About right now, Frank Daly and his band Jamison Celtic Rock probably would have been in the midst of a big, multi-city breakout tour for their annual American Celtic Christmas show, a glittery seasonal spectacle Jamison has been presenting since 2012.
“Last year, we took a risk and moved it to the Keswick Theater (in Glenside),” says Daly. “I lost a lot of sleep over that, worrying whether it was the right decision, but the show went over really well there. Afterward, Keswick’s parent company approached us and said they wanted to do the show in multiple cities, which was like a dream come true. We were in talks to do the show in Detroit, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, North Jersey, and then back to the Keswick.”
Those plans went out the window when the coronavirus pandemic hit—a huge disappointment. The parent company made the decision to close all of its venues for the duration.
It was a tough call, says Daly, though one he completely understands. “That’s the world we live in now,” he says.
The show is a major production, drawing large, enthusiastic audiences. Losing the show meant a loss of revenue, of course, but band and audiences alike also look forward to it as a way of celebrating the season.
Daly and his bandmates aren’t the types to give up easily, so they decided to do the next best thing—produce “An American Celtic Christmas” album. If you can’t go to the show, they’re going to bring the show to you.
“We took on this super-aggressive project and decided we were going to do 12 songs in a matter of about a month and record them,” says Daly. “Pretty exciting.”
In a typical American Celtic Christmas show, there are guest musicians, singers and dancers, “and we kicked around trying to do that, but it just made sense to do it as a Jamison album,” says Daly.
There’s one exception—the phenomenal local Irish singer-songwriter John Byrne was enlisted to play bodhran.
The band started recording at Spice House Sound in Fishtown in early October and worked on it for about a month—a hugely aggressive timetable.
“The people at Spice House were talking about the last Christmas album they did,” Daly recalls. “The band they brought in started recording in July 2019, and they were releasing it this year. So they thought it was hysterical that we were going to come in two months before Christmas and try to record a 12-song album and have it released in time for Christmas. But that’s just kind of how we roll.”
The pandemic influenced how the tunes were recorded. There was a bit of social distancing involved.
“At no time were all six of us in the studio together,” says Daly. “So a few of us would go in and record parts, and then someone else would go in and record their parts.”
And not everyone went into the studio. Sean Hick, the lead guitarist, has studio recording software in his home. Daly performed and recorded his keyboard parts at home.
Now, all of those parts have been brought together into a jolly, cohesive whole. If you’re looking for something to put you in the holiday mood, this new album might do the trick. It’s a blend of tunes meant to hit all the emotional notes of the season—and maybe get you up on your feet.
“There’s a mix of pop-oriented songs,” says Daly. “We have a couple of reels that we’ve performed in the show for a few years, where we’ve written music that’s a lot different from what would be traditional behind it. It’s a mixed batch, from big production, with lots of instrumentation, but also inspirational—quiet, acoustic, soft, easy. We were actually discussing this as a band recently and we think it’s going to be a really wide variety of Christmas-type songs.”
For Daly and the rest of the band, this project is a way to help keep body and soul together during the pandemic, but it’s really much more than that.
“We’re all real big on Christmas,” he says. “This is a show that’s we’ve all put a lot of time, effort and love into. We wanted to make sure we were doing something right. At the same time, we wanted to make sure we were doing something smart. And so far, I believe it’s going to work out. I’m really excited for people to hear the songs.”Right now, the album is up on the web for pre-sale for $14.99: http://www.jamisoncr.com/product/an-american-celtic-christmas-cd. It’ll also go live on iTunes.