During the holiday season, certain traditions come to life as people celebrate the joyous times with friends and family. And within the city of Cleveland, there is a tradition that has grown over the last several years.
Starting out as a holiday request from his father, singer-songwriter Chris Allen began creating original holiday tunes for the Christmas season. With the help of other musicians who help to make up a large portion of the music scene in Greater Cleveland, Allen put together a musical ensemble known as The Ohio City Singers. Together with this magical group of entertainers, Chris Allen started putting out holiday releases. Along with the newest album that was released for the 2016 holiday season, the musical discography for The Ohio City Singers consists of four albums. The latest addition to that discography is 2016’s Ring Out the Wild Bells.
Much in the tradition of the band’s 2011 release of Snow Days, the new release of Ring Out the Wild Bells contains a “theme song” of sorts. In the style of 2011’s “Ohio City Singers Theme,” the band created the track “The Ohio City Singers Christmas Bash” as a type of overture for the rest of the holiday-themed tracks that make up the band’s full-length release. The Christmas-flavored Rock and Roll track helps to explain the overarching feel as the band plays the track (and the rest of the tracks, as well) in front of a live audience that was there to add a festive feel to the album.
After the band introduces the album with “The Ohio City Singers Christmas Bash,” the rest of the album begins with the track of “Dreams of Christmas Day”. Featuring the vocals of Kelly Wright, the track immediately gives the listener a song that feels as genuine as any of the standard holiday songs that we’ve come to know and love a little too well. “Dreams of Christmas Day” is one track that would feel right at home within the usual standards found on the radio during the holiday season as it contains a certain amount of familiarity in its sound.
Speaking of familiarity, The Ohio City Singers have included one song on their newest release that will be instantly recognizable to the listener. Having already been a staple of the band’s live performances over the last few years, “The Grinch,” the classic song from the Christmas special “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” comes alive as the band performs it for the audience. And from the reaction from the people in attendance, you can tell why the track has become a favorite during the band’s holiday concerts.
One of the standout tracks on Ring Out the Wild Bells is the song “Coal Miser”. On a track that brings to mind the lighthearted feel of a song from the band The Tractors, “Coal Miser” has an upbeat, fast-paced feel to the music as the singer tells the tale of always getting a stocking full of coal for each Christmas. “Coal Miser” could easily be called the modern-day version of “Nuttin’ for Christmas”.
The Ohio City Singers is a collective made up of many of the most popular and busiest musicians in Greater Cleveland. Some of the musicians in the band can also be found spending time in the World Famous Cleveland-based tribute band to The Pogues called The Boys from the County Hell. So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that some of the Pogues influence does appear in some of the music for The Ohio City Singers. One track that features some of the Pogues influence is the song “The Ghosts”. With the upbeat and fun feel of the Pogues’ sound, “The Ghosts” is one of the tracks that could easily jump out at you. The track also features lyrics about turning to the classic songs of Christmas past that help to bring back memories of yesterday. “The Ghosts” is one track that seems just right for reminiscing while also having a light feel that just right for having fun.
While many of the songs on the Ring Out the Wild Bells release are fun and help to bring out the festive feel of the Christmas, the track of “War on Christmas” brings a more sober feel to the release. In the same vein as “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” by John Lennon, “War on Christmas” focuses on the idea of putting aside our differences at least for one day to allow the real meaning of the holiday to come through. The track features the vocal talents of album producer Don Dixon who brings the track’s vocals to life. “War on Christmas” is such a strong track with an even stronger message that it could be released as a single for the album.
Having already ventured into the direction of covering old songs from old Christmas specials with the song of “The Grinch,” The Ohio City Singers once again take on an old Christmas classic. This time, it’s the song of “Heat Miser” from the special The Year Without A Santa Claus. Although the band is Rock and Roll based, they do a good job of staying pretty close to the original spirit of the song while still adding a definite Rock and Roll touch to it. The Ohio City Singers’ version of “Het Miser” is so good that the band gets a nice response from the crowd that showed up for the recording of the album of Ring Out the Wild Bells.
Having recorded four Christmas releases up to this point, The Ohio City Singers have created a holiday tradition that Clevelanders look forward to. And whether on album or live in concert, The Ohio City Singers are a Christmas tradition worth keeping.
To check out the music of The Ohio City Singers, check out the song “The Ghosts“.