Chris Allen is all about tradition. As a founding member of the Boys From the County Hell, he spends every St. Patrick's Day playing Pogues songs all over town. And as the brains behind the Ohio City Singers, he's written, recorded, and released Christmas albums every year since 2003. This year's offering, Snow Days, is their most accomplished: a dozen originals that would sound great at a summertime barbecue, if it weren't for all the talk about snow, presents, and Santa. "We write the songs from scratch specifically as Christmas songs," says Allen. "We kick around some titles, and once we have a title, the songs kinda write themselves."
Snow Days was recorded by the band — which this year includes Austin "Walkin' Cane" Charanghat, Don Dixon, Brent Kirby, and a bunch of other names familiar to local music fans — over five days in September. Allen also held a small party for friends at his house to get some backing sing-alongs down. He says it isn't too hard to get in the holiday spirit when it's still pushing 80 degrees outside. "We put some Christmas lights up and a Christmas tree, and we had eggnog. I've been in the holiday spirit ever since."
The Singers are getting ready to take their holiday show on the road. The album has been available on iTunes and other digital outlets for a few weeks now, but its official release party takes place at House of Blues on Saturday, December 3, with a family-friendly concert starting at 2 p.m. (They also have gigs lined up at the Happy Dog on December 10 and the Stone Mad Pub on December 19 — their annual, free Chestnut Roasting Party.) "Our goal is to write a bunch of new songs this Christmas and stockpile them for next year," says Allen. "It's nice to write these when it's still snowing."
In other news, Allen's old alt-country band Rosavelt are reuniting for a new album, The Last 10 Days, which will be released in the spring. The group recorded it with Mitch Easter and Don Dixon (the team behind R.E.M.'s first two terrific records) in North Carolina in September. The group will convene for a show at the Happy Dog on Friday.
FLAME ON: The metal band Forged in Flame just kicked off a month-long tour of North America with headliners Korpiklaani, a Finnish folk metal band that actually includes an accordion player. (You'll know them from their hits "Louhen Yhdeksäs Poika" and "Koivu Ja Tähti," so feel free to sing along.) Forged in Flame are at the bottom of the bill, but it's still a cool score for the band, whose new album is due in March. The 24-city tour started in Canada and includes a stop this Saturday at Peabody's.
HAPPY TO BE BLUES:
The Cleveland Blues Society has announced the winners of the preliminary International Blues Competition Memphis Challenge, a two-day concert showdown that took place in October.
Austin "Walkin' Cane" won in the Best Solo or Duo category, Ron Yarosz and the Vehicle took Best Band, and Blue Lunch scored best self-produced CD for Sax Shootout II.
The winners advance to the 2012 International Blues Competition, which takes place in Memphis January 31 through February 4.