Santa Has Left the Building (SC 2017)is a compilation that commemorates the REAL spirit of Christmas while giving due respect to the more traditional aspects of the holidays.
Many of the songs on this album were recorded live at The Great Notch Inn in Little Falls, NJ, with revelers partying just inches away from the bands. The goal of the project was to update a number of classics while conveying the fun and joy of the holiday season. All of the performances are either original compositions or new twists on traditional favorites, so the styles of presentation cover a fairly wide range, starting with Sharp Edge's jazz-tinged version of God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen and ending with Joe Taino's smoking instrumental version of Auld Lang Syne (a la Jimi Hendrix). In between, there's a mixture of rockin' blues (Deck the Halls, Silent Night, Mean Old Christmas), traditional blues (New Year's Comin', Christmas in the Countryside) and pop (Joy to the World, Angels We Have Heard On High).
So throw another log on the fire, sit back with a tall glass of spiked eggnog, and enjoy!
BANDS & SONGS
(in order of appearance)
SHARP EDGE (God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen / Silent Night)
Singer/songwriter/guitarist and former "Rooster" Mike Brocato is the man behind this power trio, which garners its unique sound from a mixture of blues, reggae and British invasion influences. Veteran performers on the NJ music circuit, Sharp Edge are notorious for their tight sound and marathon sessions - it's not uncommon for them to play 3 or 4 hours without a break! A crowd favorite, they took home first place in WDHA's Homegrown Spotlight competition and are currently working on their second CD release.
HOT FOOT POWDER (Christmas In the Countryside / 12 Days of Christmas)
This traditional acoustic duo consists of guitarist "Hap" Moore and Mike Santos, lead singer/guitarist/harp player from The RaunchTones. Their instrumentation is reminiscent of that seen in southern juke joints in the "old days": a stomping board, a tambourine attached to a foot pedal, an acoustic guitar and a harmonica. Their original contribution to the album, Christmas in the Countryside, is actually a re-make of another original song, Party in the Countryside. When the producers heard Party, they decided it would make a great Xmas song and prodded Mike into re-writing the tune by attempting to re-write the song themselves. The result is a country-blues ode which evokes visions of farms, sleigh bells and home cookin'.
JUDY SAIYA GROUP (Joy To the World / What Child Is This?)
Saiya's songs are a mix of rock, pop and 70's roots music and her voice is instantly recognizable, showing traces of her early influences - Stevie Nicks and Janis Joplin. Judy has performed consistently in the tri-state area as a solo act, as part of a duo and with a full band. She has been featured as part of ASCAP's "Best Kept Secrets" showcase at CBGB's and was also chosen to participate in their Pop Songwriter's Workshop. She has received high accolades from the public and press alike, including the Newark Star Ledger who writes that "she can turn a phrase and wield a hook like a major label pro."
THE RAUNCHTONES (Jingle Bells / Deck the Halls)
The RaunchTones have been described as "ZZ Top meets Elmore James" due to their high-energy performances and their hard-hitting style, which combines the soul of the blues with the power of rock 'n roll. Frontman Mike Santos (a/k/a "El Rauncho") sings, plays guitar, blows harp, and pens their tunes. They have opened up for such renowned bluesmen as Pinetop Perkins and Johnny Clyde Copeland, and have played numerous gigs in the Tri-state area over the past ten years, including several "Blues Cruises" and The Princeton Ski Show sponsored by WDHA. Their first release, More Than Fun, was released by Buy or Die Records and they are currently working on their follow up album.
SON LEWIS BLUES BAND (Pontiac GTO / New Year's Comin')
Son was named the Best Retro Blues Artist of the Year for 1997 in a reader's poll conducted by Delta Snake Magazine. He was also the winner of the 1996 Skyland Blues Society Talent Competition, and qualified as a finalist in the 1996 International Blues Talent Competition. A student of Danny Kalb (founder of The Blues Project), Son has graced the same stage as such legendary performers as Rick Danko, Rick Derringer, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Elvin Bishop, and The Manhattan Transfer. He has played numerous festivals and clubs and appears regularly on radio and television. Selections from his albums, released by Silk City Records, can be heard on over 65 radio stations around the world.
ABSENCE OF FEAR (Angels We Have Heard On High)
This recording features the talents of Tricia VanderGroef and Tom Ryan, one of the first performers to ever play at the Great Notch Inn. Since the time this recording was cut, they have gone their separate ways - Tom returning to his solo act and Trish in search of a new lineup. For this song, producer Jonathan Bross got out from behind the console to play drums, bass and percussion, in addition to arranging this classic Christmas song with a "wall of sound" a la Phil Spector and a guitar solo that would make George Harrison proud.
STEVE JOHNSON (Mean Old Christmas)
Steve Johnson is widely known as an accomplished slide player and has shared the stage with blues legend Albert Collins on more than one occasion. Steve was nominated for "Best Blues Guitarist of the Year" by Guitar Player Magazine and recorded three albums for Virgin France before moving to Dixiefrog Records. Mean Old Christmas is an original composition written by Steve; it's an upbeat, fast moving lament to the pressures of the holiday season.
JOE TAINO (Auld Lang Syne)
Joe is a true veteran of the blues - in his 29 years in the music business, he's opened shows for such household names as John Mayall, Johnny Winter, The Allman Brothers Band, Matt "Guitar" Murphy and renowned bassist Jaco Pastorius. He's appeared at numerous events and clubs throughout the Northeast, including performances at the Benson & Hedges Blues Festival and the Bethel Woodstock Festival. In addition, Joe has toured internationally on several occasions, making stops in France, Japan, Germany and Switzerland. Companies such as Bruno Amps and Morris Guitars have sought Joe's expertise in developing and endorsing their instruments. In fact, Federa Guitars is building a new model to Joe's specifications which will be marketed and sold as the NYC JT Special.
Check out the artist's website:
1. God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen/Sharp Edge
2. Christmas In The Country/Hot Foot Powder
3. Joy To The World/Judy Saiya Group
4. Jingle Bells/The Rauchtones
5. Merry Christmas, Baby/GW Toye & The Blues Generators
6. Pontiac GTO/Son Lewis Blues Band
7. Silent Night/Sharp Edge
8. Angels We Have Heard On High/Judy Saiya Group
9. Deck The Halls/The Raunchtones
10. What Child Is This/Judy Saiya Group
11. The 12 Days Of Christmas/Hot Foot Powder
12. Mean Old Christmas/Steve Johnson
13. New Year's Comin'/Son Lewis Blues Band
14. Auld Lang Syne/Joe Taino