over and over by so many artists that it’s not one I usually look forward to hearings. Shelia reinvents the song for me and makes me appreciate it all over again.

Sheila is also a wonderful storyteller. The last selection is one of her Christmas memories, when her beloved Grandfather told her the legend about the animals talking at Jesus’ birth. The story is a warm and gentle reminder of the special bond between children and grandparents, especially at Christmas.

Christmas Belles CD CHR Main

Christmas on the Mountain CD ADA Main

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