Feeling That Big Band Christmas

Bruce Von Stiers

I haven't reviewed a Christmas album in quite some time. So I was pretty interested in a new Christmas album that just came out this year. It is by Reta Watkins, a vocalist whose career includes being in the band Pilgrim's Progress. The title of the album is That Christmas Feeling.

That Christmas Feeling was produced by Scott Williamson, whose previous work includes albums by Point of Grace and Lincoln Brewster. It is being released by Suite 28 Records and distributed by Naxos of America.

The album has a big band / orchestral tone to it. There were instrumental segments that were recorded separately from each other and then mixed with the vocals. Reta does all of the vocals on the album. Jason Webb played piano for the album. His work includes albums by Judy Collins, Jason Crabb and Amy Grant. There are a lot of other artists who provided their talents for the album. Although each of them have numerous album and performing credits, it would take a lot of space to list all of their accomplishments. So I will just list who they are and what they provided for this album. Danny O'Lanerghty played the upright and electric bass. Scott Williamson was on drums and percussion. Steve Patrick, Mike Haynes, Mike Berry and Keith Smith played trumpet on the album. On trombone was Barry Green, Jeremy Wilson, Chris McDonald, Prentis Hobbs and Roy Agee. Jennifer Kummer and Anna Spina played French horn. On woodwinds was Mark Douthit, Sam Levine, Jeff Coffin, Doug Moffet and Jimmy Bowland. For the violin music there was David Davidson, David Angell, Conni Ellisor, Karen Winkelmann, Mary Kathryn Vanosdale, Janet Darnell, Jenny Bifano, Carolyn Bailey and Alicia Enstrom. Monisa Angell, Elizabeth Lamb and Chris Ferrell played the viola. On cello was Sari Reist, Emily Nelson, Carole Raboinwitz and Anthony Lamarchina. Craig Nelson and Jack Jezioro played the arco bass and Kirsten Copely was on the harp.

Big Band styling can definitely be heard in the first song on the album. It is the classic tune It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Reta does a fantastic job with her vocals on the song.

Years ago, through some friends, I heard Mark Lowry s Christian comedy. It wasn't until much later that I learned he was also a singer and songwriter. One of his major songwriting credits is the song Mary Did You Know. The first rendition of the song was from Michael English. It has since been sung by people such as Ce Lo Green, Reba McEntire, Kutless and The Katinas. Pentatonix also recorded it for their second Christmas album. Keeping with the Big Band tone of the album, Reta gives a bright, toe-tapping rendition of the song. This is the best rendition of the song that I've heard. Of course, I am a big fan of Big Band music.

Sliding slowly back into the traditional Christmas mode is Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Reta's version of the song begins with some terrific orchestral music. She give a fluid and heartfelt performance on this classic tune.

Sleigh Ride is another great holiday classic. Once again the tone of the song here is Big Band. You can almost hear the smile in her voice as Reta sings the song.

Christmas In Heaven was written by Paul Marino and Jeremy Johnson. It was recorded by Sarah Schieber recorded about nine years ago. Scott McCreary also recorded the song. Here, Reta has a bit different take on the song that Sarah and Scott had. It has a slightly weightier tone with some terrific piano and string music.

One of my favorite modern Christmas songs is Wonderful Christmas Time. This Paul McCartney tune has been covered by such people as Amy Grant, Demi Lovato, Hillary Duff and even the Barenaked Ladies. For this album, Reta gives the song a big band treatment. There are a lot of horns backing Reta as she brings forth a very vivid rendition of the song.

Many people have recorded the Irving Berlin song I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm. Perhaps the most notable of these was Dean Martin. Reta provides a great, lyrical performance of the song.

Another song from Paul Marino and Jeremy Johnson that is on the album is Behold Emmanuel. It was a big hit for Steve Green. It is a beautiful song and the vocals here by Reta are terrific.

From Bing Crosby to Sarah McLachlan, many artists have recorded The Christmas Song. The rendition on this album provides a soaring Big Band sound.

The final song is the all-time classic White Christmas. It is nicely done and great song to close the album with.

I liked Reta's choice of songs for this album. They showcased her vocals very well. And, of course, it helped that the music for most of the songs on the album was done with Big Band styling.

You may or may not be in the market for a Christmas album this year. But if you are, and you like Big Band music, consider grabbing a copy of That Christmas Feeling.

That Christmas Feeling is now available at most music retailers.

The official Reta Watkins web site can be found at http://retawatkins.com/

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© 2017 Bruce E Von Stiers