‘Christmas in the Mountains Vol. 5’
From the end of November to the beginning of January, it’s nearly impossible to escape Christmas music. It’s on the radio, in the stores, and pretty much anywhere there’s a stereo speaker. Many of the songs are time-honored favorites, but some make people wish the New Year would come sooner than later.
Tired of Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmas Time” and other overplayed holiday songs, Christmas music enthusiasts will welcome “Christmas in the Mountains Vol. 5.” The collection, a cheery, homegrown offering that comes but once a year, brings joy to ears and food to hungry stomachs.
“Christmas in the Mountains” is released by the Hunger and Health Coalition in Boone, a nonprofit organization providing food and pharmacy assistance to people experiencing economic hardship.
Numerous musicians in the High Country donate their time and music to the album, meaning 100 percent of the proceeds go to the Hunger Coalition. Since 2007, “Christmas in the Mountains” has raised more than $100,000 for the coalition’s End Child Hunger initiative.
“Vol. 5,” like previous editions of “Christmas in the Mountains,” is a conglomeration of the many sounds of the High Country in the tune of Christmas. Mountain music cannot be defined as one particular style, as shown by “Vol. 5.” Bluegrass, folk, religious and even jazz have large audiences in the High Country and are therefore are represented.
“Christmas in the Mountains” features recognizable figures, as well as some who are on the rise. Many artists, including Sound Traveler, Blue Ridge Vocal Ensemble and Amantha Mill, were heard on last year’s album and return for another go this year. They are also joined by newcomers like Sharon Mitchell and Matthew Weaver.
One of the most notable entries of the album belongs to The Kruger Brothers. The folk trio offer “The Lights in Our Village,” a tranquil acoustic song about villagers treading through a snowy night to church. The building’s bell rings in the background with the brothers’ alluring guitar work and Jens Kruger’s soothing vocals over top.
Diana Wilcox may not have as large of a following as the Krugers, but she is undoubtedly one of the most premier vocalists in the area. Her honey voice stuns on her stellar contribution, “Sweet Little Jesus Boy.”
ASU students Alexis Worthington and Tyron Young bring a youthful vibrancy to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Matthew Weaver, an ASU student and multi-talented musician who has appeared at Dollywood and on the Grand Ole Opry, takes to the piano to perform a vigorous instrumental rendition of “Blue Christmas.”
ASU professors Todd Wright, Andy Page and Steve Smith also make return appearances to “Christmas in the Mountains.” The additional servings of instrumentals from these musical masters are essential to the professional sound of the album. Smith, on the acoustic guitar, with his wife, Ruth, on the hammered dulcimer, contributes a calming “In the Bleak Midwinter.” Page’s acoustic and electric guitar blend for an innovative take of “Silent Night,” and Todd Wright Trio’s jazz version of “Silver Bells” would coincide well with a holiday toast.
“Christmas in the Mountains Vol. 5” is a terrific Christmas soundtrack that plays well from front to back, but some people will probably cherry pick their favorites to add to a larger playlist. Both the album and its individual songs stand up well with the common traditionals and are also a welcome departure from songs that we wish Santa would pack up and take back to the North Pole.
“Christmas in the Mountains Vol. 5” is available at more than 70 locations in the High Country. For a list of retailers or to purchase the album online, visit http://www.hungercoalition.com.