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Christmas Live at The Bluebird Café with John Berry
Photo/Journalist – Helen Neal

Christmas music and Christmas memories – John Berry’s Christmas Live album combines both to warm your very being. The endearing mix of songs – newer as well as traditional ones – melded with warm-hearted stories makes some of the season’s best listening.

That’s the cake – the icing is listening to those songs and stories from the album performed at Nashville’s own Bluebird Café. Though I think of The Bluebird as the "front porch of country music," for this event it resembled the family living room on Christmas Eve. Only the singer wasn’t your favorite cousin, but the gifted Berry.

The show was part of 650 WSM’s monthly series of singer/songwriter performances, broadcast live from The Bluebird over 650 AM radio, wsmonline.com, and Sirius Satellite 164. Staff Announcer Eddie Stubbs introduced Berry as "one of the most amazing voices you’ll ever hear."

Serving warm memories along with his unforgettable music, Berry enchanted and charmed and frequently elicited tears. His trademark "O Holy Night" rendition shivered the spine. That was expected – it’s been doing that since it’s release on his first Christmas album of the same name. Include another song, "The Lord’s Prayer," on the list of those that Berry wraps around the listener’s heart.

Other stellar performances from the album included "O Come All Ye Faithful," "O Come Emmanuel," and "My Heart is Bethlehem." The latter, penned by Michael Peterson, inspired listeners with its theme of welcoming Jesus into our hearts.

As in all significant family gatherings, there were chuckles, too. He recounted making the "big time" as a fourth grader singing in the Christmas PTA program. And now, each time he performs "The Little Drummer Boy," there’s "once again a nervous little 9 year old boy deep inside getting ready to sing."

His account of their Christmas traditions on the farm in Athens - with the kids and their cousins, hayrides, bonfires, smores, singing and games, the reading of the Christmas story and the recounting of the year’s blessings by each one - made you yearn for that kind of Christmas for every child. However, he explained humorously, it wasn’t quite the same when they tried to duplicate the efforts one year at their (then) Nashville subdivision home. The audience chuckled at Berry’s description of the hayride with a little John Deere riding mower and the yard wagon – still a hayride, but "better known as red-necks on parade."

Berry flawlessly scored with traditional seasonal fare from the album: "Let It Snow," "I’ll Be Home for Christmas," "Winter Wonderland," and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." The show included other Christmas favorites, as well as some lesser-known ones. "Christmas Morning," co-written by Berry, Adam Daniel and Kim Richey, touched the audience with its ode to those parents who’s work makes it tough for them to get home for the holiday.

Berry began the show, accompanied only by an acoustic guitar, while singing several of his hits. He was joined by other band members, including wife Robin as backup singer,) for the Christmas songs.

The evening’s show gave loud testimony to announcer Stubbs’ comment on Berry’s "amazing voice" and "fine work doing songs for the Christmas season."

To hear the entire show (commercial free) log on to the Archives at http://www.wsmonline.com and follow the Live at the Bluebird link.

If you don’t catch Berry’s Christmas tour this year, go ahead and mark your calendar to check on next year’s. You’ll regret missing it! Ready yourself with his 2002 Christmas album, Christmas Live. It can be ordered from his web site.

www.johnberry.net

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