Thursday, October 13, 2011


Christmas music with roots this deep is rare. Appalachian- and Piedmont-style music talents Laurelyn Dossett (of Polecat Creek), Rhiannon Giddens (of the Carolina Chocolate Drops), Mike Compton (John Hartford Band, Nashville Bluegrass Band, Elvis Costello & The Sugarcanes), Joe Newberry and Jason Sypher have joined forces to create 'The Gathering,' a Christmas album recorded in a Greensboro, NC house in the woods during a hot August week.

The North Carolina Symphony commissioned Laurelyn Dossett to write a song cycle and those six songs form the core of the album, focusing on a cold, dark, North Carolina winter night and a prodigal daughter's return. Other songs on the album include Compton singing his former boss John Hartford's "On Christmas Eve" and Giddens and Sypher doing "O Holy Night" as a bass and voice duet.

Check out video on the making of the album:

Stream the song "Lights in the Lowlands."

The pedigree of the musicians brought together for 'The Gathering' is first-rate. Dossett's song "Anna Lee" was recorded by Levon Helm for his GRAMMY-winning album 'Dirt Farmer' as well as on the recent live album 'Ramble At The Ryman.' Her "Leaving Eden" was recorded by the Carolina Chocolate Drops. She has performed at Levon Helm's Midnight Ramble and her original roots music band Polecat Creek has appeared on NPR's Prairie Home Companion.

Rhiannon Giddens is a member of the GRAMMY-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, whose 2010 album 'Genuine Negro Jig' debuted at number one on the Billboard Bluegrass chart and at number 150 on the Billboard 200. The Carolina Chocolate Drops have also appeared at the Newport Folk Festival, The Grand Ole Opry and in the film "The Great Debators" starring Denzel Washington. Rolling Stone Magazine described the Carolina Chocolate Drops’ style as "dirt-floor-dance electricity."

Mike Compton is a longtime member of the Nashville Bluegrass Band, has recorded with Elvis Costello, Doc Watson, Ralph Stanley, Dolly Parton, Gregg Allman, Willie Nelson, John Hartford, and T-Bone Burnett.

Multi-instrumentalist and North Carolina old time player Joe Newberry won first-place at the Appalachian String Band Music Festival and appeared on a Prairie Home Compaion with Big Medicine.

Double bassist Jason Sypher has performed with Irma Thomas, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, and Susan McKeown, among many others.

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