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Charlie Daniels makes a musical merry Christmas

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Southern rocker, pals take Yuletide tunes down bluegrass path

By KEN BECKSpecial to The Wilson Post

Charlie Daniels has an early Christmas gift for his fans.

Released yesterday was the album “Joy to the World: A Bluegrass Christmas” which features Daniels and his buddies The Grascals, Kathy Mattea, Jewel, Aaron Tippin and Dan Tyminski.

   

From left, Dan Tyminski, Kathy Mattea, Aaron Tippin and Charlie Daniels pour out their voices while making the video “A Twin Pines Christmas” to accompany the album “Joy to the World: A Bluegrass Christmas.” In the background are musicians The Grascals and singers from The Cox Family.

KEN BECK / The Wilson Post

Fiddler-vocalist Daniels, who can rock Southern with the best of them as well as morph from country to pop to Christian music, went back to his roots as he flavored his 53rd album with bluegrass. The results offer a new spin on some Christmas classics with lots of acoustic guitars, banjo, fiddle, mandolin and vocal harmonies.

“I cut my teeth in a bluegrass band in North Carolina. My idols were Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, Reno and Smiley, Ralph Stanley,” said Daniels last week. “Bluegrass is a little different. You either get it or you don’t. I just was blessed with an understanding of bluegrass. I got away from it for a long time. It’s real sure enough back-porch country music.”

The album was recorded for the most part at Twin Pines Studio on the 400-plus acre working ranch in Wilson County where Daniels, 72, and his wife Hazel have lived for the past 30 years.

“Joy to the World: A Bluegrass Christmas” includes a companion video, “A Twin Pines Christmas,” which was shot in early June at Soundcheck studio in Nashville and features live performances of the musicians.

“It seemed to make a lot of sense to make the video. It is something visual and will help promote the album,” Daniels said.

Making up the 12 performances that fill this stocking are “Christmas Time’s a Comin’” by The Grascals, “Christmas Time Down South” by Aaron Tippin, “Blue Christmas” by Jewel, “The Christmas Song” by Dan Tyminski (the vocalist behind “Man of Constant Sorrow” from the film “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”), “O Come All Ye Faithful” by Kathy Mattea, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” by Evelyn Cox, “Silent Night” by Suzanne Cox, while Daniels sings “Mississippi Christmas Eve,” “Hallelujah” and “Joy To The World” and reads the Christmas Story from the Book of Luke and his original Yuletide tale, “A Carolina Christmas Carol.”

New Charlie Daniels Christmas album Charlie Daniels & Friends present “Joy to the World: A Bluegrass Christmas” along with the bonus DVD, “A Twin Pines Christmas.”

For more information, go online to www.charliedaniels.com or www.bluehatrecords.com.  

Charlie Daniels Christmas concertThe 13th annual Charlie Daniels Band and Friends Concert to benefit Christmas 4 Kids, featuring Phil Vassar, Gretchen Wilson and Chris Young, rings forth at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 23, at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.

Funds generated by the concert, an auction and tour bus show will allow more than 400 children from 29 different schools to take a day-long shopping excursion. The special day consists of a chauffeured trip from their school aboard an entertainer's luxury tour bus, lunch and a party hosted by Santa and Mrs. Claus and a trip to the Hendersonville Wal-Mart for shopping. A volunteer helps each child with their holiday shopping.

Tier One tickets, at $60, are now available through Christmas 4 Kids by visiting www.Christmas4kids.org. Other reserved $30 tickets will be available through Ticketmaster beginning Oct. 26 via www.Ticketmaster.com or calling 1-800-745-3000.

For Daniels, Christmas remains the most special time of year.

“It was always family. It still is. That is the main thing. There was always food and Santa Claus. There is something about Christmas that people can say it’s imagination, but there is something intangible about Christmas. . . . I will be with my family at Christmas time,” Daniels said. 

The “Grand Ole Opry” member recollects the best Christmas gift he received as a child.

“A drum with a paper head. I remember my grandparents lived right down the road. On Christmas Eve we went down there. I must have been 4 or 5. We came back home and Santa had come early, and I had a drum and a drumstick. I beat the head off in a few days,” he chuckled.

One of the tunes on the album, “Christmas Time Down South,” Daniels wrote years ago and is to some extent autobiographical as it reflects his early years and childhood perceptions.

“It was such a magical time, and it seemed like Christmas time would never get here, and when it did, it was just the greatest feeling,” said Daniels, who turned the song over to Aaron Tippin for this project.

Tippin, who lives in Smithville, didn’t need much prompting when Daniels invited him to join.

“Charlie Daniels said come do it. I’ve known him professionally 20 years but feel like I’ve known him for 40. He was making music when I was a teenager,” Tippin said.

When it comes to Christmas music, Daniels has many favorites.

“My favorite secular Christmas tune is ‘The Christmas Song.’ My favorite religious-gospel song would probably be ‘Silent Night.’ I can’t imagine Christmas without those two songs. ‘The Christmas Song,” Nat King Cole’s version and now Dan Tyminski’s. I love ‘Joy to the World,’ ‘It Came Upon the Midnight Clear’ and ‘God Rest You Merry Gentlemen.’ It’s hard to choose. I love the old Christmas songs,” said Daniels, who holds firmly to family traditions.

“My son asked me years ago to start reading the Christmas Story from the Book of Luke on Christmas Eve night. Every Christmas Eve we have friends over, and that is still the way we end the night. I am big on tradition. I love tradition. Everybody knows when I get these two books down, my short stories and Bible, they’re fixing to get read to.”

As for his personal Christmas wish this year?

“I want to see this country come back to God,” Daniels said. “The further away we get from God the worse off we get. Increment by increment taking God off every public building, not letting kids say a prayer at school, which is asinine. Let a kid say a prayer. What’s that gonna do?

“This country was founded by believers. The further away we get from that, the worse this country is gonna do. If we can’t figure God into what we’re doing, we’re in trouble. We have a very secular government doing things we know we shouldn’t be doing. We’ve gone along with the crowd too long to let this happen. It’s up to us. We can go which every way we want. I believe that.”

Daniels still believes in the miracle of Christmas. He and Hazel will send out between 300 to 400 Christmas cards. And he is wholeheartedly behind a special holiday charity as he will perform Nov. 23 at Ryman Auditorium at his 13th annual Christmas 4 Kids benefit concert.

“You look at TV and everything you see is everybody shopping and giving gifts to people. All of this material end of Christmas. You got some kids living in some places who that is just not going to happen for, for them to have anything materially to be joyful for. These bus drivers started this charity years ago taking these children shopping at retail outlets. There will be some kids smiling at Christmas time this year that would not be. This lets them know, ‘Somebody cares about you son or little girl, somebody cares enough to take you and put you on a bus and take you to a store and let you buy anything you want with the money.’ That is special. We are celebrating about the greatest gift that man ever had; Christ from God. So it is special to me and has a place in my heart," Daniels said. "We will be there as long as they have this.”

Writer Ken Beck may be contacted at kbtag2@gmail.com.

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