Two local musicians helped spread some holiday cheer this year with the release of a new album featuring original and traditional songs. Kirsten Manville, 39, of Wakefield, and David Simmons, 56, of Lynn, collaborated on their first Christmas album together [pictured]. Simmons also lived in Wakefield until five years of age.
Recording from March through October with studio sessions three times a month along with writing material, the album, At Christmastime, features traditional Christmas songs, pop, folk and blues. Their CD release party was held back in November at Walnut Street Cafe in Lynn [pictured].
First introduced at an open mic at Lido Cafe in Lynn, the duo also released Dreams That Won't Let Go in October 2006 and Things You Learn in March 2009, which feature mostly original material, produced by well known local musician Brian Maes. Maes also plays keyboard for the title track and duet, "At Christmastime," and "I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day."
Since Manville tends to write five to 10 songs yearly, she noted that another album from the duo is a possibility.
On the EP, Simmons plays guitar, mandolin, lead rhythm and bass guitars, flute, piano, and vocals while Manville does vocals, rhythm and bass guitars, piano and flute. He teaches beginning or intermediate guitar at his studio or in-house to students 10 years or older. Growing up in Nahant Public Schools, he learned to play trumpet, guitar and sang in chorus. Also in chorus, Manville earned a Bachelor's from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, in music with a concentration in flute and voice in 1995.
In addition, Jack O'Soro, of Saugus, plays drums and percussion, and Sven Larson does upright bass on track six, "The Christmas Song."
They commented on their involvement with the EP. O'Soro is humble, supportive of every track and knows the material well, Simmons mentioned.
Larson is professional and did a great job, Manville added.
"Brian has a nice way about him -- the way he makes decisions and he's an excellent musician," she stated of Maes, "We have a lot of laughs and I miss him when we're not recording."
Simmons noted Maes also lives halfway between their homes in Lynn and Wakefield.
"'I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day' is based on a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow," Simmons told Wakefield Patch. "It starts off as a dark song -- his wife died, and he came back from the war injured. But it becomes more optimistic."
The EP also features an uptempo version with a similar arrangement of "Blue Christmas," a lost love song, originally recorded by Elvis Presley; "Hard Candy Christmas," originally recorded by Dolly Parton; "That Kind of Night," an original love song written by Manville based on personal experience; "The Christmas Song," originally recorded by Nat King Cole, featuring imagery about what Christmas is all about, such as chestnuts roasting on an open fire and children eagerly waiting for Santa's arrival.
Together, they chose that song selection based on what they thought a young adult crowd (20s to 60s) would listen to. Kay mentioned that is taste-dependent, making it tough to put an age on it. As to how it's different from other Christmas albums like it, Manville pointed out they chose songs that listeners would like and originals that they otherwise wouldn't have heard. "Hard Candy Christmas" is country, "At Christmastime" is a ballad while "Blues Christmas is well, blues, and most arrangements are simple and melodic -- something for everyone.
Reflecting on her inspiration for "That King of Night," Manville explained, “People get so busy Christmas Eve that they forget about spending time with someone. They go shopping, pick up food, wrap presents, and then spend time together."
According to their Web site, www.Kirsten-Dave.com, they can be found performing at area coffeehouses, outdoor fairs, markets and concerts in the park, cafès, restaurants, and events.
As for their personal style, Manville lived in Nashville, Tenn., and thus listens to mainstream country, Americana, and her friends who are also singers/songwriters. Simmons listens to everything, including jazz, classical, college radio, and like Manville, his colleagues. Growing up listening to classical, Kay's style ranges from Beethoven to Green Day.
Manville will open for Don White at Club Passim in Cambridge Jan. 12, at 8 p.m.