Thunder Bay singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jean-Paul De Roover has released a new album, Songs for the Holidays, that captures the generous, giving spirit of the season in more ways than one; it features recordings of treasured Christmas songs made with a whole host of his musical friends from the Thunder Bay scene, and it raises money for a good cause.
Songs for the Holidays is available on all major platforms where music is streamed or downloaded. For more information please visit www.jeanpaulderoover.com.
Work on what would become the album started in 2011, when Jean-Paul recorded a Latin-inspired interpretation of “O Holy Night” in his parents’ basement with a laptop and looper. He sent out a blast to his mailing list, and the next day it was being played on CBC Thunder Bay. Recording Christmas covers eventually became an annual tradition.
Every year, Jean-Paul and a guest musician (or musicians) would record a holiday cover song and release it. Each year too, the song would be played on CBC Thunder Bay’s morning show. Everyone volunteered their time and skills to be a part of it, knowing that once the collection reached 10 songs it would be released as an album, with all proceeds going to the Regional Food Distribution Association (RFDA), the organization that collects and distributes food to foodbanks in the region.
For the 2021 version of “O Holy Night,” Jean-Paul invited powerhouse singer Nancy Freeborn and percussion master Sean Jesseau to re-create the arrangement – in which the congas, cajon, and clave emphasize the more diverse seasonal celebrations.
One of the album’s highlights is an amphetaminized take on the Chuck Berry rocker “Run Rudolph Run” – faster and more explosive than versions by Bryan Adams, Keith Richards, and even the Berry original. Jimmy Breslin’s guitar and Crag Smyth’s piano – both on loan from the band Greenbank – really make the song jump.
Jean-Paul’s rendition of “Little Drummer Boy” features droning instruments and incantatory vocals, riding on top of an insisting, pulsing drumbeat by Dennis Dumphy.
The album covers great standards like “Last Christmas,” “Christmas Star,” “Wonderful Christmastime,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” and “Feliz Navidad.” But there are two more unusual offerings here: The little-known Hawaiian seasonal classic “Mele Kalikimaka” showcases Jean-Paul on vocals and whistling and his mom’s ukelele, along with his wife Shannon Lepere’s sweet vocals; and “Go Tell It On The Mountain” – usually considered more of a spiritual, rather than a Christmas song – features Nick Sherman on vocals, backed by a rockin’ drum beat, a vibrating faux-fiddle, and bass by Dave Angell.
A decade in the making, Songs for the Holidays is a warm, kind-hearted, endeavour, full of the spirit and grace of the season.