Although this is considered a Steve Bell album, it should probably be a Steve Bell / Jamie Howison album.
Jamie is a friend, mentor and also the priest at St. Benedict’s Table – the church Nanci and I worship at. When Jamie heard I was recording a Christmas album he phone me up and begged, “please tell me you are writing something new!” I wasn’t planning to. Writing Christmas songs is hard work. All the images and metaphors are so overworked that it’s hard to imagine a fresh newness being possible. But Jamie was convinced the story was yet to be exhausted and he and I together wrote May It Be Done, and Old Sage.
We also had long talks about the Christmas season – that it wasn’t actually one season, but a collection – or better yet, a feast of seasons; advent, nativity, the slaughter of the innocents and epiphany. Jamie also pointed out that divorced from the rest of the Christian calendar, ie. Good Friday / Easter, Christmas easily degenerates to sentimentality. So he suggested I include Richard Wilbur’s brilliant Every Stone Shall Cry which casts the Christ story cyclically from birth, celebration, rejection, death and back to new life. Jamie also wisely suggested I arrange the songs liturgically to flow thematically through advent to epiphany. In the end, the recording took on a depth that was not my doing. I have been blessed to have wonderful folks speak into my life, and in this instance, that blessing became a “fish and loaves” event.