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Ted Wulfers: Listen Again

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Once again your rockin’ writer felt the need to resurrect his “Listen Again” series. For those of you just joining us, the “Listen Again” series is a series in which we revisit albums that for one reason or another didn’t receive the attention or acclaim they deserved when they were originally released. Whether it was the recording was ahead of its time, broke away from the artist’s usual style, was poorly publicized or initially misunderstood, the “Listen Again” series urges music fans to listen again.

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This time we revisit Ted Wulfers’ What Would Santa Do? But first, for those readers who may not be up on all their indie artists, Ted Wulfers is an L.A.-based singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist. His signature sound is a blend of what he calls “ Heartland rock, Stadium pop, Stonesy swagger, California cool and Texas twang” the likes of such other artists as Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen. It’s basically real, honest rock.

In this case, the album in question is an 8-track collection of seasonal songs unlike the holiday hits to which we’ve all grown accustomed. This 2009 Patchwork Records release is a refreshing change of pace from the usual festive fare.
Wulfers who wrote all but one song on the album leads the way with his lead vocals, guitar, bass, ukuleles, keys, lap steel, drums, vibraphone, percussion and jingle bells.

The album opener is titled “Wishin’ It Were Xmas”. It’s a good, upbeat holiday intro featuring Aaron Weistrop (guitar and backing vocals), Dave Raven (drums), Taras Prodaniuk (bass) and Diana Rein, Mark Cantwil and Mark Lonsway (backing vocals).

The second selection is the titular track “What Would Santa Do?” This one is an almost swampy blues rocker that focuses on the dilemma one has when faced with a woman who doesn’t want anything fancy for the holiday just some quality time. It ponders: “What would Santa do” in the situation? It includes Dave Raven (drums), Steve Leinheiser (saxophone), Carey Deadman (trumpet), Dan Johnson (trombone), Mark Lonsway (backing vocals) and Prodaniuk encores on bass.

The next number is “Mistletoes”. This is a nice number with an apropos holiday wish. Yes, it’s unfortunate we can’t have mistletoe all over so that we could kiss a woman whenever we chose to do so. It includes Jeff Kelly on drums.

“The Ditty Bop Hop” follows here. This is more of a jazzy swing number that might not have much of a tie-in to Christmas but the holidays are about enjoying ourselves and listeners can certainly enjoy this one. Guest artists include: Aaron Weistrop (lead guitar), Dave Raven (drums), Gary Morse (pedal steel), Ruben Ramos (upright bass), Carl Byron (piano and accordion) and Diana Rein (backing vocals).

“San Luis Obispo” comes in next. This tuneful tip of the hat to Wulfers’ then present home is also not exactly a Christmas song. Still, it’s a nice number and comes across almost as something Jimmy Buffet would do. It’s a laid back song that tells the tale of Wulfers’ search for a place to hang his hat (and store his instruments) between live gigs.

(Having spent a couple of romantic weekends there your rascally writer can assure you from what he saw driving to and from the motel Wulfers’ description is quite accurate.) The song is fleshed out with the aid of Ted Russell Kamp (trumpet) and Dave Phenice (backing vocals). Additionally, Byron returns on accordion, Deadman encores on trumpet, Johnson sits in again on trombone and Cantwill is back on backing vocals.

While “The Hanukkah Blues” does, indeed, fulfill the unspoken obligation to mention Hanukkah, it brings the focus back on the winter holidays. It’s another good blues cut and while one might feel for the character in the track’s tale, one cannot help but smile at the choice of lyrics. This was co-composed with Weistrop (guitar and mandolin) and Raven returns on drums.

The seventh selection is “Ukulele Xmas”. This seasonal song also has an island influence. (In fact, it makes your pensive penman pause to reflect on his birth state Hawaii.)

The album’s end-note is “Xmas In A Bar”. While the title might bring to mind Randy Stonehill’s “Christmas At Denny’s” there is little comparison in terms of musical mood. Wulfer’s song seems to have been written from a bar and the alcohol surely seems to make things merrier. It’s a rockin’ closing cut (featuring the return of Kelly on drums and Lonsway on backing vocals) and before Christmas concludes some folks might find themselves secretly wishing to be at that very same bar.

With a running time of almost 32 minutes, Wulfers’ version of a seasonal song fest could be just the thing to add some variety to your own winter wonderland. If you've never listened to Ted WulfersWhat Would Santa Do, listen to it. If you've already listened to it . . . listen again.

My name is Phoenix and . . . that's the bottom line.

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