For the past few years, Fredericton-born singer-songwriter David Myles has been thinking a bit more seriously about the true spirit of Christmas, about the traditional songs we play this time of year, and what he could do to help his fellow Maritimers.
So in 2009 the versatile folk musician decided to launch a short fundraising tour across New Brunswick where he’d play public concerts while asking for money and non-perishable goods for community food banks.
It’s become an annual event, one that he looks forward to each year and that has become part of his personal holiday experience.
More importantly, these tours offer assistance at a time when many New Brunswickers find themselves struggling to make ends meet. In 2013 alone, he raised $7,778 and gathered 850 lbs. of donated food.
“I’ve always thought of food banks as being such a direct way of giving to people,” he said during an interview about his annual Singing For Supper tour.
“I’m lucky enough to have food, and lots of us are, so it’s about giving food to people who are hungry.”
Myles will return to Fredericton for his Singing For Supper tour Wednesday, Dec. 3, taking the stage at the Regent Mall between noon and 1:30 p.m. in the food-court area.
And this year will be special because he’s just released his first-ever holiday CD, It’s Christmas.
He’ll be donating a portion of the profits from that recording to Canada’s Food Banks and working on the project provided the perfect excuse to learn many of the season’s best-loved classics.
The 13-song collection, which was recorded by Myles’s frequent bandmate and collaborator Joshua Van Tassel at Joel Plaskett’s studio New Scotland Yard, came together about a year ago, just after Myles wrapped up his 2013 Singing For Supper tour.
You can tell Myles, bassist Kyle Cunjak, guitarist Alan Jeffries, and Van Tassell, who played drums on the record, were feeling the vibe when they hit the studio.
“It felt like it was the right time to make the record. It felt right to give us some time to get it ready so we could promote it properly. It was the right type of record for us to make, a kind of acoustic record, a rootsy record,” he said.
“I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out. I didn’t know what people were going to think, but it seems like they like it.”
There are three originals on the album, including the record’s title-track.
“It’s the warm firelight on a cold winter’s night, it’s the stranger that’s holding the door, it’s the generous smile, the mother and child, it is peace ringing out over war,” Myles croons to open the album.
My favourite track has to be the playful Myles-penned bluegrasstune, “Santa Never Brings Me A Banjo,” which shares the story of a budding musician waiting for the one instrument he really wants.
“I’d be hard-pressed not to say that wasn’t my favourite too. As soon as I wrote it, I thought it was hilarious. I love the feel of it and it’s a great song to play with the guys,” he said.
“Al’s harmony sounds awesome. It just fits with what we do really, really well. I’m really into Roger Miller, that kind of humorous country stuff. So I was super happy with how it turned out. I love watching people hear it. I think they’ll enjoy it (during the tour).”
It’s also something special to hear Myles take a number of seasonal classics like, “Sleigh Ride,” “Let It Snow” and “White Christmas,” and put his own spin on these old favourites.
His stripped-down, finger-picked take on the Nat King Cole smash-hit, “The Christmas Song,” is another standout on the album, one which finds a way to feel both familiar and fresh.
“I’d spent so much time learning the interpretation of that song. I felt like it covered a lot of bases. Josh said, ‘That should just be you,’” he said.
“It’s almost entirely a solo song, but it works. Honestly, I wouldn’t play my guitar like that if it wasn’t for Thom Swift, basically. That style of guitar is a style that I learned from watching him as a kid. That’s probably the most advanced of that style of song that I ever learned. It took me a long time. When we recorded that, I literally put a microphone in front of my guitar and my vocals and the guys left the room and I did it.”
Myles’s new Christmas record is a worthy addition to your music collection, giving you another option to turn to if, like me, you’re starting to find Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime,” incredibly grating.
It stands alongside a number of stellar recently released Christmas recordings from Matt Andersen, Hey Rosetta, Meaghan Smith and the capital region’s own Katherine Moller.
By Adam Bowie, The Daily Gleaner