1. Joy to the World -- Louis Landon
2. Angels We Have Heard On High -- Thano & Lolo
3. The Gift -- Art Patience
4. Away In a Manger -- Chris Burton Jacome
5. Light to the World -- Amber Norgaard
6. First Light -- Jocelyn Obermeyer
7. Jingle Bells -- Sherry Finzer, Darin Mahoney, Will Clipman
8. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentleman --Greg Starr
9. Ave Maria --Tatum Stolworthy
10. What Child Is This? (Greensleeves) -- John Calvert
11. Silent Night --Voyager Tom Moore
12. The Huron Carol -- Nathan Tsosie
13. O Come O Come Emmanuel -- Amy Faithe
PURCHASE CD FROM HEART DANCE RECORDS
PURCHASE CD FROM AMAZON
PURCHASE CD OR DIGITAL FROM BANDCAMP
PURCHASE DIGITAL FROM iTUNES
Heart Dance Records is based in Arizona and they specialize in New Age and "contemporary instrumental music". Their stable of artists is made up of those who either live in Arizona or spend a good deal of their time playing there.
Next up are Thano & Lolo. These two are nothing short of magic. Thano Sahnas is the guitarist while Lauren is on the harp. Their sound collects up influences as disparate as Classical and Classic Rock. Together, they weave a fetching version of "Angels We Have Heard On High" that, every now and then, is going to zig when you expect it to zag. It's a bit of a snowflake ballet that should capture your heart and put a smile on your face. Even as their sound is completely unique, it is also what exceptional New Age sounds like. Truly wonderful and probably the artists I'm most happy to have discovered through "Christmas From The Heart". It's a shame I can't find very much more Thano & Lolo on the web (though there is this video of "He Said, She Said").
From the name Art Patience, I was expecting an artsy group thing. But, no, Art Patience is a single name. He plays harmonica in ways I hadn't really thought about before. It's clear he has the talent to turn a single note into a symphony. The only other person I know who could pull something like that off is the late Toots Thielemans (whom I already miss far too much). "The Gift" is a delicious piece of Ambient that I hope gets heard far and wide.
"First Light" from Jocelyn Obermeyer is an engaging piece for harp and a perfect selection to follow "Light To The World". In the given context, I actually get a Christmas Day feel from "First Light". It could be me--y'all know I'm crazy--and I'm certain it was the farthest thing from what Ms. Obermeyer intended, but I kinda visualized a youngster on Christmas morning, here. Whaaa...? Hmm. Forget I said anything and we'll speak of this no more.
Tatum Stolworthy (or Tatum Lynn, as her website bills her) is one of those people with boundless talent and energy who has probably accomplished more in the last year than I have in 60. She sings, she dances, she mentors youth even though she's still a teenager herself, she even-- Hey, you know what? We've gotten this far into the record and I haven't even mentioned that 10% of the proceeds from sales of "Christmas From The Heart" will go to the Music AS Therapy non-profit. Three guesses who started that charity and the first two don't count. Yep, Tatum did that. On the record, Tatum provides the second vocal track, "Ave Maria". And it's breathtaking. Of course, it would be. And, by the way, recorded perfectly; so whoever was running the board for that one, your work, too, was outstanding.
As it's nearly 5 in the morning, I'm going to rush through the rest (apologies). John Calvert's "Greensleeves" is some sweet fingerstyle picking that deserves the paragraph it's not getting (Sincere apologies. Here's his website; go pay him a visit). Voyager Tom Moore does space age Ambient justice to "Silent Night". And Nathan Tsosie's "Huron Carol" is exquisite and haunting Native American flute playing.
Sometimes I approach an album with high expectations and that usually doesn't end well. I was desperately thirsty from some good new New Age and so, yes, my expectations for this one were probably a lot higher than they should have been. But I'm happy to report that "Christmas From The Heart" met my expectations easily, and surpassed them by quite a bit. There are some truly brilliant artists on the record from whom I most definitely want to hear more. Thano and Lolo are beyond amazing; I hope Heart Dance or someone else is thinking about a full album from them (and soon). Art Patience is the Ambient artist I've been waiting for. Amber Norgaard is a bright star shining. And Amy Faithe blows me away. And that should not be taken to mean that I think any less of the other artists here. "Christmas From The Heart" reminds me of the early days (what I call the early days, anyway) when New Age was the new thing and you'd grab your first Windham Hill compilation, or your first Narada compilation, or your first Higher Octave compilation--excited to discover 10 or 12 or 20 new artists in the genre who would each transport you to a different place. And all this is going on in Arizona, huh?
The CD packaging is beautiful, for those who care about that sort of thing. Obviously, the music is beautiful as well. As I've noted before, compilations can be tough to sequence to achieve just the right flow to carry you gently through the journey. Rarely do I hear a comp where I don't at least once, mentally, reposition the tracks. (Yeah, I know; at times my ego is completely out of control.) But this record is sequenced perfectly. Every track is exactly where it needs to be. That takes a skill requiring your ears, your head and your heart all working together. So A+ on that score as well.
"Christmas From The Heart" will be officially released this Friday (Oct. 21). If you happen to love New Age and Ambient as I do, I would tell you to buy this album immediately. If you happen to enjoy some New Age, I would tell you that you're going to want to buy this album sooner or later, so you might as well get it now. And, if you don't happen to like New Age or Ambient at all, I would ask you to keep an open mind and heart, check out the songs or samples on line and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. Of course, if you're a Christmas music obsessive, I probably don't have to tell you anything.
And while I'm here.... I'm a total idiot sometimes. When I was doing one of my runs through Amazon's digital listings, I fell in love with this album from Dulce VAS, "Christmas Picante". It's harp and flute (and I told you I'm a sucker for flute). The record is a little bit Jazz, a little bit Classical and a little bit Pop. Great stuff. I've been grooving on "Carol of the Bells" from that record quite regularly this fall. Hearing the flute and harp go all Jazzy like that, to me, is like winning the lottery and finding out you don't even have to pay taxes on it. Had I scrolled down Amazon's listing, I'd have seen that "Christmas Picante" was a Heart Dance release and that it's Sherry Finzer on the flute (VeeRonna Ragone on the harp). DOH! They do a killer "O Holy Night", too. Check it out if you get the chance.