Our Christmas Playlist Party continues!

Did you miss our first guest? Producer and songwriter Joe Henry joined us earlier and offered a bunch of tracks for us to enjoy with him.

Now, here’s one of the most soulful musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing live: Grammy award-winning gospel singer Ashley Cleveland.

I took this picture (left) of Ashley playing a show with her husband, the legendary bassist Kenny Greenberg, at Laity Lodge in front of an extraordinary triptych by artist Bruce Herman. Few musicians I know could play a show worthy of that backdrop, but Cleveland and Greenberg performed with such passion that everything and everybody onstage seemed to raise each other up.

Get ready to take some notes: Here are some Christmas favorites from Ashley and Kenny.


I confess, this is not my favorite question — primarily because I have trouble finding Christmas recordings that I really love. And when I do find something wonderful, I eventually lose it or it drops into discontinued obscurity.

I had a combined symphony/chorale recording on a cassette — a bootleg someone had passed on to me that was absolutely magnificent. It wasn’t just the song selection or the musical and vocal arrangements; it was the overall soulfulness of the entire album. I never once listened to it without losing myself — the mark of a truly classic album.

So, of course, I lost it. I never knew which symphony it was, and I have purchased at least 50 discs trying to find it again. No luck.


Another favorite of mine is an album of original compositions telling the Christmas story called Precious Child.

It was conceived and produced by two wonderful Nashville songwriters: Thom Schuyler and Craig Bickhardt.

It was recorded on Warner Brothers in 1993 and featured some of Nashville’s best vocalists: Vince Gill, Maura O’Connell, Dave Loggins and Janis Ian to name a few. I sang on it too as: ‘The Lord’s Messenger” — an undeserved title, but one that I promote tirelessly anyway.

It is out of print now but can still be found on iTunes, and at Amazon.

ReverbNation has a nice marketing layout of it for more information. I keep it on repeat play between Thanksgiving and January — it is the good stuff and Craig Bickhardt’s guitar playing is just ridiculous.

Finally, over the years I have increasingly tended more to Advent than Christmas itself. That, for me is the place of genuine spiritual renewal and preparation for the coming year.

To that end I have found a fantastic disc: Advent at Ephesus by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles.

It can be found on Amazon as well.

Kenny says that “Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin'” by Albert King and “Christmas In The Ghetto” by James Brown are his faves.

Ashley Cleveland’s latest CD, Beauty in the Curve, was on my list of favorite 2014 albums. If you haven’t heard it, well… buckle up. It’s a blast.

Check it out here.

Also, Ashley’s memoir, Little Black Sheep, is now available. I’ve read it. It’s an overwhelming story.

And if you ever get a chance to see Ashley and Kenny play live, you’d better prepare yourself. You’re gonna move…