RCAWith everyone from the cast of A&E reality TV series Duck Dynasty to '80s pop icon Kim Wilde recently venturing into the festive market, here's a look at five of the best new Christmas albums to have been released this year.Leona Lewis – Christmas, With LoveInspired by Phil Spector's classic Wall of Sound, Lewis looks like getting her career back on track with a warm and nostalgic record featuring several new compositions ("One More Sleep," "Mr Right") which fit in comfortably with the more familiar numbers ("Winter Wonderland," "White Christmas") and an astonishing operatic take on "Ave Maria" which proves she’s still the best vocalist ever to emerge from The X-Factor.Kelly Clarkson – Wrapped In RedStamping her mark on the festive season just as effortlessly as her fellow talent show winner, the original American Idol ropes in the likes of Ronnie Dunn, Reba McEntire and Trisha Yearwood for an affectionate collection of yuletide tunes old and new, including arguably the most uplifting seasonal song since Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You" ("Underneath The Tree").Mary J. Blige – A Mary ChristmasGiven her previously fiery reputation, Mary J. Blige doesn't seem like the most obvious candidate to celebrate the season of goodwill. But she acquits herself well on the brilliantly-titled A Mary Christmas, recruiting everyone from Barbra Streisand to Jessie J on a surprisingly traditional but typically soulful affair.Erasure – Snow GlobeConsidering their 'camp as Christmas' reputation, it's a surprise that it’s taken the synth-pop veterans nearly thirty years to commit to a holiday record. Featuring an eerie take on traditional hymn "Gaudete," a bizarre chiptune rendition of Nat King Cole's "The Christmas Song" and a macabre waltz inspired by a Hans Christian Anderson fairytale, Snow Globe won't be for everyone. But it's easily the most intriguing Christmas release this year.Tamar Braxton – Winter LoverslandAfter waiting 13 years to follow-up her 2000 debut, Tamar, the youngest Braxton sister has now released her second album in three months with a brief but heartwarming festive effort which showcases her powerhouse vocals in all their glory.
143/ReprisePlaying yuletide songs outside of December always seems rather inappropriate. But there are several 'festive' standards that have as much right to be blared out in the blazing hot summer as in the run-up to the big day. Here are five Christmas favorites that have absolutely nothing to do with Christmas at all.East 17 – "Stay Another Day"The track which pipped Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You" to the U.K. number one spot back in 1994, boyband East 17's signature hit has become a staple of the holiday season across Europe. But despite its use of sleigh bells and an accompanying snow-filled video, the ballad is in fact a heartfelt tribute to chief songwriter Tony Mortimer's brother, Ollie, who had committed suicide several years previously.Frankie Goes To Hollywood – "The Power Of Love"Taken to the U.K. number one spot by Frankie Goes To Hollywood in 1984 and then again by Gabrielle Aplin last year, the message of "The Power Of Love" may be in keeping with the season of goodwill ("make love your goal"). But there's not one mention of Christmas during its epic production and the track has only become synonymous with the festivities because of its nativity-themed promo.Aled Jones – "Walking In The Air"Another track which has become associated with Christmas due to its accompanying visuals, "Walking In The Air" was written by Howard Blake for the animated adaptation of Raymond Briggs' much-loved children's book The Snowman. Played during the boy and the snowman's journey to the North Pole, the soaring lullaby has perhaps inevitably since become a choirboy favorite but it still contains a distinct lack of anything Christmassy."Jingle Bells"Recorded by everyone from The Beatles to Buble, "Jingle Bells" has been a yuletide favorite for over 150 years, largely thanks to its copious amounts of snow. But snow isn’t confined to Christmas and the jaunty ditty was actually written by composer James Lord Pierpont to be sung at Thanksgiving rather than December 25th."Baby It's Cold Outside"Recently covered by the likes of She & Him and Kelly Clarkson & Ronnie Dunn, "Baby It's Cold Outside" has been a seasonal favorite ever since its writer, Frank Loesser, and his wife, Lynn Garland, premiered it at their housewarming party back in 1944. But again, the track has become so ingrained in the festive season because of its Arctic weather conditions rather than anything particularly Christmassy.
Country star Toby Keith has narrated a new documentary which chronicles the players and coaches of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team as they help citizens of his hometown deal with the aftermath of a devastating tornado. The American Soldier hitmaker has added his voice to OKC Thunder: Heart of the City, which will air on TV in America on Friday night (22Nov13).
Keith's hometown of Moore, Oklahoma was ravaged by the storm earlier this year (May13), and he helped raise $2 million (£1.3 million) for the victims during a charity concert in July (13), which featured performances by Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Willie Nelson, Ronnie Dunn and Sammy Hagar.
In the new TV movie, basketball superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook visit the town to help with relief efforts and staged a training camp practice at a local high school.
Jason Aldean, Kenny Chesney, Sheryl Crow and Miranda Lambert will be among the country superstars who will take the stage with George Strait at his final show in Texas next summer (Jun14). The newly-crowned Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year will bow out of touring after one last show on his ongoing The Cowboy Rides Away trek - and his last hurrah will be a star-studded one.
Strait will take the stage at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington on 7 June (13), and his famous friends will join him for three songs each.
As well as the aforementioned quartet, Strait will be joined by Eric Church, Ronnie Dunn, Vince Gill, Faith Hill, Alan Jackson, Martina McBride and Lee Ann Womack, according to Country Weekly magazine.
Country music superstar Toby Keith had to reject 20 stars' offers to take part in his summer (13) tornado relief concert in his native Oklahoma, after becoming inundated with requests from so many big-name volunteers eager to do their part for charity. The singer/songwriter's celebrity-studded July benefit, which featured Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Willie Nelson, Ronnie Dunn and Sammy Hagar, helped raise $2 million (£1.3 million) for Oklahoma tornado victims.
And the big gig at Memorial Stadium on the campus of the University of Oklahoma was such a hit, he's convinced he could have sold it out if he staged it in Africa.
But he felt awful having to turn celebrities keen to take part away.
He tells WENN, "So many big stars came in for that, that I had to cut people off. The last 20 people who called and said they wanted to show up for it, we had to say, 'We're done'."
Country singer Toby Keith has helped to raise $2 million (£1.3 million) for Oklahoma tornado victims, following a charity gig this past summer (13). The American Soldier hitmaker organised the benefit gig held in July (13) at Memorial Stadium on the campus of the University of Oklahoma, and recruited his friends Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Willie Nelson, Ronnie Dunn and Sammy Hagar to help raise much-needed funds for recovery efforts in the state following the twisters that ripped through the area in May (13).
The concert drew 65,000 people, the highest tally of paying guests at the stadium, and, as of Tuesday (10Sep13), the total raised hit $2 million with some donations still being counted.
The money will go to a tornado relief fund run by officials at the United Way of Central Oklahoma.
Toby Keith's star-studded Oklahoma Twister Relief show at the Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma on Saturday (06Jul13) broke attendance history at the venue - the event, attended by 65,000 music fans, drew the highest tally of paying guests ever at the stadium. Keith performed alongside Trisha Yearwood, Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson Ronnie Dunn and Sammy Hagar.
Country couple Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood jetted from Las Vegas to Oklahoma and back again within hours on Saturday (06Jul13) after making the special journey to perform at pal Toby Keith's tornado fundraiser. The Red Solo Cup hitmaker organised the benefit gig at Memorial Stadium on the campus of the University of Oklahoma and recruited his friends Brooks, Yearwood, Willie Nelson, Ronnie Dunn and Sammy Hagar to help raise much-needed funds for recovery efforts in the state following the twisters that ripped through the area in May (13).
Brooks had been booked to play a trio of gigs in Sin City for the Independence Day weekend (04-06Jul13), but he refused to miss out on the charity concert and chartered a private aircraft to whisk him and his singer wife Yearwood from Vegas to his native Oklahoma just for the show.
He opened his hour-long set by joking to the audience that it was "fantastically hard" for him to perform on the school campus as he had graduated from rival Oklahoma State University, and then thrilled fans by playing hits including Rodeo, Two of a Kind and Friends in Low Places, and teaming up with Yearwood for a rendition of In Another's Eyes.
The couple headed straight to the airport immediately after their appearances and were back at the Wynn Las Vegas resort ahead of Brooks' final gig at the venue on Saturday night.
Events at Toby Keith's Oklahoma Twister Relief Concert, which benefits the United Way of Central Oklahoma, were marred by the severe heat, which left 1,300 revellers needing medical attention for heat-related problems.
Country music star Toby Keith returned to the rubble of his home town with a local Oklahoma TV crew earlier this week (beg01Jul13) to pay tribute to a beloved weatherman who kept him up to date with the May (13) storms. The Beer For My Horses singer was in Oklahoma the night before the tornadoes hit and had to watch the destruction of the 20 May (13) storm on an iPad app in a Nashville, Tennessee studio.
He quickly halted his recording plans and headed home to make sure his family and friends in Moore were OK - and he returned to the town with meteorologist pal Gary England this week as he prepared for his benefit concert in Norman this weekend (06Jul13).
Keith told the News9 weatherman, "I've got the News9 app on my iPad and so I got in the studio and started working and flipped it on.
"We sat and watched it (storm) as it crossed the interstate and 4th Street; I said, 'It's gonna get my sister...', and so we said, 'We have to start making arrangements to get back.'"
Keith told England that the frequent Oklahoma storms always bring back bad memories from his childhood: "We didn't have the storm shelters we have today... We had bunk beds and mum would wrap the mattresses around (them), put one on top, and we would just get in. We rode some out.
"There was (sic) big pieces of sheet rock and stuff coming through your window in the bedroom and the house was rattling... Those are bad memories."
The singer then thanked local news veteran England for his tireless storm reporting, insisting, "We lean on you for this," and adding, "You save a lot of lives."
Keith's tornado benefit concert on Saturday will feature performances from Willie Nelson, Garth Brooks, Ronnie Dunn, Trisha Yearwood and rocker Sammy Hagar.
Toby Keith turned down the chance to play a home state benefit gig to aid Oklahoma storm relief organisations a week after tornadoes ripped through suburbs of Oklahoma City - because he needed more time to reflect on the damage. Fellow Oklahoman Blake Shelton reached out to Keith and invited him to headline May's (13) Healing in the Heartland concert, which raised over $6 million (£3.9 million) for local charities, but the Beer For My Horses singer wasn't ready to perform alongside stars like Usher, Reba McEntire, Vince Gill, Shelton and his wife Miranda Lambert.
And, as he prepares for Saturday's (06Jul13) benefit gig which he has organised, Keith tells Country Weekly, "The first concert they did, that Blake and those guys did, was wonderful because it was a TV show and it pumped a lot of money in quick and fast.
"I just couldn't do it five or six days after (the storms) because it was just too soon for me to be downtown playing music. I had, you know, stuff to deal with here."
Keith's mega fundraiser in Norman, Oklahoma will feature performances by Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson, Ronnie Dunn, Trisha Yearwood and rocker Sammy Hagar, while another state native, Carrie Underwood, will appear via satellite from the Grand Ole Opry stage in Nashville, Tennessee.