“What do you get somebody who has everything?”, asks blues/pop singer Janey Street on her jazzy original track “Christmas in Your Eyes”, and one good answer to that question is the new holiday album on which Street’s song appears: a bright, refreshing collection of seasonal favorites and originals entitled A Blue Élan Christmas (Blue Élan Records). In addition to including some great new music such as Street’s smoky, Dee Dee Bridgewater-sounding tune (which fits in rather nicely with the theme of our blog, with the following line to that above being “you can’t wrap up love, to try and hide the blues”), the album also benefits an important cause, with 100% of the label’s profits from the set being sent to the Alliance for Children’s Rights, an organization that provides children with free legal services and advocacy, permanency through adoption and legal guardianship, and access to healthcare and an equitable education.
While much of what you’ll hear on this collection falls into a broader American roots, pop, or R&B style rather than straight blues, there are several songs beyond Street’s that are sure to interest blues lovers, including the rootsy opening “Every Day Will Be Like a Holiday” (which you can hear below) from multiple Blues Music Award-winner and celebrity foster care advocate Janiva Magness that features frequent Magness collaborator Dave Darling on guitar and background vocals in addition to producing, as well as a terrific song from Darling’s own band the Soul Sparrows in the catchy, Fantastic Negrito-like, hip hop grooves of the soulful “Another Year Come and Gone” – with its uplifting lyrics such as “Another year come and gone again/ Let’s lift a glass with all our friends/ We lived and loved and laughed last year; let’s do it all again” and “Hold that door open/ free up those favors/ do something cool and smile at your neighbors” – that elicits a “Tha-a-at’s funky!” from one of its members and ends on a beautiful a cappella verse of “Silent Night” courtesy of Brie Darling.
Rock guitarist Gary Hoey takes a break from his own Ho Ho Hoey series of holiday music to contribute a Mannheim Steamroller-worthy instrumental “O Holy Night”, while Poco co-founder and vocalist Rusty Young offers a slow, swaying country original in “Christmas Every Day” and singer/songwriter Jack Tempchin (the Eagles’ “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and “Already Gone”) provides a pair of peaceful, easy tunes of his own in “Christmas Calling” and “Christmas All Year Round”. Among the other well-known artists involved in the project are actress and singer Rita Wilson, whose lovely version of “The Christmas Song” is just one of several sweet, smooth numbers you’ll hear, along with two songs from Cindy Alexander in “Christmas is Here” and “For Auld Lang Syne”, Polly Baker‘s Americana “Light a Candle”, the quiet, classical strains of “On New Year’s Day” from Colin Devlin, and an original from 20-something musical prodigy SEE in “On This Winter Night”.
Hotstop and Almost Young take things a bit more uptempo with a rocking “Christmas on the Beach” and alt-pop “Do You Hear What I Hear”, respectively, while The KRA Rising Stars – a choir of elementary school-aged children – and six-year-old Jette Betrue provide fresh, fun numbers in the form of “Jingle Bells” and Betrue’s country twang-meets-“Shortnin’ Bread” styling of “Santa on Vacation”.
Though bigger names such as Magness, Hoey, Young and Wilson might initially draw you here, the Blue Élan artists go a long way in helping to make sure you stay, making this a superb introduction to some of the label’s rising artists while also benefiting a most worthy cause.
Truth be told, Christmas music isn’t something we ever actively go seeking out, but this album is one that we’re pretty sure will help to make anyone’s Christmas bright, just like the future of many of the rising artists you’ll hear on this vibrant, airy collection from Blue Élan.
To order a physical or digital copy of A Blue Élan Christmas, visit the label’s online store at http://www.blueelan.com/store/.