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Peanuts and Popcorn

Peanuts and Popcorn

Michael W. Smith Releases 4th Christmas Album

posted by jtotey

bff07f90c9dffa2d67d3aab2_440x293Diehard fans of Michael W. Smith and his Christmas music may be disappointed with his 4th holiday album: Michael W. Smith & Friends: The Spirit of Christmas. The album isn’t bad, but it is so much less than what we’ve come to expect from this talented performer. However, it should be said that this album has a whole different direction from his earlier works too and this new album has its share of fans that may not have been too hip on the others.

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Unlike his previous works, this one features a lot less original material and the majority of it focuses on classic Christmas tunes. Only a couple of songs are composed for a full orchestra but they pale when compared to Smith first Christmas record, Christmas, which was recorded in 1993.

Instead, Spirit of Christmas is sort of a throwback of classic Christmas albums our parents had when we were little. In fact, Smith looks more like Lawrence Welk than his more youthful self on the cover. The music, though good, sounds more like classic Christmas special. The album features duets with some really big names including Vince Gill, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Martina McBride, Amy Grant, Bono, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Nettles, Michael McDonald and Smith’s own granddaughter, Audrey Smith.

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If you caught the CMA Christmas special this year, you already know how incredible “All is Well” with Carrie Underwood is. Other standouts include “Almost There” with Amy Grant, “Christmas Time is Here” with Vince Gill and “Peace” with Michael McDonald . Bono doesn’t sing on the album, only narrates The Darkest Midnight with an incredibly haunting voice.

Michael-W-Smith-e1410399972951The line-up of music on the album includes:

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  1. The Miracle of Christmas
  2. It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
  3. Happy Holiday / Holiday Season
  4. Christmas Time is Here (featuring Vince Gill)
  5. White Christmas (featuring Lady Antebellum)
  6. Somewhere in My Memory (featuring Audrey Smith)
  7. The Spirit of Christmas (Deck the Halls, Good King Wenceslas, O Little Town of Bethlehem, O Come All Ye Faithful)
  8. Silent Night (Featuring Little Big Town)
  9. What Child is this (Featuring Martina McBride)
  10. Almost There (Featuring Amy Grant)
  11. All is Well (Featuring Carrie Underwood)
  12. Christmas Day (Featuring Jennifer Nettles)
  13. The Darkest Midnight (Featuring Bono)
  14. Peace (Featuring Michael McDonald)

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Jamie Grace and Sis Sing for the Holiday

posted by jtotey
Gotee Records

Gotee Records

Grammy nominee and positive role model, Jamie Grace has teamed up with her sister, Morgan Harper Nichols, to release the Christmas EP, Family Christmas: Songs by Jamie Grace and Morgan Harper Nichols. The five-song features two by Grace, two by Nichols and one sung by both under the name, Harper Still. The two have sung together in the past, but this marks the first “official” collaboration of the two. Nichols was featured on Grace’s Ready to Fly album on the song “White Boots.”

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Family Christmas features the following songs:

  • Born Tonight – Jamie Grace
    Sweet Little Jesus Boy – Jamie Grace
    Go Tell It On The Mountain – Morgan Harper Nichols
    The Prodigal Christmas – Morgan Harper Nichols
    I’ll Be Home For Christmas – Harper Still

To hear a sample, watch the lyric video below for “Born Tonight,” which has already been picked up by 22 Christian radio stations and debuted at No. 29 on the Christian AC Chart. It’s difficult to come up with something new and fresh for Christmas, but Jamie has done it and believe it or not, this is the singer’s second Christmas album in her short career! Her Christmas Together was released in 2011. The album is available now through Gotee Records, iTunes and Amazon.

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7-UP Bottling Company

7-UP Bottling Company

This album’s release caps off Grace’s year where the singer reached 500,000 singles downloads for her hit “Hold Me” (which featured TobyMac and pushed her into a group of only four female Christian artists to have sold more than half a million singles) and she became this first Christian artist ever to appear on 7-Up can! Her image was printed on four million can in promotion of K-LOVE and has been distributed throughout Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Look for Jamie Grace in The Rock & Worship Roadshow touring next year with MercyMe, Crowder, Matt Maher and Tedashii.

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‘Saving Christmas’ is Full of Useful Stuff

posted by jtotey
Christian (Darren Doane) is not happy with the idea of Christmas this year. (Provident Films)

Christian (Darren Doane) is not happy with the idea of Christmas this year. (Provident Films)

Some may view actor Kirk Cameron as a hyper-religious, ultra-conservative Christian, so it may surprise you that his latest venture, Saving Christmas, is the polar opposite of what you might expect. In fact, this film is actually aimed at those who are hyper-religious, ultra-conservative Christians and even proves that the title is inaccurate. Christmas isn’t in need of saving; it needs to be celebrated.

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Saving Christmas is different from what you might expect in a lot of ways. It isn’t really a tradition movie as there isn’t much of a storyline. It isn’t really a documentary, because there IS a storyline. The production is written and directed by Darren Doane who also has a large role in the film as Kirk’s fictional brother-in-law “Christian” and obvious metaphor for everyone who watches this movie. Christian’s wife is played by Kirk’s sister, Bridgette Cameron.

The thin plot revolves around a family Christmas party where Christian spends most of it sulking in his car. Instead of the over-used storyline about someone who has “lost the Christmas spirit,” Christian has had it with Christmas. He is upset with all of the commercialism and he fears that he is partaking in traditions that have history in druidism. Kirk goes out to talk to him and addresses each of his concerns with historical facts and stories.

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Kirk’s and Christian’s conversation is pretty entertaining to watch as Doane is actually very funny in his awkwardness. Christian rants about one subject, Kirk addresses it and then they move on to the next. Here you won’t find schmaltzy stories like the “legend of the candy cane,.” Instead, lessons on the background of many holiday traditions and little-known facts about the nativity story are presented. This is all good stuff, however, comparing the Christmas tree to the Tree of Knowledge found in the Adam and Eve story is a bit of a stretch. The argument that “just because the druids worshipped trees doesn’t mean we have to” is enough.

At just one hour and twenty minutes long, Saving Christmas feels more like a Christmas TV special than a movie and like many holiday specials, about 20 minutes of the production is filled with fluff that doesn’t really belong. These are “comedy bits” from other cast members that aren’t especially funny that should have been left out. That’s not to say that it isn’t worth watching. It is. Just don’t expect to be entertained as much as you would with another movie. The other thing is don’t wait too long to see this movie as it is only showing in theaters until November 27. (Click here to find a theater near you.)

One final thought, though the film is family-friendly, it is really geared toward adults. Parents will do better sharing the material with their children on their own level at home.

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Michael W. Smith Named Philanthropist of the Year

posted by jtotey
Michael W. Smith is presented with Philanthropist of the Year Award by the AFP. (AFP)

Michael W. Smith is presented with Philanthropist of the Year Award by the AFP. (AFP)

A Friday night affair
Out in the city heat
Always a party there
Along the sordid street
And it was guaranteed
The place to be was Rocketown
The drinks were two for one
Inside the crowded bars
The girls would make their run
Out on the boulevard
It was the idol place
We lived the ways of Rocketown

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– From the song “Rocketown”

November 5, 2014 was designated as National Philanthropy Day and in Nashville, Tennessee; the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) celebrated the “difference makers” in the community which included naming singer/songwriter Michael W. Smith, as the Philanthropist of the Year. This was based on his extensive work with the Rocketown outreach program which he founded in 1994, eight years after the song of the same name was released on his album, “The Big Picture.”

Rocketown is considered to be the first of its kind in the Southeast and has since grown into a regional outreach.  Located in downtown Nashville, the facility features three stages for live entertainment, an indoor skatepark, a snack bar, a recording studio, and other studios for photography, art and dance. It is estimated that more than 800 teens from across the Middle Tennessee region participate in programs each weekend as well as an after-school program at a local high school.

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It’s been a good week for Smith as he was again given an award at the Nashville Association of Talent Directors’ annual gala on November 11th. The program honors entertainment professionals for their efforts “to make Nashville the exciting and vital entertainment mecca that it is today.”

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