HAVE YOURSELF A MUSICAL MERRY CHRISTMAS!
“THE CHRISTMAS SESSIONS”—ASHLEY DAVIS with JOHN DOYLE DAISYRINGS MUSIC
Interview with Cindy Reich
Think on this. What if you could have two superb musicians invited to your house to sing and play Christmas songs for you and yours? Crystalline vocals, a guitar genius, lush harmonies, a bit of flute…. Brilliant, eh?
Well, if you would like to have Ashley Davis and John Doyle put you in the Christmas spirit, “The Christmas Sessions” is being released on December 1st, through Ashley’s “daisyrings” label. The beauty of this release is that it is deceptively simple, which makes for easy listening—again and again. Its as if Ashley and John are settled in your sitting room, playing and singing away without any embellishments or trappings. It takes a superb singer and an equally superb musician to pull this off. Which is why most artists can’t resist “tarting up” an album to fill up all the space. This is bare bones and beautiful and the songs are the stars.
Ashley says, “These songs are so beautiful, they really only needed me to be the vessel that carries them to the listener. Though I have to say that unlike any other album I’ve put out, I had to really practice these songs because they were vocally more challenging than what I do these days. It was a great experience though, because it brought me back to that area of my voice that I used so much as a teenager singing country music growing up in Kansas. John has naturally beautiful taste in his arrangements and playing, he also believes that you have to give the song space to breathe. I think with those two approaches combined, you get a really lovely approach that yields a spacious album”.
John Doyle adds, “It’s quite an intimate album. We decided at its conception of that we wanted a classic sound but with only what was necessary instrumentally, so the vocals and melody would really stand out. Yet, because we took great care in the making of it, the whole CD sounds very full and lush. Also, we chose the songs that meant the most to each of us, as memories from childhood or because of their striking musicality”.
In that spirit, I asked Ashley what her favorite Christmas carols were growing up. “My favorite carols spanned the board, truly. I loved the religious ones we sang at mass; and equally loved the big band 1940s hits like “Let it Snow”. They all hold memories to me from Christmas Eve mass to watching “Holiday Inn” for the first time with my mother and hearing “White Christmas.”
A generous helping of Christmas cheer, with 13 tracks, you will find the familiar as well as the two original pieces from Davis and Doyle. In fact, the first track, “Light My Tree” is a saucy and romantic little number inviting a special “someone” to come over and help “light my tree”. This is one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written”, says Ashley. I wanted to write a 40s big band type song that was very tongue and cheek. One day on a plane coming home last spring that line “light my tree” came into my head and I began writing it there on the plane from the perspective of the pouting girl at home trying to get her boyfriend to come over.
When we got into the studio John thought that it needed a bridge and so he wrote that melody section and sent me off to write more lyrics within the same vein. This is where I decided to try and reference as many Christmas songs as I could in a very subtle way till the end of the song. It was a lot of fun to write and I was so happy with how it turned out.”
The guitar intro to “Let it Snow” has great rhythm and bounce, which lifts the song. Davis’ vocals on “White Christmas” are spectacular, and because it is unadorned, any imperfection would jump right out at you. But of course, it is perfection. Doyle’s harmony on the second verse is understated and adds just the right amount of body to linger in your mind as you silently sing along with them. “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” has such longing and ache to it, you’ll nearly be in tears by the end. Joe Carroll’s piano accompaniment gives it a real sort of 40’s vintage treatment. In fact it is very reminiscent of a torch singer style, and Ashley says that is what she was aiming for. “I think that John and I are a really interesting yet very compatible combination with each of us bringing our own musical tastes and traits to this sonic banquet. Hearing John approach Christmas songs he’s never played and yet making them sound like he’s played his whole life is really beautiful. Then adding my voice to it, but with me approaching the songs more like a torch singer and less a Celtic one. Back to my days of singing a lot of Patsy Cline.
That said, there is a definite Irish legitimacy to both “The Wexford Carol” with Mike McGoldrick on flute, and John’s original song, “Merry Christmas To All and Goodnight”.
Ashley explains that this album is really composed of 13 “moments”: When I was a kid, I could not wait for the ban on Christmas music to be lifted on December 1st. My father kept all of the Christmas music on the highest shelf in the living room where I couldn’t get to it as a little girl. So when I was choosing the material for this album, I thought back on which of those songs, those moments meant the most to me. 10 of the tracks are those moments, 1 is a Doyle family moment (Wexford Carol) and then 2 originals from John and myself to make 13 new moments!
I believe that the Christmas season, for those who celebrate the holiday, evokes the widest range of emotions in one space during the year. But I would like the album to take the listeners back to their happiest memories of Christmas and give them a rest within those memories. That moment of solace that allows one to be at peace; see relatives that have since passed on and kiss their cheeks. Sit by the fire and open presents with their parents smiling at them. See their love, many years back, the first time they opened a gift they had been saving for all year. I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and the very best for the New Year!”
“The Christmas Sessions” can be found on Ashley’s website: www.daisyrings.com