Saturday, November 23, 2013

Christmas for Wounded Veterans - Vol. 2 reviewed by Mark Thompson

Christmas for Wounded Veterans - Vol. 2
Westchester All Stars and Friends
15 tracks/

With the holiday season upon us, we will soon be inundated with the usual overdose of holiday music that seems to crop up everywhere. If you’d like a break from the standard holiday fare, this project from singer Bill Edwards and friends deserves some attention. Edwards dedicates the disc to his father, a veteran who served in WWII and the Korean War on the USS New Jersey battleship. Edwards Sr. passed away before the project was completed. Proceeds from the CD sales will be donated to numerous veteran organizations.

The all-original program is one reason why this disc merits consideration. Edwards had a hand in writing five tunes and takes the lead vocal over the funky strut the band lays down on “Santa’s Gonna Fly”. His duet with Jessica Lynn on “Celebrating Christmas” injects a touch of heartbreak into the holiday mood as the pair shares their feelings in the aftermath of a divorce. Edwards alter persona – Big Willy WE – brings the hip-hop spirit to “Love and Family” with backing from The Funky Herd on a tune that gets to heart of what the season is really about.

Edwards adds a touching vocal to “Santa I’m Writing this Letter”, written from the perspective of a young boy asking Santa to bring his Mom home safely from the war. Former major league baseball star Bernie Williams accompanies him on guitar. Another special guest, Earl Slick, once backed up David Bowie. He fires off a feisty guitar solo on “Presents”, a hard-driving number with Edwards blowing some fine harp.

“Rockin’ Soul Christmas” is just that, a powerful horn section blasting away behind Jon Cobert’s boisterous singing. Equally memorable is Eden Riegel’s bright tribute to man with the presents, “Oh Santa (We Love You)”, again with the horns filling out the arrangement. Tom Dudley – the Blues Buddha- takes over “Santa Claus is Comin’ Tonight” with a powerful voice that dominates the guitar-driven tune that rocks with a vengeance. The mood shifts to a sultry, jazzy vein as Duchess Di announces on “Twelve Santa Babies” that she wants more than one Santa this year, with Dave Keyes helping out on piano.

“Christmas Prayer (It’s in the Giving)” sounds like a traditional hymn that quickly becomes a highlight once Chuck St. Troy wraps his wondrous voice around the lyrics. Mia Staton’s “little girl” voice on “Hey Hey Santa” is a perfect fit for a cute song that has a youngster reflecting on the quality of their life.  The Renovators bring an easy-rolling feel to “Old Fashion Christmas Eve” while Johnny Feds & Da Bluez Boyz closes the disc with the sinister roadhouse shuffle “Bad Case of the Christmas Blues”.

There is plenty to enjoy on this project that examines the holiday season from a variety of heartfelt perspectives utilizing a variety of musical styles. Many of the artists involved will gather on Friday, December 6, at the Music Hall in Tarrytown, NY for a gala concert that honors our nation’s veterans. Once again, the proceeds will be donated to help our wounded soldiers get the care they deserve.

You can lend a hand by purchasing a copy of the CD through the website and let Edwards & the Westchester All Stars brighten up your holiday season with this fine collection.

Reviewed by Mark Thompson

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