Friday, December 9, 2011

Austin Christmas Music Round-up 2011

Sounds of Christmas in Austin

By Sean Claes
Ahh... it's Christmastime in Austin. Every year INsite likes to run down some local slant on the holidays. A few times we've done a "Totally Austin Gift Guide" which has been popular. Well.. if you'd like to peruse those here's a link to the lists in 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2010. This year we decided to do something different, so we took a look as 10 of the more interesting local Christmas/Holiday releases and have shared them with you.

We found 4 new releases and then filled out the list with 6 picks that you may have missed, but should be on your list. Holiday music is timeless... right?

So.. here's 10 of our favorites as the 2011 Sounds of Christmas In Austin. There are links to where you can purchase all of these after the blurb, and where we've been able to find them, YouTube videos of a performance. Hope you enjoy, and if you have any to add, please comment away. Merry Christmas to all.

HAAM Benefit Christmas Album (2011)

If you buy one Christmas CD this year, please make it this one. It goes to benefit the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians AND it’s filled with amazing Austin performers like Wendy Colonna, Dave Madden, Will Sexton, the Grooveline Horns, Haden Vitera and more. The first “single” from the album is an awesome Shelley King track entitled “Christmas In Austin.” Swagger.

2. Full Service perform “We Three Kings” (2011)
This little homespun and underproduced gem from Full Service is just over a minute long, but it’s going to be the endcap of my families annual Christmas CD. It’s a free download, it’s a little bit funky and it’s all Full Service.
Free download:

3. Invincible Czars Ornaments (2011)
If you’ve never heard the Invincible Czars, you should. They are a full-on Rock band that is known mostly for doing a stellar rock version of The Nutcracker (although their originals are also awesome). Do yourself a favor, visit the link and listen to the sample of ‘White Christmas.”

4. Nakia “Remember This Christmas” (2011) – Single

Riding (deservedly) his rise to reality-TV singer stardom, Nakia has released his sad ballad entitled “Remember This Christmas.” Here’s a video of him performing it with another stellar ensamble, With Strings Attached, in 2006.

5. Austin Handbell Ensemble Serenity (2010)
If you’re in the mood for nice, quiet, reflective disc, I would suggest this release from the Austin Handbell Ensemble. This one is for the Hymns… “Angels We Have Heard On High,” “O Little Town Of Bethlehem,” and “Silent Night” among them.

6. Biscuit Brothers - Have a Very Musical Christmas (2007)

If you live in the Austin area and have never heard of The Biscuit Brothers, you either don’t have kids or you have not paid attention to… well.. anything for the last 6 years. They are a local Emmy Award winning Children’s TV show on PBS, and they are all talented musicians and fantastic songwriters. I’d put their “Bad Sushi for Santa” up against any witty holiday song. Plus most of the tracks are new songs, so it’s great music and a new discovery.

7. Bob Schneider Christmas Time (2009)

Bob Schneider is one of those performers who you either REALLY like or REALLY dislike. I happen to enjoy his music.. and he put out a Christmas CD a few years ago.

8. Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison Happy Holidays (2006)

This one is from 2006, but their version of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is worth a mention. This is a great CD from one of Austin’s most talented musical couples. They also do an annual Holiday Show, this year it’s on December 10 at The Paramount.

9. Austin’s WB - Holiday Songs (2004)
If you blinked you missed this one… it’s a great grouping of Austin artists including Malford Milligan on “O Come All Ye Faithful” and Strings Attached w/ Eliza Gilkyson on “What Child is This,” even if this album didn’t benefit the Austin Children’s Shelter (I hope it still does, this was released in 2004) it’s worth buying. Of course, the gem of the 12 song album is Grupo Fantasma’s version of “Dreidel Song.”

10. Slaid Cleaves - Holiday Sampler (2001)

A decade ago Slaid Cleaves released his version of “You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch” on a Holiday sampler. I’d seen him perform it live a few times… and it always impressed. As with the rest of his music, he puts a twist on it that makes it his own.

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