Updated: Dec 23, 2021
When it comes to Christmas music, I can handle it in relatively small doses. And only right around the holiday. That said, I tend to be a traditionalist. I’d much rather hear Nat King Cole than Mariah Carey. But when it comes to modern interpretations of classic tunes, you really can’t beat The Gift. Not only are the interpretations and originals uniformly great, but it’s a terrific snapshot of the mid-nineties Columbus music scene. It’s hard to find a better display of the depth and breadth of Columbus's talent. And yet it all holds together remarkably well around the subject of Christmas.
The Gift...To The Homeless, From Local Artists
Executive produced by Columbus music impresario Gabor Klein and Brett Gilbert, this record also was for a good cause. It raised over $20,000 for the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless when it was released. The album is sequenced well, opening with an acapella variation of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer by Throat Culture and peaking with a gorgeous solo piano take on Oh Come Emmanuel by Jim Maneri on track 9 before ending with an electronic version of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.
This mix has a little bit of everything - classics, originals, lesser-known covers and reimagined covers. The opening track is the latter, with Throat Culture’s doo-wop Rudy. This is followed by Jazzmary Daniels’ band, Moxie, doing a jazzy take on Babes In Toyland’s March Of The Toys. 1997 was the peak of the swing revival and Wolfgang Parker was packing the clubs. Here we get The Jumpin’ Terrors’ swingin’ version of Santa Claus Is Back In Town. An early version of Blue Level, billed here as Squash, is next with a lovely, spare reading of Angels We Have Heard On High.
Now we get to the first original track which not only happens to be written by stalwart Tim Easton but has some timely lyrics. We’re in a different sort of Christmas Lockdown, but a lockdown nonetheless. This is a great Haynes Boys tune that was just reissued on an album supporting the Southern Alliance For People and Animal Welfare. Go buy it and support a great cause - all proceeds go to bringing "Santa" to children living in poverty. Columbus’ own Megan Palmer is also represented with the lovely title track Called To Love. Check it out - it’s a worthy collection for a worthy cause.
Back to The Gift, Eileen Motok brings an acoustic and relatively traditional version of We Three Kings with percussion rounding out the tastefully sparse arrangement by her band INtuIT. Koo Stark is a band I wasn’t familiar with, but their take on the obscure Randy Newman tune Snow, originally recorded by the Johnny Mann Singers, is one of the more unique covers on the album. Oswald & The Herringbones round out the first half of the album with a bluesy and rockin' Hark The Herald Angels Sing. As you’d expect from Tom Boyer, it sounds spanky.
Scrawl is at the peak of their musical power here with a heavy, brooding Do You Hear What I Hear. Considering the song was written by a Massachusetts couple as a plea for peace in response to the Cuban Missile Crisis, it’s entirely appropriate and puts the song in a new light. What a great arrangement. The last original of the compilation is Fred Haring’s wistful Christmas In Tremont, Illinois. Mostly acoustic with a great mandolin part providing the ear candy, it’s another great tune.
Donna Mogavero surprisingly has the longest track on the album, but it doesn’t feel like it. She takes on the Bruce Cockburn song Cry Of A Tiny Babe and does it more than justice. What a great choice - her voice is perfectly suited to carry this re-telling of the Christmas story. Th’ Flyin’ Saucers bring the tempo back up with a rockabilly take of Chuck Berry’s Run Rudolph Run. NUdE perform a spare Winter Wonderland before things wind up with The BoneTribe’s electronica Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.
The mid-nineties is an era of Columbus music near to my heart. I was in my twenties, the band I’d played in since high school was winding down, and I started getting out more to see other bands. This is a remarkably representative collection and there’s not a dud in the bunch. Many of the musicians represented here are still active musically or in the community. Throat Culture's John Bolzenius is now the proprietor of Guitar House Workshop, for example.
Christmastime can be difficult for many folks and it’s been a tough couple of years for everyone. I find that turning the focus outward can lift the spirits. Sometimes we feel like we can’t help others when we have enough issues of our own to deal with. But now is as good a time as any to practice gratitude and help those less fortunate. Not preaching, but reminding myself. I think it’s safe to say that every single one of us is struggling to some degree right now. Let’s be mindful of each other’s humanity and the power of community. Music can be healing too. Merry Christmas!
“The songs on this CD are contributions from some of the very finest musicians in central Ohio. All of the bands are local and can usually be found playing in or around Columbus. Please support them and their efforts to produce new music whenever possible.” - The Gift liner notes
Written-By – R. Fuller
Written-By – F. Haring
15. NUdE – Winter Wonderland
Mastered At – OATH Studios
Manufactured By – QCA, Inc.
Phonographic Copyright ℗ – Columbus Coalition For The Homeless
Copyright © – Columbus Coalition For The Homeless
Designed At – Liquid Media
Recorded At – OATH Studios
Recorded At – John Schwab Recording
Recorded At – Amerisound Studios
Recorded At – The Rubber Room (Columbus, Ohio)
Recorded At – Fort Hayes Studios
Recorded At – 5th Avenue Studios
Recorded At – The BoneTribe Studios
Artwork, Graphics – John Daugherty
Compiled By, Mastered By – Tom Boyer
Design – John Daugherty