Rethinking Christmas carols

Charlie heard his first Christmas carol of the year on the speakers at Home Depot before Thanksgiving. Ugh, he thought. But he is probably like a lot of us…conflicted about these chestnuts. If you examine the traditional carols one by one, they are usually pretty good hymns—well crafted and perfectly seasonal. Too bad we get so sick of them. And yet we need them, and not just to make a living as musicians during the season the public wants to hear them. We need them for how they connect us through the years, both with our younger selves and with carolers who have gone before. This week, Chaise Lounge will perform our annual Christmas show, with tunes from our Christmas album. One song we always play is “Good King Wenceslas.” It is a sci-fi-tale of the Duke of Bohemia in the 13th century, who leaves heated footprints in the snow as he travels on foot to give alms to a peasant. The melody might be Finnish from the 1600’s. The version we usually sing dates from the mid-19th century. What is astonishing to us is how the fiery silver nugget of wonder in this song burns its way through the centuries to have fresh meaning every time it’s sung. That is some powerful Christmas hoodoo. If you’re in the DC area, consider coming to our show at Blues Alley. 

A Very Chaise Lounge Christmas, 2014

IMG_3889Our hometown Christmas show is always a highlight of our year. It has become a tradition, but we still like to switch things up a bit. So this year, our “opening act” was the North Chevy Chase Elementary School Holiday Glee Club. A more enthusiastic group of fourth graders you will not find! Maybe you recognize their pink-suited conductor. Charlie served as “composer in residence” at the school for a week earlier this year, so when we needed some kid singers to add to the mix, he knew just where to go.

We were thrilled to have a packed house at Bethesda Blues & Jazz. There is no better way to start the holidays than that. Along with songs from our Christmas album, we played some old favorites and premiered a brand new song called “Gin Fizz Fandango.” It is a strange and groovy tune in a slow three-four that features a bravura solo by Joe Jackson on trombone and a star turn by Marilyn Older on piano. We are looking forward to playing this song a lot in 2015!

What the new year brings…

Ask any musician about January and you will get a grim smile, reflecting a woefully empty gig calendar. It has ever been thus. What to do about this? Start your next record! Well, that is what Chaise Lounge is doing, anyway. We began the new album in earnest last night with rhythm section recording sessions at Cue Recording in Falls Church, Virginia. Ken Schubert is engineering.

As we were putting together the list of new songs to record, I was amazed at how many we have. Also I was reminded of how many times people have asked for recordings of these songs and I have blithely tossed off, “Oh, that will be on the next CD.” “The Coolest Car” is one of those. Another is “I Just Want All Of My Stuff.” Maybe the most-requested unrecorded song is Gary’s solo piece, “Losing Streak.” All of them are coming soon. I’m not completely sure yet, but I think the new album will be called “Dot, Dot, Dot.”  Yes, that song too is coming.

The first session was a delight. It was great to get back in the studio. And it felt good to dig into the fine details of some of those tunes. “Via Con Me” is a deceptively tricky song to play well. If the tempo is not exactly right it doesn’t work. We have also unearthed some of our back catalog for this. Who remembers “Celestial Navigation”? I think we played that twice…maybe at IOTA? Well, here it comes. And there is a song about a wrecked Airstream trailer (title still in flux)—who remembers this? It may be the saddest song in the world; too sad, we decided, to play much live.

Last year we released two records (Insomnia, A Very Chaise Lounge Christmas). This year, it will be only one. But I have a feeling it will be a doozy.

—Charlie