For me, the best Christmas spirit isn't found in what advertisers and media tell you about how you are supposed to spend your Christmas. It's about what's real, genuine and fun. Two events I went to this week were perfect examples.
WRFN's T.J. Kirby introducing Les Kerr and the Bayou Band
Les Kerr and the Bayou Band Christmas show, 3rd and Lindsley, 12/17/09
It was Christmas on the Bayou with Les Kerr and the Bayou Band. This annual show took a break for a couple of years but returned to its 3rd and Lindsley home this year. Lots of original and well-known tunes served up New Orleans style. Yes of course, those trademark references to food that Les loves so much were mixed in seasonal and non-seasonal songs("Christmas Gumbo", "Camellia Grill"). There were fun songs and touching ones as well, such as a fine cover of John Hartford's "On Christmas Eve", about spending Christmas on a boat on the Mississippi. Les and Caroline Stoker (daughter of bandmate Brent Stoker) did a sweet recitation of "Yes, There Is A Santa Claus".
There was great musicianship throughout the night, with a couple of special band member spotlights. Multi-talent Bryan Cumming celebrated getting a song that he co-wrote played on a soap opera earlier that day. Harmonica player Everett Brown amused folks with his spot-on song about writers nights. Brent Stoker soloed with an Elvis tune...his father Gordon's group the Jordanaires (who also appear on Les' "Christmas on the Coast" CD) are well known for being Elvis' long-time backup vocal group.
Another highlight was the reunion of the "Bayou Babes Chorale" on Robert Earl Keen's "Happy Holidays, Y'all" and the very fun "Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On".
Besides being a great entertainer, Les is one of the true nice guys in town. He is just what you see on stage...warm, genuine, appreciative and a great encourager of others. That's the sort of spirit we need all year long.
Red Tree Coffee Community Christmas Party, 12/18/09
One of the greatest gifts to the Kingston Springs community (and those of us who live within commuting distance) is without a doubt Red Tree Coffee. It was a packed house of love Friday night for the community Christmas party. The offerings included free sweets (the oatmeal raisin cookies were to die for and I overindulged!) and of course, great music. There were guest appearances by several of the regular Red Tree musicians: Those Two, Casey Campbell, E.G. Smith, and Linda McRae each shared a couple of Christmas tunes (and who cared if they didn't know all the chords or the lyrics...we loved them anyway!), along with Chelsea Bills, a singer from Paragould, Arkansas we first heard impressing the crowd at Jon Conley's birthday bash this summer.
We also heard from the Red Tree musical family, with Jon Conley starting off the night and accompanying most everyone (including toddler Polly with a couple of renditions of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" once she got going!). Savannah, Katie and Amy led us all in carols. It was a very sweet moment of warmth and heartfelt emotion from and to the folks who make this little coffeehouse so special.
I couldn't end the night without stopping next door to the Fillin' Station and wishing Merry Christmas to my newer musical friends the Mohawk Slim Band. Mark Willoughby's drum set was decked out in Christmas lights for the occasion and the guys played some smokin' blues as always (with some amazing harmonica licks from Patrick Weickenand...hadn't heard him in quite a while).
You know what, it's been a rough year. But nights like the last two left me filled with a little more hope and optimism that things will be better...at least for now.
I'm taking the rest of the year off. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.