CD Review: The Ohio City Singers : “A Town Called Christmas”

Posted: December 20, 2013 in Music
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What happens when you take some of the most talented musicians from around the Greater Cleveland area and almost as many genres of music between those musicians and combine them all into one group with the purpose of composing and performing original holiday music? You end up with The Ohio City Singers.

Having stared from the simple wish from Chris Allen’s father that Chris creates a song for him for Christmas, an entire album of songs was written. Allen then got a group of his friends from around Cleveland together to help create the music to those songs. That was several years ago. The Ohio City Singers now have three CDs of original Christmas music to call their own.

The roster for The Ohio City Singers looks like a “Who’s Who” of the Cleveland music scene. Along with singer/songwriter/guitarist Christopher Allen, the rest of the band consists of: Austin “Candy Cane” Charanghat on guitar and vocals; Don Dixon, who contributes many different facets to the band on many different instruments and singing, as well as production; Brent Kirby on vocals and drums and percussion; Doug McKean on many instruments and vocals; Tom Prebish on vocals and bass; Matt Sobol on vocals and guitar; Nick Stipanovich on vocals, accordion and piano; and Kelly Wright on vocals.

When it isn’t the holiday season, you can find each of these talented musicians helping to fill bars and musical venues around Cleveland each and every week. But when the time turns to the holiday season, these musicians come together to once again form the band The Ohio City Singers. The Ohio City Singers are currently promoting their latest release, 2013’s A Town Called Christmas.

A Town Called Christmas from The Ohio City Singers begins with the song “Memories of Red and Green”. While the majority of this album from the band was composed by Chris Allen and Austin “Candy Cane” Charanghat, this track was composed by Chris Allen and Doug McKean. It was Allen and McKean who composed the majority of the band’s 2011 release Snow Days. Because of that connection, this song contains the same feel to the music and lyrics, making it feel as if it should have been included on the band’s last release. This track is one of the strongest songs on the new release as it feels more like a straight-out rock song than it feels like a Christmas track. Even with the lyrics about the holiday time of the year, you could easily find yourself jamming along with the band.

“A Town Called Christmas,” the title track of the release, is slightly less energetic than the lead-off track of “Memories of Red and Green”; however, the fun feeling from the first track does find its way onto this song. The song features a fun call-and-answer feel between the ban mates as they sing of a town that really gets into the spirit of the season. While this and many of the other tracks on the album find Chris Allen writing with Austin “Candy Cane” Charanghat (who has changed his nickname from his usual nickname of “Walkin’ Cane” for the holiday season) instead of Doug McKean with whom he wrote the majority of Snow Days, the last release from this band, the partnership between Allen and Charanghat seems just as strong and natural. Of course, that may have something to do with the fact that they have been performing together for decades now.

For the newest release from The Ohio City Singers, several tracks have been written by members of the band other than Chris Allen. One of the strongest tracks in that category is the Matt Sobol-penned “Got a Feeling about Christmas”. The gentle rocking beat to the music and the simplistic feel to the lyrics help to create a track that many will fall in love with.

If any track on A Town Called Christmas was to be considered a single, it would have to be the song “Ringing of the Bells”. The song has a rock beat to it with just enough Country “twang” to it to have the song falling into the “timeless” category. You may find that the track could easily fit into Christmas playlist for this year and for years to come.

Another track that falls into the “timeless” category is the track “Gingerbread House”. One track on the release that features Austin “Candy Cane” Charanghat on lead vocals, the song features lyrics that are very reminiscent of some of the more classic Christmas songs; “Gingerbread House” could easily be 2013’s answer to “Baby, it’s Cold Outside”.

In the style of John Lennon’s “Xmas is Here (War is Over),” the song “A Pauper’s Noel” has the same upbeat feel to the music and also features a chorus of singers in the back that help add depth to the song. The horns on the song also help add some festive feeling to the music. Altogether, “A Pauper’s Noel” is one of the strongest carols on the new release from The Ohio City Singers and the tracks helps bring A Town Called Christmas to an end on a strong and festive note.

Click HERE for the video to “A Town Called Christmas”.


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