Stubbys House of Christmas       

Christ The Lord Is Risen Today (Crown Him Lord) - Dunn & Wilt

Passion Song - Sean Carter
Alive In Christ - Jess Strantz
In Devil's Dungeon - Ryan Flanigan
Brendan (Saint) - Garrett Viggers & A Thin Places Band
Waiting (For Pentecost) - Wilson & MacQueen


I've told anyone who has asked that my interest in Christmas music has nothing to do with religion or faith or Christianity.  I'm a spiritual person, I'd say, but not particularly religious.  To me, it is 99.99% about the music.  So the idea that I'd be interested in music for Easter would ordinarily seem...let's just say "unlikely".

But music is music, whatever the subject matter or purpose.  And people who have piqued my pleasure centers in the past will always get a hearing--and a fair one--from me when they have something new (whether or not I then blog about it is an entirely separate question).

This past Christmas, we featured a delightful collaborative Christmas compilation on our Free page called "Merry Christmas, Good Night" (still available and still free, it appears).  And so I was more than a little interested when I got an email announcing another holiday specific free collection from--essentially--the same folks.

"Good Morning, Happy Easter" is even more reverent than it's predecessor (imo), but there's no doubt that these artists have, individually and collectively, found the sweet spot in my appreciation of Indie Folk Rock and Indie Folk Pop music.   I gather the songs are intended to run in the order listed above, based on how they fell out in my iTunes player.  But the first song in the folder was Garrett Viggers' "Brendan (Saint)" and, from it's first note, I found it irresistible.  Given that Garrett also performed one of my favorite tracks on "Merry Christmas, Good Night", it's clear I'm going to have to spend some time listening to the rest of his catalog.  Here's his website, if you feel like doing the same.
And, actually, I should have done it sooner because Garrett has a Christmas CD that I was completely unaware of--"Emmanuel"--available in his on-line store.  You can sample the tracks in the player on the left-hand side of his home page.  "Emmanuel" appears to be an instrumental album (excepting "We Three Kings", "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "What Child Is This") of traditional carols featuring a lot of hammered dulcimer and some other "exotic" instruments.  And, from the samples, it sounds very rich, organic, heart-felt, and original.  Kind of reminds me of the Celtic music Mike Cross used to include on his brilliant albums, such as "The Bounty Hunter"--which means it's the kind of music that will challenge your expectations and preconceptions in very delightful ways.

Back to "Good Morning, Happy Easter", I was also entranced by "Alive In Christ" by Jess Strantz.  And nothing I say or don't say should detract from the other moving and musically wonderful tracks on this nice little Easter egg.  Well worth a brief stop at Noisetrade.

Dunn & Wilt, who hosted the Christmas EP and lead the Easter set with "Christ The Lord Has Risen Today", have their own Easter thing going on their web site.  "A Well Worn Path" is a free devotional album featuring meditations on the Resurrection.  Dunn and Wilt are hoping you'll connect with them in the days leading up to Easter and share that journey.  That's a bit too...religious?...for my taste.  But, if you're interested, you can check in with them on Facebook and download "A Well Worn Path" (complete with an instructional PDF) at the Dunn & Wilt web site.  

Random thought:  I hate the new Facebook setup.  Just UGH.

Now.  We mentioned Mike Cross earlier and, even though it's not related to any holiday--past, present or future--Mike Cross has a new album out!  And, since Mike hasn't released a new album in years, the very fact of "Crossin' Carolina" is a cause for celebration.

When I think of the artists and music that have had the greatest impact on my life, Mike Cross is right near the top of that list.  Mike's first three albums--"Child Prodigy", "Born In The Country" and "The Bounty Hunter"--opened my ears to new worlds and possibilities.  Released today, you might tag it Indie or Americana.  But, back in the 70s when those albums were released, there were no such "genres" (and don't tell me Indie isn't a genre--I know that offends some people; it is.  Deal with it.).  Mike always had an ease of putting things into words and music--be they old mountain wisdom, silly stories, or timeless tales of the heart.  The music--certainly on "The Bounty Hunter"--combines Appalachia, Folk, Country and Bluegrass with Rock and Pop, Blues and Jazz, older and ancient sounds like Celtic, and more...and all sounding like they naturally belong together--not as individual tracks, but all intertwined within each song.  Mike, for me, was the personification and validation of the principle that music is music and good music is good music.  And I wouldn't think it over the top to describe him as an Appalachian Bruce Springsteen.  By that I mean that Mike's music gives voice to the people and the soul of the Appalachia in as poignant and powerful a way as Bruce's does for the working class people of the industrial northeast.  Your mileage may vary, of course, but I do think that highly of Mike.

You'll probably get the best price on "Crossin' Carolina" ordering direct from the man himself.  But I believe Mike does things the old fashioned way--printing up an order form and mailing it in with your payment.  So, if you're attached to Internet ordering, I'd recommend CD Baby (Amazon's asking price is insane).

But, if you don't know Mike Cross (and, let's face it, most of you don't), I'd suggest you first check out "The Bounty Hunter".  We didn't do anything, here, for St. Patrick's Day, but I can't think of a Celtic track that I'd rather listen to than "Bonnie Prince Charlie/Road To Lisdunvarna/Lark In The Morning" (forget the samples--pay the 99 cents for a download).  The track starts up as soft as a sunrise and builds to a dynamic dramatic thunderous climax.  Really indescribably awesome.  There are few songs more fun than "Liquor In The Well" and "Scratchy Fiddle Boogie Blues", few songs more poignant than "Best Drunk In Town", and few songs more beautiful than "Wake Up My Love".  I've always loved the ironies of "Old Paint Peeling" and it's music, "The Lord'll Provide" is one of Mike's slightly warped and patented musical retellings of old mountain proverbs, and I still get chills listening to the title track.  Every groove on "The Bounty Hunter" is sublime and its definitely one of my top "Desert Island Disc" choices.

It looks as though you can only get "Born In The Country" (only recently issued on CD) from Mike's web site, but it's one of his some ways reminding me of Jim Croce's best recordings.  From one of the best Country songs you've never heard--"Blue Skies And Teardrops"--through the rocking honky tonk of "Big City Woman", and the down home humor of "Mountain Mean", all the way through the hypnotic 6 minute title track that closes the album.  My two favorites on this one are the bluesy "Nobby" and "Uncle Josh", which gave me a philosophy I try hard to live by:

Livin'--at it's longest--is just a short trek to the grave
So you might as well go ahead and enjoy what you can along the way
Cause if a doctor said you were goin' to die
Wouldn't you do as you please?
Listen here brother
Life's just another 
Terminal disease.

Mike's brilliant 1976 debut "Child Prodigy" is coming to CD for the first time ever later this year.  On this one, you'll find Mike's original version of "The Scotsman" and the mountain humor of "Emma Turl" (both of which are available on "Creme de la Cross") and another of my personal Cross favorites, "Leon McDuff", plus the touching and soulful "Lord Let Me Die".

Mike's later albums certainly contain many more great tracks, but these three (and "Rock N Rye"--the one Cross LP that will remain unissued on CD once "Child Prodigy" gets the treatment) are so much a part of me that I know every note and every line by heart.

More recent treasures that you can look for on Amazon or wherever include "Granny's Milk Cartons", "The Old Man's Bouquet", "Don't Need Another Hit", "Not For The Love I Can Take", "Every Line On My Face", "Fare Thee Well, Marianne", and "Michael's Magic Music Box" is one of the best children's albums I've ever laid ears on.

Now maybe Mike Cross won't be your particular cup of tea, and that's fine.  But I know there are at least some folks out there whose eyes will grow wide with the magic of discovery, whose lives will be enriched by this music, who will smile at the musical joke telling and tear up at tales like "The Old Man's Bouquet".  And introducing this music to even one person like that...well, I like to think that's a lot of why I'm here.

It's no secret that I can't stand American Idol.  Or most any reality show, for that matter.  But I do find myself digging NBC's The Voice.  It's far less pretentious than AI, in my humble opinion (though, admittedly, that's a rather low bar).  Anyway, I was quite surprised to see Lex Land on the show a few weeks ago, remembering her Christmas single from this past December (a freebie, at the time, that we included in one of our Boxing Day posts).

Lex is preparing for the Battle Rounds (she's scheduled to go head-to-head with Charlotte Sometimes this Monday night in a battle of the two best names in the competition) and she's giving folks a chance to get a selection of her music free through her web site.  Lex's 5 song Sampler should be available for most of this month.  Lex was plenty nervous auditioning on The Voice and still got three judges to fight for her.  But, if you'd like to hear Ms. Land without the nerves, the Sampler is a good (and free) place to start.


Lex Land's
Christmas single is no longer a freebie, but it's well worth picking up on iTunes or through Lex's site.  Extra points for covering "This Year's Santa Baby" rather than its overdone predecessor.  But the real gem, here, is Lex's take on "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" where her sultry voice combines wonderfully with the after hours lounge arrangement.  You can listen to them both all the way through via Soundcloud.  And, should you want to get the song Lex sang for her audition--Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me"--just click on the cover art above or head here.

Now it's only fair to point out that Charlotte Sometimes also has a Christmas song you can buy through either Amazon or iTunes.  Charlotte's cover of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" was included on the 2010 collection "A Holiday Benefit, Vol. 4".  That collection also includes our old friend Casey Shea, so there's a pedigree to compel further investigation.

Good luck to both Lex Land and Charlotte Sometimes as they battle Monday night (check your local listings) and, as well, in all their future musical endeavors.  I admit I'm rooting for Lex this time around, but both women are artists to watch in the coming years.