No, I still have no idea how RSS works. BUT I have figured out one thing. The way this site is built, subscribing to the RSS feed on this page isn't going to alert you to changes on other pages. Right now, most of the action is on the PREviews page. The REviews are coming along, bit by bit. And The FREE List should start hopping in about a month. Subscribing to the RSS feeds on any or all of the pages that interest you is the only way to stay on top of things around here. Other than stopping by every day which, you know, I wouldn't discourage.
How bout a song? You can't get this anywhere, just yet. The group is Sweetapple (not Sweet Apple) and they're affiliated with Rockford's Rock Opera. But I just like the video. It's got cats.
Our most recent updates on the site exemplify what I hope the site can be about. We've just added a pair of local artist charity CDs to our PREviews page and one to our REviews page. And, true enough, The 12 Bands of Christmas, Vol. 7 and Rock By The Sea, Vol. 1 (featuring artists from Georgia and Florida respectively) are available on Amazon and through other on-line outlets this year. But where would you ever hear of Christmas In The Mountains, Vol. IV (from the Appalachian region on North Carolina) if someone weren't around to bring it to your attention? These are charity efforts, after all. These CDs represent artists giving of their time and talents for the benefit of others. It's the true spirit of Christmas in action. And the artists involved could likely care less if I mention their names. But the sales of these discs actually matter. The more copies they sell, the more money gets to people who need it. You can go anywhere to find out what people think of Mariah Carey's new holiday effort or read a review of Brian Setzer's latest. And it's not that I won't do previews and reviews of major artist releases. I will. But people need a place to go to learn about releases from independent and local artists and charity efforts like these.
Until recently, ChristmasReviews.com was that place. Christmas Reviews is shutting down their doors after a dozen years of providing Christmas music fans such as myself with a place to learn about the CDs no one else wants to talk about, because they're just too "obscure" and "small". There's nothing "small" about raising money to feed children and fight cancer. Nothing. I know it would be neigh on impossible to fill the huge shoes of Christmas Reviews, but I do hope Stubbys can fill a tiny bit of that void.
And Stubby luvs him some local artist Christmas compilation. As a subset of the entire genre, it's easily my favorite.
In Christmas music, local artist comps are the closest thing to opening the good Christmas presents on Christmas morning. You know the ones. OK, this box probably has socks and that one has that little gadget I was asking for, but, ooooh, what's in this one?
With the local artist compilation, you never know what to expect. Once in awhile, you'll catch a future star. In 1993, a full year before their assault on the national charts, a little known outfit with the unlikely moniker of Hootie and The Blowfish turned up on a local artist Xmas comp out of Georgia. Nine years later, another Georgia holiday comp included the first recorded performance of Sugarland. And, just as often, a major artist will donate a song to a compilation from their home town or region, as has happened frequently in the Christmas In The Northwest series. But those occurrences are just extra icing on an already delicious cake.
Musically, such compilations can be, and usually are, all over the map. I like that in a compilation. There are originals of every kind--some clever, some fun, some heart wrenching--and different arrangements of the old standards. These albums rarely get distributed beyond the local area. And they're usually available, in comparatively limited numbers, for the one year and then they're gone...even before the last bit of snow has disappeared from the ground. When the proceeds are for charity, the collections are just that much more special--that much more Christmas. The local artists get some exposure, worthy charities raise much needed funds, and the listener gets some great new holiday music. Everybody wins!
If you hear of a local artist Christmas compilation in your little corner of the world, we'd appreciate a heads up. Then we can help send others your way.
This is the new single from The Soulphonics. That's the Soulphonics from Austin, Texas, not the Atlanta group of similar (or same) name.
Hard copy singles are available at Antone's Records and Waterloo Records--both in Austin--but apparently not on-line.
Digital downloads are available at iTunes and Amazon MP3.
Indie artist Sam Billen thinks a little differently than a lot of musicians when it comes to where his music and Christmas intersect. Sam's idea is to print up a thousand (or a couple of thousand) Christmas CDs, and then hand them out--for free--to random strangers on the street. No strings attached. Just giving the gift of music, quite literally and quite personally. Crazy, right? Well, it's not as though he's never done this before. Back in 2008, Sam handed out hundreds of copies of his "Merry Christmas" to people on the streets of Lawrence and Kansas City, Kansas. Then he sent hundreds more to friends in places like Japan, France and Hong Kong to do the same.
It worked once, so there's no reason to believe it wouldn't work again.
So what kind of help is Sam Billen looking for? Well, the monetary kind, actually. Sam and his project partner, Josh Atkinson, need to raise $1200 by November 20. Pledging anywhere from $1 on up will come with certain rewards. For example, for a pledge of $5, you'll get a pre-release download and one physical copy of the CD. Greater pledge amounts will net greater incentives--up to and including an original song written for you about anything you specify and a personal concert via skype for you and your friends. If they don't raise $1200 by November 20, there will be no album. If they raise more, they'll press more copies. And any leftover funds will be donated to charity.
It's weird. But weird in a good, cool, Christmasy kind of way.
Now, just so you don't feel any pressure on this, you should know that the spirit of giving doesn't end at the city limit of Lawrence, Kansas. It's almost certain that the album will be made available for free download once all the copies have been distributed. We'll add it to the Free List when that happens. And you can certainly go, right now, and download "Merry Christmas" from 2008 and "The More The Merrier" from 2009. But we thought we'd let you know about this, in case it sounds like something you'd like to do. How often do you get the opportunity, afterall, to be a "major financial backer" for a record album--knowing that your $1 or five or whatever brought a surprise and a smile to some random person in the world for Christmas? Head on over to Kickstarter, if you're interested in being a part of this project.
Welcome to Stubby's House of Christmas!
This is a test. This is only a test. Had this been a real blog, you would have received instructions to report immediately to your turntable or CD player.
As you may have guessed, I'm Stubby. And this site is about Christmas music. New Christmas music, old Christmas music, Christmas music yet to be made. Hopefully, if this all works out, there will be lists of all the coming new releases (for this year's list, head over to FaLaLaLaLa), reviews of independent Christmas CDs that don't get the attention they deserve, recommendations and recaps of the year's best (and the essentials no collection should be without), links to FREE Christmas music on the Internets, suggestions for making your own holiday head tapes in whatever genre you'd prefer, tributes to the artists of Christmas music old and new, a bit of blog, the occasional mp3. Hey, if it all works out, I envision a virtual Disneyland for Christmas music fanatics--all one of me!
But, for now, this is Stubby's House 1-point-oh. Come on along and watch me try to figure this whole thing out (Hey, look! I've got an RSS feed! And I don't even know what that means!). It'll be fun! Because, for now......this is a test. This is only a test....
To kick things off, here are the pages we intend to offer:
YOU ARE HERE: Our blog, our home. Here, we'll post about Christmas music, old and new, look at and remember some great Christmas records long forgotten, pay tribute to fallen heroes of the genre and muse about whatever my mind coughs up on any given day. We'll also notify you of significant updates to the other pages. And cats. We'll end up talking about cats a little bit. It's unavoidable.
THE LIST: The List will feature a continuously updated, chronological list of the season's holiday releases--all linked either to our previews, reviews, or some site where you can purchase. As noted above, I constructed this year's list over at FaLaLaLaLa, before I thought it might be more reasonable to waste my own bandwidth rather than someone else's. So, for now, we'll leave that page more or less empty.
PREVIEWS: Previews will feature the basic info you want to know in determining holiday CD and download purchases--cover art, track list, a link to purchase and, perhaps, some brief info about the artist(s) in question. I pride myself on finding the information before most other sites have it. Again, this year, I've been doing this at The Fa and at Imwan; so we'll forego most of that here, for the time being (we've tossed in a few to give you the flavor). But come back next year and put me to the test.
REVIEWS: Actual reviews of the actual albums I've actually listened to. Generally, I'll try to remember what my Mom & Dad taught me: If I can't say anything nice, I'll try not to say anything at all. Of course, I'm old and curmudgeonly these days, so I promise nothing. Might come a day and an album where the only review I can muster will be "Bah! Humbug!"
THE NICE LIST: This is where we'll put the reviews of what I believe are the best releases of the year, plus (when and if we get around to it) the all-time essentials. Your mileage may vary, of course. I think the real value to the casual Christmas music buyer will be learning which of the many off-the-beaten-path albums I listen to each year rise above the rest.
THE FREE LIST: Here, we'll point you to some of the free Christmas music available on the Internets. Many independent artists just want you to hear them, confident the exposure will lead you to explore the rest of their catalog, or attend a performance. Others simply feel the spirit of the season and give you their holiday performances as a gift. Whatever the case, it's a fact that some of the best new Christmas music I've heard in the last 5 years didn't cost me a dime.
And, if I think of anything else, I'll throw that in, too. Sounds like quite the ambitious undertaking, doesn't it? Am I up for it? Nah! Not even close.
This is a test. This is only a test.
I love Christmas, music, and cats. What more do you need to know?