Willis checks off a bucket-list item

Willis checks off a bucket-list item


There’s a plate of shortbread cookies on the counter.
Eggnog is nearby.
A Christmas tree — albeit one its owner likens more to A Charlie Brown Christmas — is at the front of the house.
Mood-setting props, each of them — except it’s October and there’s nary a flake of snow in sight.
Fast-forward to now and the fruit of that atmosphere is about to arrive at Perry’s Recording Studio, when Remembering Christmas arrives in its final, ready-to-sell state.
It’s the first recording by Jeremy Neal Willis, a Stetson-wearing, ranch-raised musician with a voice plenty of Nashville folks would kill to have.
And, while some folks might argue the world doesn’t need another Christmas album, Willis counters that he needed to record this one because he had something to say.
He makes a strong statement.
The album starts off with The Cows Don’t Know It’s Christmas, a lesson ranch kids learn when they want to go open their stockings, but there are cows to be milked and hay to be pitched first.
Willis pays tribute to other working folk who won’t be spending the holidays sipping eggnog with Working on Christmas and Christmas Afghanistan — “there is no peace on Earth in the middle of a war” — rounding out his own contributions to the 11 tracks with Christmas at Midnight.
The other seven are traditional carols, done country-style, with one, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen< done up in what Willis's producer, Doug Perry, calls gunslinger style. Willis agrees. "There's not a lot of difference between Jesus is born and there's a new sheriff in town," he says after playing the track. Willis is best known in the area for his DJ and announcing services done through his company, Willis Entertainment. But, he says, the CD has been on his mind for years, perhaps as far back as his childhood on the ranch in Clinton. "It's off my bucket list now," he says. Willis adds he's particularly happy those who have heard the tracks already have agreed his songwriting is authentic. "That means a lot to me," he says. Helping out on the recording were Jim Cochran on guitars, Randy Pokeda on pedal steel, Kris Ruston on bass and keyboards, John Durr on drums, Mike Sanyshyn on fiddle and Sabrina Weeks on background vocals. Perry is hoping the CDs arrive by the first week of December and will be available at Willis's website, willisentertainment.com, on cdbaby.com and, hopefully by mid December, on Itunes. And, as for that festive scene at the studio before Halloween had even arrived, Perry's explanation is simple: It was a Christmas album. It had to feel like Christmas. "Because you can't sing about Christmas if you don't feel it," he says.



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