I've been recording albums since 1985 and have never released one for Christmas; not sure why. Well, p'raps the reason is that in order to have a Christmas album ready for Christmas, you have to record it sometime during the year, which can be odd, sort of like snow in July.
But finally, after some folks began asking about one, I decided that this year would be the summer that I hunker down and begin recording a bona-fide Christmas album. Research and tracking began in late August as I went digging for the original lyrics and melodies to some traditional favorites. There are lyrics and a story to "Jingle Bells" that I never knew existed - so they're ending up on the release. Also, besides some lesser-known carols (like the "St. Day Carol"), I wanted to present versions of Christmas songs that were easily recognizable, but just a little different from what people might've heard before, and that's been the challenge; to find a way to really make each tune and track unique in some way.
My approach has been pretty simple - to let the film composer side of me have at it with the mountain dulcimer. The result has been instrumentals that stick to the basics, yet support the melodies and chord changes with vividly different colors than may be expected. I'm also "orchestrating" the dulcimer as I would a small ensemble, so even in the sparsely arranged pieces, there are definitive parts being performed by separate instruments along with parts being played all together on the dulcimer. Equal parts separation and drone are converging on the record thus far.
There are some vocal tunes and some upbeat arrangements featuring some percussion and guitar. Roger Zimish is contributing some of the latter. Today, I'm working on "Go Tell It On The Mountain", a negro spiritual that I fell in love with as a child. My approach to the tune will not be as orchestrated as the one that I first heard - but will feature more of the traditional lyrics. Likewise, and as mentioned before, "Jingle Bells" goes back to the original lyrics that are often left out of the song - a story of how a sleigh-ride in the snow turns bumpy. I've had some fun with this one, even adding some cartoon sound effects at one particular moment to underscore the action.
I'll have more blogging on this release, which is scheduled to be available in about three weeks, so obviously I'm up against time on this one. Some samples will be posted here soon!