Like ghosts from my childhood, my crushes from 1981 are back and releasing a Christmas album together

The duke boys

The year was 1981 and I was just a wee little sprig of a girl. I got my first taste of love after I discovered two hot hillbillies in an orange car who raced their way into my tender, young heart. My mom gave up the fight and let me stay up past my 9 o'clock bedtime just so I could crush on the boys of The Dukes of Hazzard and dream of one day marrying beautiful blond-haired Bo and having beautiful blond-haired mini Bo babies.

Sigh. 

Good times. Good times. 

Well now I'm old, Bo and Luke are older than dirt (seriously, have you seen their new AutoTrader.com commercials?), I never fulfilled my Duke bridal fantasies – sad, I know – and the Duke Boys are releasing a Christmas album together.

Here's the really long press release just in case you're into nostalgic holiday offerings:

John Schneider and Tom Wopat – the original stars of “The Dukes of Hazzard” – will release a special holiday album Home for Christmas to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of the iconic TV show. The recording will be available from D13 Entertainment in stores and online October 28. The pair, currently starring in a national TV advertising campaign for AutoTrader.com, have performed in concert over the years, but this marks their first full recording together. Mixing immediately recognizable Christmas standards with lesser-known holiday songs, the album combines a bright and brassy big band, lush strings, and rustic country sounds and laces it all together with humorous banter that reflects over three decades of friendship. Home for Christmas is produced by David Finck with arrangements by John Oddo, Tedd Firth and Rob Mounsey. An online preview is available for the track “Cool Yule.”

The duo will celebrate with an exclusive CD release concert at New York’s Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater on Tuesday, December 2 at 9:30 PM. This concert marks their first time performing together in the city.

Home for Christmas is a collection of swinging seasonable treats to get you ready for holiday cheer. “I think this is a fresh take on the Christmas album,” says Tom. “Jazz fans and serious musicians will appreciate what we’ve done with theses tunes. Our arranger John Oddo has a true affinity for that classic 50s and 60s sound. He really nails it. Tedd Firth is a major talent and a creative voice. And, of course, I love singing with John Schneider. The timbre of our voices match, the harmonies blend so easily. Plus, he’s a barrel of laughs.” Schneider adds, “Tom and I really bring out the best in each other. We may not sound alike when we talk, but when we sing sometimes you can’t tell us apart. In the studio, I put him first and he puts me first. If that’s not friendship, I don’t know what is.”

The record opens with a warm, crystalline duet of “Christmas Time Is Here,” followed by a smooth mid-tempo version of the beloved staple “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” which is highlighted by a deft call-and-response vocal arrangement. Their sizzling take on “Cool Yule” – written by famed “Tonight Show” host Steve Allen and memorably introduced by Louis Armstrong – has a distinctly retro flavor. “It’s a particular favorite of mine,” says John. “It has that great Rat Pack vibe that I never get to do.”

The wistful “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” is an emotional solo turn for Wopat, crooning over a plush bed of stirring strings. “It’s such a gorgeous tune that I was inspired to do it” says Tom. “Tedd Firth’s arrangement is beautiful and evocative of another era.” John takes the spotlight in the charming “Even the Snow (Falls for You)” – one of those rare numbers that says “I love you” in a new and inventive way – by Chris Wallin, the noted Nashville songwriter who has penned #1 hits for Toby Keith, Kenny Chesney and Montgomery Gentry. The song “Johnny, It’s Cold Outside” makes for a fine bromance, a wry and funny twist on Frank Loesser’s classic. Tom muses, “It’s such a clever song and one of my favorite duets of all time.” He wrote the original alternate lyric himself.

“The Secret of Christmas” – a tender ballad gorgeously rendered by John – was written by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen. They were considered Frank Sinatra’s personal songwriters, even though this number was introduced by Bing Crosby. The song celebrates “not the things you do at Christmas time, but the Christmas things you do all year through.” Tom takes on “Blue Xmas” – a brooding lament by jazz iconoclast Bob Dorough that demonstrates the dark side of that most wonderful time of year, enhanced by a melancholy dissonant horn arrangement. “Bob is a really cool cat and you hear it in his songs,” says Tom. “I love how haunting our chart sounds.”

The infrequently performed “Holiday Season” – a joyous composition with an exciting rhythmic heft by Kay Thompson, the legendary doyenne of MGM’s music department – was recommended by John Oddo, who himself worked with many of the girl singers of the golden age.

Wopat and Schneider return to their country roots with a traditional take on “On a Quiet Christmas Morn,” featuring a prominent fiddle part and vocal harmonies that are pure Americana. Tom discovered the writers – Robin and Linda Williams – at New York’s Town Hall watching them perform on Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion.” “I love story songs and this is a great one” says John. “It has fantastic words, a wonderful melody, and a very special message.” “Silver Bells” makes a soft and reverent finale to the album, with the duo’s voices delicately interweaving, laced with a twinge of twang.

“I’ve always loved Christmas music because it brings people together,” recalls John. “Everyone listens at the same time of year. It’s the great common denominator.” Home for Christmas has the relaxed tone and easy rhythm to make it an enduring holiday classic for multiple generations of music fans, with plenty of unique touches and original musical ideas to consistently satisfy and surprise. The album provides, to quote the timeless “Sleigh Ride” lyric, that “happy feeling nothing in the world can buy.”

“Home for Christmas” Track List

1. Merry Christmas (:17)

2. “Christmas Time is Here” (3:14) DUET

3. “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” (3:05) DUET

4. “Cool Yule” (3:21) DUET

5. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” (3:34) TOM

6. “Even the Snow (Falls for You) (3:13) JOHN

7. Love (0:13)

8. “Sleigh Ride” (3:56) DUET

9. “Christmas Waltz” (3:23)

10. Johnny, It’s Cold Outside (3:23) DUET

11. “The Secret of Christmas” (3:08) JOHN

12. Coal (0:05)

13. “Blue Xmas” (2:53) TOM

14. “Holiday Season” (2:48) DUET

15. Ponch & John (0:13)

16. “On a Quiet Christmas Morn” (2:55) DUET

17. “Silver Bells” (2:48) DUET

18. Egg Nog (0:11)

 

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