Following his great Blues With Friends album, he’s made some of the best music of 2020. And he’s 81.
“I was talking with a friend,” said Dion,” about how the world this year can use a little life-giving love and harmony.” As he has for decades, the man speaks the truth. And he’s provided a great and needed bounty of love and harmony this year with his tremendous Blues With Friends album. And now he’s back with two great Christmas records, “Hello Christmas,” with Amy Grant, and “You Know It’s Christmas,” with Joe Bonamassa. Both essential Dion.
One of the greatest things about 2020, a year in which greatness was markedly in short supply, was all the great new music from Dion. His album Blues With Friends was an unexpected delight. Not so because of any lack of greatness on Dion’s part; he’s one of the architects of rock & roll, after all, as a songwriter and performer. But the man was 80 when he made this record. 80! Who knew rock & roll was even possible at 80 – and if so – who knew it could rock like this?
The album came out in April, but the first singles, including “Song for Sam Cooke,” his duet with Paul Simon, came out first back in those relatively carefree pre-pandemic months of 2020. Since then it’s become one of the best albums, and only new one, to brighten up the long season of lockdown and loss which has yet to end.
Being Dion, those friends, in addition to fellow native New Yorker Paul Simon include Van Morrison, Billy Gibbons, Bruce Springsteen & Patti Scialfa, Jeff Beck, Joe Bonamassa and others. It’s an amazing album, and would be at any age. But headlong into his ninth decade? It is positively heroic.
Yet before this year is out, he’s got even more to get us through the holidays and to he hopefuil end of this year. On the edge of America’s first lockdown Thanksgiving, he’s got two brand new holiday themed tracks, “Hello Christmas,” with Amy Grant, and “You Know It’s Christmas,” with Joe Bonamassa, both of which we’re happy to share today.
Both have that distinctive Dion electricity, injected with the sound of authentic joy. Something that can’t be faked.
About the cool guitar he plays in “You Know It’s Christmas,” his publicist and longtime songwriter champion Bob Merlis knew we’d want to know : What is that?
“[Dion] told me it’s one that was custom made for him by C.F. Martin & Co,” Merlis wrote.” He calls it his `jukebox guitar.'”
Both of the new songs were written by Dion along with Mike Aquilina who co-wrote many of songs that are heard on Blues With Friends. Dion revealed the reason he followed up the album with “Hello Christmas.”
“I was talking with a friend about how the world this year can use a little life-giving love and harmony. I told him that Christmas was the grace that changed my life and that I was looking forward to a shot of that this year. The next day I got together with Mike and I picked up the guitar, started singing and words started to flow.
“Later I was walking with my buddy [and co-writer] Steve Bottari and he started singing along – with some new words. The song just seemed to write itself, a gift to finish off this challenging year. From the start I heard Amy Grant’s voice on it; she just sounds like Christmas to me. I sent the track to her and she fell in love with it and added a beautiful counter-melody which makes it really sublime.”
Amy Grant commented “I was so happy to join my old friend Dion on ‘Hello Christas.’ The song makes me smile every time I hear it.”
About “You Know It’s Christmas,” Dion said, “Blues is my home and I wanted to write a Christmas song with that feeling. Mike suggested a ‘brag blues’ [in the tradition of “The Wanderer”] so we thought what would a bluesman brag about at Christmas? How he bought just the right gift for his girl and how she’s going to love it?!
“Christmas is all about giving, and I think the song catches that vibe perfectly. Joe Bonamassa gave me a great Christmas present by playing lead on it.”
On behalf of the whole world, thank you Dion for this and all your music. We look forward to your next albums; you’re on a roll!