The continued downturn in the music business means fewer holiday music albums are being released each year. But, fans of American roots music have a new CD to enjoy this year, one that may also help to save the life of a child.
John Prine sings "I'll Be Home for Christmas" on To Kate: A Benefit for Kate's Sake, a collection of 15 songs by top alternative-country and roots-rock performers. This CD benefits Kate Kirk, a three-year-old girl living in Nashville, Tennessee. Kate, and her six-year-old sister Caroline, both suffer from a rare genetic disease.
Tragically, by the time the older girl was diagnosed, it was too late for her, but Kate has been approved for a potentially life-saving bone marrow transplant. Her family needs to raise an estimated $150,000 to pay for the transplant. Their plight reached Garry Tallent, bass player of Bruce Springsteen's E-Street Band, who came up with the idea of producing the star-studded album with performers including Steve Earle, Buddy and Julie Miller, and Raul Malo, who sings, and plays all the instruments, on this version of Willie Nelson's "Pretty Paper."
Jeff Black takes part, too, singing "Winter Wonderland." That song wasn't his first choice for the album. But according to Jeff, it was the song that Garry Tallent wanted him to sing.
"We had already recorded a version of 'Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer,' which is an old standby for me," he said. "I've played that for years and years between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was his [Garry's] initial idea to throw ourselves into a different musical situation. I'm so very fortunate, and lucky, to surround myself with friends who just happen to be world-class musicians for his. Jody Nardone on the piano that day, and Craig Wright playing the drums. Somehow, someway, we were transported on that hot day in July to a smoky little bar. Down in the city somewhere, where the streets are covered with snow, and everything is quiet. Fantasy became reality, and all of a sudden it was Christmastime. It was absolutely beautiful."
As this is a benefit recording, it was a labor of love for those taking part. All the royalties earned from this project are going to two U.S. charities, The Children's Organ Transplant Association, and another charity specifically for Kate Kirk, called "For Kate's Sake."
Not all the songs on this fundraising recording are old holiday classics. Joe Ely selected "Winterlude," a lesser-known Bob Dylan song as his contribution.