Tag Archives: 1996

CSOTD 12/29/16: Christmas through generations of babies

One of the joys of collecting music is finding that unexpected treasure – not a monetary one, but an aural one. My Christmas Song of the Day for December 29 is one I wanted to feature a couple years ago, but it wasn’t on YouTube then. Fortunately, it is now.

I spent 18 years living in Wisconsin. In most of those years, I traveled to Minnesota for the Christmas holiday so I could spend time with a sister and her family who lives there and, later, with my mom after she moved from Pennsylvania. One year, at least 10 years ago by now, I was on my way home after my visit, and by then, radio stations with Christmas music on them were few (as I’ve said many times, I bemoan the fact that radio can’t wait to shut off the holiday cheer as soon as possible after 12:01 am December 26). I caught a mostly automated, somewhat low-power station based in western Wisconsin that was audible in certain parts of the Twin Cities metro area; I believe the station was WEVR-FM from River Falls, and it was playing a wonderful, country-sounding Christmas song about loving to watch the lights. I couldn’t stop humming that line! Once I got home, a lot of Internet searching finally yielded the title and artist – and I discovered, too, that I already had the CD in my collection. I love when that happens.

I am pretty sure that I’ve never again heard the song on the radio. But in the years since, I’ve included it on more than one Christmas CD mix, and I’ve played it on my own radio show at Sweet Briar College during the holidays, even though it’s five and a half minutes long. I want to share it with you today.

Kerri Sherwood (born 1959) is a pianist and singer who was born in New York and relocated to southeastern Wisconsin. She’s been a teacher, music minister, conductor and composer who has released both instrumental and vocal albums of many genres of music. She’s done three Christmas CDs, the first of which, The Lights: A Christmas Album, was released in 1996. (It’s also been released as simply A Christmas Album in a special edition sponsored by a Milwaukee-area bank and a radio station.)

Most of the CD consists of very nice piano instrumentals of famous carols. But she saved the best for last – “The Lights,” the title song of her disc. This was the song played on that Christmas long ago on that radio station in River Falls, Wisconsin that had me transfixed as I drove east on I-94 toward Eau Claire. She sings and plays piano, and is accompanied by fiddle, mandolin and percussion to give it a vaguely country-Americana feel. Sherwood sings about several generations of mothers on Christmas Day, and it leads her to think about Mary on that first Christmas. And she sums it up by thinking of her own child and how, some day, Sherwood will reminisce with her about the lights.

“The Lights” is probably rarely heard outside Wisconsin. Give yourself the five and a half minutes to listen to Kerri Sherwood sing about the joy of motherhood at Christmas.

CSOTD 12/12/2015: An angel’s gonna help you

One thing I’ve learned in the many years since I became known as an expert on Christmas music: As much as people may think otherwise, I don’t know it all. It can be humbling at times, but it also means that I’m open to songs that I’ve never heard before that penetrate my core and affect me.

My Christmas Song of the Day for December 12 is one I literally had never heard until three days ago. As it played on the nearby station WFLO in Farmville, Va., I tried to use my phone to Shazam it, and my phone looked at me as if I was joking. I tried to google the lyrics, and I might as well have been asking it to find my own unpublished song lyrics from my teen years.  So I contacted the radio station directly, and less than a day later, they told me what I had heard. Believe it or not, the song is on YouTube, so I’m delighted to share it with you. It emanates from the beautiful voice of a singer-songwriter who left us far too soon.

Laura Allan was born in 1952. By the time she was 18, she already had a reputation among musicians for her talent on the zither, autoharp and dulcimer; in fact, she played autoharp and sang on David Crosby’s best-selling 1971 solo album If I Could Only Remember My Name. In the mid-1970s, she served as an opening act for Crosby and Graham Nash, which led to a contract with the Elektra record label and two albums, in 1978 and 1980. After those two albums failed to make a dent in the marketplace, Allan didn’t make another album for 16 years.

Hold On to Your Dreams was issued in 1996 on the independent Skyline Entertainment label.  Hidden among the 14 tracks of sublime music on this compact disc is this lost classic, called “Your Christmas Day.” On the liner notes to the radio-only CD single, she described her inspiration:

“I wrote this song to celebrate the wonders of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day that I hoped for as a child. I wanted to bring some warmth and reassurance to the world that we can all find what we are looking for if we give ourselves the chance to dream. The child in all of us is looking for love and the comfort of family and friends.”

Sadly, Laura Allan died in 2008 at age 56 after a half-year-long battle with cancer. I want to thank WFLO for playing this song, and because it told me what it was when the Internet couldn’t, I am able to share it with you today. I hope you find “Your Christmas Day” as moving as I do.