Singer-songwriter Frank Jaklitsch admits that he’s long asked himself, “Does the world really need another Christmas CD… let alone a Frank Jaklitsch Christmas CD?”
But now that he’s finally recorded one, the answer is quite simply, “Yes. Yes, indeed.”
One of Nippertown’s most prolific recording artists (with 14 previous albums to his credit) as well as one of the most big-hearted (as he’s done with his previous albums, all proceeds from “One Small Child” are being donated to local charities), Jaklitsch has put together an eclectic, very generous 14-song collection of songs that celebrate the spirit of the season without relying on the tried-and-true (and some might say, tiresome) over-recorded classics.
“The First Noel” is the only bona fide Christmas staple that you’ll find on the album, although he does include a smattering of traditional holiday songs, such as “Bring a Torch” and “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.” And sadly, there are no Jaklitsch original songs here, either.
But Jaklitsch puts his very personal stamp on “One Small Child” by cherry-picking an exquisite batch of little-known holiday songs that deserve a much wider audience. Some come from the songbags of well-established stars – Emmylou Harris’ “The Light of the Stable,” John Denver’s “A Baby Just Like You” and especially a Cajun-influenced reading of the Band’s “Christmas Must Be Tonight.”
But most of the songs on the album were completely unfamiliar to me – and that’s saying something considering that I’ve been reviewing 25-50 new Christmas albums for the past 15 years – and gems like like Carolyn Arends’ “Everything Changes,” Kevin Briodi’s “Walnuts and Rice” and David Meece’s title track strike the right chord, balancing the communal joy of the season with a deeper spiritual resonance.
Jaklitsch is accompanied by a bunch of local musicians – including John Cromie, Michael Eck, Bill Flynn and Mark Frederick – and in the generous spirit of the season, Jaklitsch also turns over the lead vocal chores to a number of other Local 518 friends to showcase their vocal talents on the traditional “Mary, Did You Know?” (featuring Bobby Long), Harry Chapin’s “Mr. Tanner” (with Amy Collins’ soaring rendition of “O Holy Night” in counterpoint) and John McCutchen’s “Christmas in the Trenches” (sung by Mike Roche).
Review by Greg Haymes
Frank Jaklitsch plays at Katie O’Byrne’s in Schenectady at 6:45pm tonight (December 14). At 7pm on Thursday (December 15), Jaklitsch & Friends will perform their second Christmas benefit show of the month at the Irish Mist in Troy. Jaklitsch will be joined by Amy Collins, the 3 Irish Voices and the Sons & Daughters of the Erin Pipe Band. Admission is $10, and all proceeds will benefit the Vineyard Church in Cohoes. Reservations are strongly suggested. And Jaklitsch will put a Crescent City spin on the holidays with his New Orleans Christmas Concert at Cafe NOLA in Schenectady at 7pm on Friday (December 16).