A Guitar Heavy Holiday (Music Thoughts: Farewell December, Matt Nathanson)

I don’t normally listen to the kind of music Matt Nathan son sings – he is. singer songwriter, basically a guy with a guitar. But I don’t necessarily dislike his particular style. But I was intrigued that he has a track here that features the San Francisco Gay Man’s Chorus, and I thought that was an unlikely and interesting combination, so I went ahead and listened to the rest of the album.

And yes, this was a very pleasant listen, and I have to be honest, I don’t know if I will ever listen to this thing again. The track with the chorus, ‘Christmastime Is Here’ is very nice, and there are other tracks that appealed to me: his version of ‘Mamacita,’ and his cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘River.’

But the rest just went over my head, if I have to be honest. His guitar heavy tracks like ‘Snow’ and ‘Father Christmas’ just did not appeal to me, and one track, ‘Granda Got Run Over’ just flat-out grated on me. But I am sure those tracks will have fans of their own.

Delta Dawned (Music Thoughts: Only Santa Knoes, Delta Goodrem)

I know Delta Goodrem is very popular in her native Australia, but I still don’t know here that much. I have listened to a lot of her recordings, but nothing has stuck over the years. I know I wrote about her Olivia Newton John tribute album a while back. but for the life of me don’t remember much about it – I am not even sure if I did like it.

Sad to say, I still feel that way about her after listening to her new Holiday album ‘Only Santa Knows.’ Nothing is still sticking to me. I can’t zone in on her voice – I mean, it’s very good technically, but it just doesn’t hit me in my heart.

For me, I just felt like she went through the motions here, and don’t remember any of the songs even after listening to them. Yes, it is anothjer case of ‘it’s not you, it’s me.’ Sorry Delta.

At This Time (Music Thoughts: This Time of Year, Maxine Linehan)

Maxine Linehan grew up in Ireland so she has fond memories of Christmasses in her youth, so it makes sense she would do a Christmas album. To be honest, I had not heard of her before, although her output includes shows and tributes to both Petula Clark and Barbra Streisand. Her live shows have garnered great reviews.

This Holiday album has twelve tracks, and there are only five traditional Holiday songs. The rest are her own compositions, including the title track which she is promoting. I wish I could say that the original songs are memorable. I have played the album twice now and nothing has stuck.

And since she lives in Southern Vermont, she includes a cover of ‘Moonlight in Vermont.; It’s nice, but kind of out of place here. While she does well eniugh with teh Silent Nights and Happy Christmasses, the mood is all over the place for me. I have extracted her ‘The Perfect Year’ for one of my Holiday playlist but i don’t know rally if I will listen to the other tracks again.

Carrie On (Music Thoughts: My Gift, Carrie Underwood)

Carrie Underwood give her fans a Holiday gift by releasing ‘My Gift,’ her first album of Holiday music. And it is exactly the kind of Christmas album you would expect from her.

One of her biggest hits is ‘Jesus Take The Wheel,’ and there is no shortage of religious-themed carols here. You got your ‘Mary Did You Know,’ your ‘Joyful Joyful,’ your ‘Sweet Baby Jesus,’ so you can say that she really knows her audience.

I found her voice to be predictably competent, but also kind of boring. I don’t think she stretched herself creatively here, (it sounds like she phoned it in) But then again why should se? I am sure this album will sell tons, and will make a lot of people happy. I just wish there was more of anything else here.

Francesca For The Holidays (Music Thoughts: This Christmas, Francesca Batistelli)

What the heck, since Halloween is over, we are, whether we like it or not, we are thrust in the Holiday season now. I don’t know how I will celebrate this year, if even i do. Pandemics can change your perspective about things, and for all we know, we may have our most meaningful holidays yet.

But surely I can go about my ‘tradition’ of writing about new holiday music, right? I had never heard of Francesca Batistelli before, and I did a little bit of googling – she ids a multi awarded young Christian and gospel singer. That would normally give me pause (she is probably homophobic) but I went ahead and listened to her album, and it is magnificent. It is soulful, and she really knows how to get into the meat of these songs. It is spiritual, for sure, and she definitely excels on these faith-based songs (Silent Night has never sounded more about the heart) My favorite one is ‘Messiah.’

But, she also was great singing the ‘regular’ songs – the title track is a fun one, and while it is a great cover, it sounds like her own. And speaking of her own songs, she has an original I like – ‘Christmas Valentine’ a fun dittie and romantic new holiday song.

so yes, I really love the album and will listen to it throughout the holidays. I hope she isn’t homophobic.

Spring In A Song (Music Thoughts: You Must Believe In Spring, Josie Falbo)

I think there is no song more fitting to sing nowadays than ‘You Must Believe in Spring.’ I mean, this administration, this pandemic – these are dark times and this song is so hopeful. It may be winter now, but you must believe in Spring because it will come. Josie Falbo sings that song in her album (it is also the title of her album) and she sings it masterfully – she captures the despair a lot of us are feeling right now, but her rendition also offers hope. It is a great interpretation of the song.

She sings the rest of the album as wonderfully. Miss Falbo has been singing for thirty five years now (as per her bio) and she definitely knows what she is singing about. She posses the confidence of. woman who has lived these lyrics – and tells a unique story with each of the songs. I liked the way she deconstructs ‘Tis Autumn’ that brings out the meaning of the lyrics, and she swings like mad in ‘Devil May Care.’

Don’t pass by this album, listen to it, and it will be a small light in these times we are living in right now.

The Brodway Corner (Music Thoughts: The Corner of Broadway and Main Street Vol 2, Voctave)

I am not on the up and up with vocal acapella groups so I had no idea who Voctave was. Apparently they are a very popular group based in Florida and they had a successful album from 2017 of Broadway songs.

Liz Callaway brought my attention to their new album, which is a sequel to that album. Well, she brought me to the album because she sings a track with them, and of course anything Liz does, I follow.

I have to say I am mighty impressed with the album. Liz does sing a beautiful ‘When She Loved me with them’ and it is a highlight of a solid album. The arrangements sound fresh, and you know they love singing this kind of music. The selection is sublime, if a bit all over the place. On one corner is s solemn ‘Children Will Listen’ which sits along a ‘Disney parks Medley.’ But they spirit is definitely there. I don’t know how much of this I will listen to over and over, but what I am hearing right now is fine.

Soul Dian (Music Thoughts: My Funny Valentine, Dian Pratiwi)

If you have been reading this, I think you probably know when I discover people from around the world are singing songs from the Great American Songbook. I recently discovered the singer Dian Pratiwi, who has released an album titled ‘My Funny Valentine.’ She lives in Bali, Indonesia, and was born in Jakarta. Her album is a mixture of classic songs and newish soul standards.

Upon listening, though, she has more a soul-funk sound than a jazz one. Her singing is very robust and strong, and her improvisations lean more soul. It’s not bad, just not what I was expecting. The album is culled from live performances, and they show her strength – I bet she is a pistol when she is performing. Her ‘Route 66’ rocks, and there’s a whoel lot of herself in ‘What’s Going On.’

The French Voice (Music Thoughts: Enchantée, Marie Oppert)

I love me a good soprano so I was excited to discover Marie Oppert, a young French singer based in Paris. I had never heard of her, but saw that her new album, ‘Enchantée,’ has a fantastic repertoire of French and American standards. One note of the album and you will be filled with joy.

She never sounds like she is ‘slumming’ when she sings these songs, as you see her relaxed and comfortable singing them – no arched shoulders for sure.

She takes on Broadway classics like ‘I Got Rhythm,’ and ‘Over The Rainbow’ and sings them not just competently but with firm understanding of the songs’ meaning. She includes more recent choices like ‘The Light in the Piazza,’ and ‘Electricity,’ from Billy Elliot. And when she sings in her native French, you can see she is in her element: her ‘I Will Wait For You’ is pure magic. Marvel in her great voice.

Nice and Easy (Music Thoughts: Great Songs from Stage & Screen, Seth McFarlane)

I blinked and Seth McFarlane has a new vocal album, ‘Great Songs From Stage and Screen.’ I feel like he has just released hsi last one, but it could have been a while back. They all blend into one thing for me. I yawned at the album’s concept – songs from movies, expecting the same old familiar tunes.

To my surprise, the song selection is sublime, with the initial track ‘Let’s Not Be Sensible’ a now almost-rare track from the Bing Crosby road movie ‘The Road To Hong Kong.’ Peppered her are some cool gems like ‘Once Upon A Dream’ from Sleeping Beauty, which he does her with rat pack braggadoccio, and ‘Ten Minutes Ago’ from ‘Cinderella’ getting the same treatment.

The problem with the album, in my opinion, is that it is too clean and straight. There’s nothing wrong with McFarlane’s vocals, and the arrangements are impeccable, backed by a stellar orchestra. There’s no oomph or sexiness (or danger) to the songs. As I. listen to it, I keep on thinking how Michael Bublé could do so much more with the same exact material.