Thursday, October 25, 2012

{Rudolph Day 10/25} Guest Post: Ken Kessler and the Sounds of Christmas

Hi All!

First, I want to thank Michelle for letting me stop by and take over her Christmas Spirit blog!

There’s less than a week to go before the Sounds of Christmas goes back on the air, and I’ve already added lots of great new music for 2012 (and there’s still plenty more to come)!

Two big ones I want to mention right off the bat are the Polyphonic Spree and Scotty McCreery.

The Polyphonic Spree have been doing “Christmas Extravaganza” shows for some ten years now. They covered John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas” a while back, on the third “Maybe This Christmas” compilation. They also did their version of “Town Meeting Song” for the “Nightmare Revisited” album in 2008.

Now, they’ve put together their first Christmas album – Holidaydream: Sounds of the Holidays Volume One. They put their own unique spin on songs you may have thought you knew, including amazing takes on “Silver Bells” and “Little Drummer Boy”.

American Idol’s Scotty McCreery offers up a more traditional collection, featuring a pair of originals among a slate of favorites, including a fun, rockin’ version of “Santa Claus Is Back It Town”.

Scotty is also sending us a box of CDs to give away, so keep your eyes and ears open for details!

Both of these are already out, and I’m grateful to them for sponsoring us this year, making it possible to share their music, and thousands of others with you over the next couple of months.

Here’s a brief look at more of the new music you’ll be hearing this season on the Sounds of Christmas.

The New Royalty is a relatively new band out of New Jersey, and their Christmas album (which actually came out at the end of August) is called “Spend Christmas With Me”, and it rocks! Even their version of “O Holy Night”!

Three Bridges is a southern gospel group, and I think their Christmas album actually came out last year, available only through their website. Now, “Christmas Must Be Tonight” is out at all the usual suspects. The title track, originally recorded by the Band in the ‘70’s, is terrific, and it leads off a great album!

If you enjoy Christmas parody songs, check out a band called the 60’s Invasion. They offer up a fun collection, with Christmas lyrics replacing the words of popular 60’s songs like “Wooly Bully” and “California Dreamin’”. The album is called “Incense and Chia Pets”.

The Pop Tarts are a girl group from Cleveland, and most of what they do are covers of 60’s girl groups. Their Christmas album, “A Toasty Christmas”, is in that vein, though they’re almost all original songs. A real fun collection, and I can’t wait for you to hear “The Spy With The Golden Sleigh”!

Celtic Woman have returned with an all-new Christmas collection, and it’s truly beautiful. And if you’re a fan, you may want to get your copy at Target, as they have a special version with four extra songs!

Speaking of Target, you’ll also find Christmas CDs there from Richard Marx, Colbie Caillat and Christina Perri that all have bonus tracks you can only get at Target.

On the other hand, Wal-Mart has an exclusive Christmas EP from “The Voice’s” Chris Mann.

Christian Contemporary Artists Steven Curtis Chapman gives us his fourth Christmas album, simply called “Joy”. This one sounds much more mainstream to me than his previous collections, with a mix of originals and classics.

Grammy-nominee Judy Pancoast has released the long-awaited follow up to her previous Christmas album “The House on Christmas Street”. “Christmas With Mrs. Claus” is out now, and has a bunch of fun, original songs, including a re-mix of her classic Christmas song “The House on Christmas Street”!

Lady Antebellum has returned with an expanded version of their 2010 Christmas EP, with a full Christmas album called “On This Winter’s Night”. You’ll love their cover of “A Holly Jolly Christmas”!

All of that stuff is already available. Here’s a look at what’s still on the way.

Rod Stewart delivers his first-ever Christmas album next week. It’s called “Merry Christmas, Baby”, and there are three extra songs on the version at Target. There are special appearance on this one from Michael Buble, Mary J.Blige, Cee Lo Green and Ella Fitzgerald!

Speaking of Cee Lo Green, he also offers up his first Christmas album next week. “Cee Lo’s Magic Moment” featured duets with Christina Aguilera, Rod Stewart, Straight No Chaser and the Muppets!

Trans-Siberian Orchestra has a 5-song Christmas EP also due next week, called “Dreams Of Fireflies (On A Christmas Night)”. Fans who bought tickets through the band’s website were supposed to get instant downloads (but I didn’t, so I don’t know how that worked).

Next month, Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta reunite for “This Christmas”. Lots of guests on this one, including Kenny G, James Taylor, Chick Corea, Cliff Richard, Tony Bennett and Barbra Streisand!

The Empty Pockets, whose “Baby Come Home For Christmas” was one of the highest-rated and most-requested songs last year, gives us an EP called “A Holiday Staycation With The Empty Pockets”. I love their version of “What Christmas Means To Me”!

R&B legend Eddie Floyd gave us a Christmas single last year, assures me that his Christmas album is done and will be out before Thanksgiving!

Those are just some of the highlights, of course. There’s plenty more!

New Christmas music is also out from the Oak Ridge Boys, Blake Shelton, August Burns Red, Mandisa, Francesca Battistelli, Jackie Evancho, James Fortune, Kem and Sammy Kershaw. 

And we’re still expecting new music from Rita Coolidge, Andre Rieu, Tracey Thorn, Tim Halperin, Sufjan Stevens, Twisted Sister and GLEE’s Mathew Morrison.

Oh, there are also some new compilations worth checking out.

“A Very Special Christmas 25th Anniversary” has new tracks from Train and Cheap Trick.

The NOW folks have “NOW That’s What I Call Today’s Christmas”, but all the tracks are previously released, except for Norah Jones “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear”. There is a track from Carly Rae Jepsen called “Mittens”, which was released a year or two ago, way before “Call Me Maybe”.

“Holidays Rule” is due next week, and features Paul McCartney’s new recording (with Diana Krall) of “The Christmas Song”. I think all the tracks on this are new, and it includes the Shins, Fun and the Civil Wars (among others).

Whew! That’s really only a sampling, and my apologies to any of the singers and bands I left out.

Once the Sounds of Christmas is up and running, I’ll be bringing back the New Music hour, where you can hear nothing but 2012 Christmas music for the whole sixty minutes!

Thanks again for letting me babble on and on like this, Michelle! Lots of great new music this season! Hope you’ll be able to stop by and spend part of the season with the Sounds of Christmas!

May you always believe in Santa Claus!


Thank you, Ken.  Wow! I wish I had enough money to buy all of them! Well, at least we can listen to them on Sounds of Christmas.  There are a select few there that I will definitely (try) to pick up.  Namely Rod Stewart and the Olivia Newton John/John Travolta one.  I've long been a fan of that duo! Be sure to visit the Sounds of Christmas HERE (or click the button above or the one that is always available at the bottom of the blog) starting November 1st and subscribe to the list to get in on the fun contests Ken offers throughout the season.  

Always in spirit....

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fragrant and Long Lasting Gifts

When I lived in Wyoming, come Christmas time I would start to long for Minnesota. I missed the beautiful snow covered trees, bent over by the weight of the snow on the branches. I decided I needed to bring a little Minnesota to my home in Wyoming! That’s when I started getting Balsam Fir Christmas Wreaths from Jen’s Wreaths, located in my very own home town of Deer River, Minnesota!

One of the things I love about buying these wreaths is the fact that they are made in the USA. I also want my wreaths to be as Natural/Organic as possible and as FRESH as possible. Jen’s Wreaths makes them all natural from REAL Minnesota Balsam Fir. They make all their wreaths shortly before shipping them, to ensure they arrive fresh and last a long time! They also don’t dip them in green coloring or glue. Instead, they wait until they have had several hard frosts so they have the best needle retention possible. And believe me; Minnesota has some really cold nights!!

I love it when I get my wreaths and open the box! The wreaths are SO fragrant!! They smell so good that the first year I hung my wreath INSIDE of my house, because I just had to smell that awesome fragrance! Also, these wreaths stay fresh for months! I typically get mine around Thanksgiving time and will leave it up until February when the needles start drying out! Last year, I finally decided to take mine down around Valentine’s Day, but it was still looking REALLY good! In the past I have also collected the needles that have fallen off, and put them in a pretty bowl and used them as potpourri around the house! The wreaths have always been fresh, and so fragrant!! 

My favorite wreath for years was the 24” Jen’s Traditional Wreath. It comes with a traditional red velvet bow with red holly berries, and has 3 frosted ponderosa pinecones. I have been getting this one from Jen’s Wreaths since 2005! It’s just a very traditional wreath, and I just love it! It has a real warmth to it, and it just gives me a real traditional, “the way it was back then” type of feel.

In 2011 I decided to change things up! Jen’s Wreaths came out with a new line called The Berry Sweet Collection. They have a bunch of different bows to choose from, but I chose The Berry Sweet Collection with a Gingham bow. It has red stick berries that I think are so cute, and comes with gold pine cones. The bow was on the right side of the wreath so it was off center. They give you the option of putting the bow on the right side or the left side. I just thought it was really pretty and kind of different to have the bow off centered like that. 

My all-time favorite item to buy for people on my Christmas list is the Centerpiece. What I LOVE about the centerpiece is that it has REAL red hypericum berries and REAL baby’s breath. The Centerpiece also has white pine sprigs and cedar sprigs in it. Then it comes with a beautiful red candle, too, so it’s almost like you’re giving two gifts in one! I just love how natural the Centerpiece is, and how everything on it is real and natural. This is definitely up there on my favorites list!

I have been buying wreaths as Christmas Gifts from Jen’s Wreaths since 2005. Jen’s Wreaths offers Free Shipping and Free Gift Cards! You can also send Jen’s Wreaths your own personalized Christmas Cards, to have them put in the box with the wreaths, so you can send your gift with your OWN gift card if you want! Businesses can even send business cards to put in with their wreaths. They have a user friendly website with all their products and descriptions of each product, so you know exactly what you are getting! If you have questions you can contact them through the website by clicking on “Contact Us” and they will reply back to your questions. They have friendly office staff that can take your order over the phone if you are worried about using credit cards online. You can choose your shipping date when you order, so you can actually order any time of year and have it shipped in November or December! Also, around Thanksgiving they usually have some Black Friday Specials, AND there is usually some sort of discount offered on if you check that out. Jen’s Wreaths also has giveaways and freebie’s offered on their Facebook page, so be sure to check them out!! Jen’s Wreaths has so much to offer at you really need to check it out!! Their wreaths are amazing, and you won’t be sorry you bought from Jen’s Wreaths!

~Crystal Cook
Deer River, MN 56636

Thank you, Crystal! I will definitely be checking out Jen's Wreaths.

Always in spirit....