'Tis the season for locally crafted holiday compilation records. That's how it goes, right? Er, never mind. Dallas label Hand Drawn Records just put out a holiday-themed compilation album, The Holiday Record, that's been getting more clicks than a Cyber Monday flash sale.
Hand Drawn Creative Director Dustin Blocker organized the artists, recorded the songs in about a day back in July, and has been releasing one track daily over the last 11 days, with the 12th gift being presented tonight (but it isn't another song). In the spirit of celebration, there will of course be a release party at Spinster Records tonight, where Hand Drawn will be giving away 200 free copies of The Holiday Record.
The roster for the compilation was culled from a list of 40 musicians generated by the folks at Hand Drawn. The final lineup features 10 musicians, with Blocker himself billed as W.A. Fite on the 11th track of the album, "Our First Christmas."
Contributors include Skagg Philips, Dome Dwellers, Bad Mountain and Nick and Paige. Though careful about playing favorites, Blocker admits to fancying Philips' track, "Bundle Up Baby Jesus," in particular. It's an original track written for the compilation.
The record is half covers, half original tunes, and has been hailed by The Dallas Morning News as the best Christmas compilation of the year. And with good reason: It's a one-horse-open-sleigh ride of an album that's got almost 10,000 listens under its Santa-sized belt.
"I had one of those moments of clarity when I realized how much people would respond by doing this kind of themed compilation," Blocker says.
The covers are personalized takes by each artist on different classics. But the original tracks blend in so seamlessly that I had to look a couple up to figure out which ones were which. They feel like instant holiday classics. Between the melodies, lyrics and ambience, the album could fool your own mother into thinking she's missed out on a classic Christmas tune for years (although we don't recommend testing that).
Hand Drawn Records decided to have Christmas in July, which is when they initially recorded The Holiday Record at Big Acre Sound Studios. Blocker spoke highly of the studio, saying that escaping the city to record helped the musicians maintain a focused mindset. And working with all the different artists never felt like work to him; they were always goofing off, but simultaneously being highly productive.
"If you're not recording, you're hanging out on the front porch," Blocker says of the recording days.
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As for the release party tonight, the pairing of Spinster Records and Hand Drawn is practically a mistletoe-ordained union. And although the holiday compilations will be handed out in CD format, Blocker plans to work with David Grover, owner of Spinster, to deck your halls with vinyls in the future.
As for tonight, expect to be dazzled by a barrage of Christmas luminescence and enough decorations to put Macy's to shame. If your inner Ebenezer Scrooge is still telling you not to go, there will also be barbecue, whiskey and live music, you heartless curmudgeon. And if you can't make it out, do yourself a favor and at least put on this record, lest your stocking be filled to the brim with coal come Christmas Day.
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