Celebrating the holidays and the release of their collaborative album, Fireside Songs for the Soul, Carolyn Wonderland, Guy Forsyth and their collective bands played two shows at the One World Theatre Wednesday night.
With Cole El-Saleh (keyboards), Will Landin (bass/sousaphone) and dual drummers Rob Hooper and Jeff Botta, they delivered holiday cheer through songs – new and traditional with ample wishes for Merry Christmases (they opened with an acapella version) and Willie Nelson’s “everlasting freedom” in reference to his recent arrest in West Texas. The appropriate cover of “Little Dealer Boy” and the refrain, “And now my wonder weed is flaring/Are you high?/Looked like that special star above/Can it be?/Pass it around in endless sharing/On Christmas day/And let not mankind Bogart love/You’d smoke my tree” gathered plenty of laughter from the crowd and a few shouts of “Free Willie!”
Following up the Willie cover was the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” with Guy on ukulele and the “emergency back-up plan for Willie,” John Prine’s “Christmas in Prison.”
“Happy Christmas (War is Over)” brought tears all around with Carolyn’s dedication to Lennon on the 30th anniversary of his assassination, hopes that next year they’ll be singing it out of “stark irony” and the reminder to look out for those on the other side of the ribbons and bows and things that make us happy about the season.
Guy’s interpretation of the Kink’s “Father Christmas,” bluesy duets on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and “Merry Christmas, Baby” and “Things That Matter,” a song Guy wrote for Texas legend (“and therefore the world”) Steven Bruton rounded out the first show.
The second show was supplemented with Carolyn’s law-breaking (“There’s a law that says you can’t cover Janis Joplin songs if you’re from Texas… but they’re going to aide and abet me…”) “What Good Can Drinking Do,” Little Screamin’ Kenny’s “Blue Lights” and “Eyes on the Prize.”
At the end of the evening, the crowds we sent on their way with the spiritual “Yonder Come Day” (“Oh Day” on the record), “Jingle Bells” and skipping right ahead to New Year’s with, “Auld Lang Syne.”
The new record, which was recorded last year at the One World Theatre, has 11 selected tracks from the shows, spanning the classics (“Silent Night,” “Winter Wonderland”) and the fun (“Run, Run Rudolph,” Matt Hubbard’s “You’re Not Gonna Get What You Want for Christmas”) for those who missed the show, can’t make it to the Houston or Dallas shows or simply want to bring a little bit of the Texas Christmas spirit home.
Photos by Nichole Wagner