- - Monday, December 15, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

What does it say about the holiday season that both commercial and satellite radio continuously play renditions of “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” by artists ranging from Rascal Flatts, Blake Shelton and Kelly Clarkson, when not spinning covers of “Santa Baby” by Kellie Pickler, LeAnn Rimes and Taylor Swift. Then there are the many renditions of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” by everyone from Dean Martin, Michael Buble, Lady Antebellum and the somewhat unsettling pairing of Rod Stewart with Dolly Parton.

Music lovers, especially those that prefer roots music, must find their own devices to find non-played-to-death alternatives. How lucky the Washington, D.C., music scene — that gave us everyone from Emmylou Harris to the Seldom Scene — is home to Debi Smith of the much-lauded, Christine Lavin-founded folk group The Four Bitchin’ Babes. Ms. Smith, who is well known for her glorious soprano, has joined with The National Men’s Chorus, for a smattering of holiday shows when she’s not on tour with the nationally known Babes.

“The Babes are my best friends and great creative partners, but it’s good to do music on your own too,” said Ms. Smith from her Northern Virginia home. “As an artist, you have to keep reinventing yourself to stay fresh. That means trying new things.”

Ms. Smith started her musical career by teaming with her sister, Megan, a guest artist at the upcoming concert at the Birchmere in Alexandria, as the ongoing duo The Smith Sisters. As a solo performer and part of the duo, Ms. Smith uses her three-octave range and guitar artistry to perform both her own music and much-loved traditional songs flavored with country, folk, pop, jazz and even Celtic sounds.



Folk legend Tom Paxton, who recorded a song written by Ms. Smith for a Grammy-nominated album, is among those who praise her artistry.


SEE ALSO: Over the Rhine offers ‘Reality Christmas’ music


Debi represents great songs sung with a God-given voice like few others,” Mr. Paxton said publicly. “She is pure music.”

Although Ms. Smith concedes that a concert that combines so many elements is somewhat daunting, she joyfully bubbles about presenting her newest holiday songs — including “Under the Mistletoe,” and the title track of her just-released album “If I Were an Angel,” in such a forum on a setlist that includes traditional songs and at least a few George Gershwin classics.

“How much Christmas music have we heard through the years? We all love it but for me I also grew up singing in the church choir. I know of lot of those sacred songs, but I didn’t set out to just perform those,” she said. “I love the Karen Carpenter sort of sound, and I wanted to include that and also [songs reminiscent of] Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. I also just heard Josh Groban’s song [“Lullaby”]. All of those help me shape what we can do at our concert.

“We want to celebrate the season, raise a toast to those who are missing, and then remember how thankful we are for the people and friends in our lives.”

Details: $25, 7:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 21, Debi Smith and The National Men’s Chorus, The Birchmere Music Hall, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria, Va., 703/549-7500, Birchmere.com.

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