Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Two NC-based projects put fresh spin on holiday music

Thanksgiving, and with it Black Friday, kicks off the holiday season which means holiday music. I’ve never been a huge fan of hearing celebrities do the same Christmas songs over and over – ones we’ve heard a million times that have been done better before. But two new holiday albums with North Carolina ties offer fresh takes and add new or lesser known material to the realm of holiday music.

Concord-based Ramseur Records released “My Favorite Gifts” today. The collection was curated by Ramseur and the Avett Brothers’ Bob Crawford and features many names from the Avett/Ramseur family including David and Jessica Lea Mayfield, Jim Avett, Paleface, and Overmountain Men, as well as the Avetts themselves. Some, like Mark Crozer, Overmountain Men’s David Childers, and the Avett patriarch play original songs, while Paleface takes on the Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York.” David Mayfield does a John Hartford tune, while his sister puts her own spin on Roger Miller’s “Little Toy Trains.” 

Proceeds from the disc benefit The Vickie Honeycutt Foundation. Honeycutt was a school teacher who died in March 2010. The charity helps give financial support to teachers and educators that are battling cancer. Crawford, who is taking a break from the band, posted a message about the project here. (On a side note many Avetts' fans know Crawford's young daughter Hallie is being treated for cancer. Contributions to the Rally 4 Hallie fundraiser can be made here).

Elsewhere, Laurelyn Dossett of the folk duo Polecat Creek and the Carolina Chocolate Drops’ Rhiannon Giddens joined Mike Compton (Elvis Costello’s Sugarcanes, John Hartford), Joe Newberry, and Jason Sypher at an NC mountain house in August to record “The Gathering,” a string band take on seasonal music that’s unlike any commercial holiday music you’ve heard this century.

Dossett has gained national attention for her song “Anna Lee,” which Levon Helm covered on his Grammy award winning “Dirt Farmer” album. “The Gathering,” which was released November 1, centers around a six song-cycle that she originally wrote for the North Carolina Symphony. The album also features obscure material unearthed by the participants. To learn more about the making of "The Gathering" click here.

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