Russell deCarle – CD Release

Held together by equal measures of heartbreak and hope, and featuring performances from some of Canada’s most accomplished instrumentalists, Under the Big Big Sky plays like the soundtrack to a vintage film. A fluent mix of blues, jazz and R&B tinged western swing that pays homage to some of Russell deCarle’s all-time favourite artists while remaining simultaneously fresh and familiar.

As lead vocalist and bassist of iconic Canadian country roots band Prairie Oyster, deCarle is no stranger to awards and accolades. Over their career the 2008 CCMA Hall of Honour inductees have racked up an impressive list of JUNO and Canadian Country Music Awards, gold and platinum selling records and number one singles. As a songwriter deCarle has also been honoured with two SOCAN Song of the Year Awards. Once in 1994, for Prairie Oyster’s first number one single ‘Such A Lonely One’, and then again in 2008 for ‘One Way Track’, his co-write with Canadian folk legend, Willie P. Bennett.

For some artists the urge to make a solo record asserts itself almost as soon as they start to gain attention as part of a successful band – sometimes even before they, or their audience, truly know who they are. Not so for deCarle. “For decades people have been asking for a solo record,” he says, “but I never thought I was ready and the band always satisfied the musical part of my life.”

What finally got him fired up enough to strike out on his own in the studio was spending some quality time alone with his acoustic guitar. Although he’d initially intended to weight Under the Big Big Sky more heavily in favour of covers than original material, the more he played and wrote, the more he found himself falling naturally into a style that marked a definite, if unintentional, departure from his past work.

When it became clear that the balance of the record would feature his own material, deCarle approached longtime friend, pianist/arranger/producer John Sheard (The Guess Who, Dan Hill) and asked him to take a listen. “We’d wanted to do a project together for years. He’s absolutely one of my favourite musicians in the world and musically we share a lot of things.”

After Sheard signed on to produce the record, deCarle enlisted the talents of another old friend, engineer L. Stu Young (Prince, Ronnie Hawkins, Guns n’ Roses, David Wilcox), who assisted on Prairie Oyster’s 1991 breakthrough record Everybody Knows and mixed their most recent release, 2006’s One Kiss.

With Young manning the board and Sheard producing and playing piano and vibes, the next step, deCarle says, was putting together a wish list of players to join them in the studio. Among them, guitarist Steve Briggs, string bassist George Koller and drummers, Mark Kelso and Al Cross, as well as an all-star cast of guests including: bassist Russ Boswell, fiddler Drew Jurecka, percussionist John Adames and B3 virtuoso Denis Keldie; guitarists Kevin Breit, Amos Garrett, David Wilcox and Prairie Oyster bandmate, Keith Glass; vocalists Amoy and Ciceal Levy, Amanda Walther and Sheila Carabine of Dala and Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy; and a horn section featuring deCarle’s old friend and musical compadre Chris Whiteley on cornet, Gord Myers on trombone and Colleen Allen on tenor and baritone sax.
“I’m honoured that everybody I wanted on the record ended up on it. They really dug deep and did an incredible job.” But assembling this ‘fantasy camp’ of players wasn’t about cramming as many talents on each track as possible, deCarle stresses. It was about complimenting the songs with performances by people he believed would make a personal connection with his songs; the same kind of connection he hopes his audience will make. “For people to be emotionally invested in this, to be touched in some way, that would be the best thing that could happen. That’s why I made the record.”

As much as Under the Big Big Sky may represent a new beginning for deCarle, it’s not a conscious effort to shake off the label of ‘country singer’, but a natural extension of his talents as both a songwriter and interpreter. “I’ve always thought of myself as a singer, not just a country singer. I’m a music lover first and foremost – a product of all the stuff I’ve ever listened to – and my tastes are very broad. To me this is a torchy, bluesy record more than anything else. It’s certainly a product of where I came from musically.”

Just exactly where that is, however, isn’t easy to pin down, and nor should it be. The songs and the subjects deCarle writes about defy being crammed into some fabricated musical zip code for the sake of convenience. “Growing up when I did, radio wasn’t homogenized. I’m pretty sure that the Beatles ‘Ticket To Ride’ and ‘Tiger By the Tail’ by Buck Owens were on the pop charts at the same time, and I’m sure there was a Frank Sinatra song on that same chart.”

Like the soundtrack deCarle grew up with, Under the Big Big Sky covers a lot of ground stylistically. From the sweet soulful blues of ‘Can’t Find the Song in My Heart’, to melancholy ballads like opener, ‘East of the Sun, West of the Moon’ by Robert M. David, to unabashedly upbeat tunes like ‘Girl With the Golden Hair’ that are as reminiscent of old time rock and roll as they are of the music of classic crooners like Dean Martin. And although the record defies easy classification, it’s perfectly clear about the fact that deCarle can find inspiration for his songs just about anywhere; from the big, big Saskatchewan sky he references on the album’s title track, to the ‘Fingernail Moon’ hanging above his own backyard in rural Ontario, to the sad songs and ballads he’s loved since first hearing them on the airwaves as a teenager.

“I could sing sad songs and ballads all night. It’s true, man. I kind of live at 72 beats per minute. Emotionally I think I’ve always been affected by the bluesy side of life; that’s always been what stirs it up for me.” Still, even on heartbreakers like his cover of the Cindy Walker classic, ‘Goin’ Away Party’, or his own ‘Blues for Christmas’ and ‘Don’t Ask The Question’, deCarle possesses an uncanny ability to weave a little bit of hope into every line he sings.

The result is a remarkably eclectic, but entirely cohesive record. Recorded over the course of 2008-2009 and freshly released in October 2010, Under the Big Big Sky is more than just a confident, compelling exploration of deCarle’s singular voice as a songwriter. It’s an unflinching reflection of where he lives musically and literally, a celebration of the music and musicians who began to influence him long before he began his career forty years ago and a gathering of his closest and dearest musical friends.

Midge Ure

Friday, January 31, 2020 | 8:30pm

Tom Dertinger / Fusion Arts Present: UK Recording Artist Midge Ure
$35 Advance / $40 Door *

An artist who has received Ivor Novello, Grammy, BASCAP awards along with a flotilla of gold and platinum records, really needs very little introduction. Musical success is seldom measured in time spans of more than a few years, if not Andy Warhol’s often quoted “fifteen minutes”, so the fact that by the time Midge’s single “If I Was” went to No1 in 1985 he had already crammed several musical lifetimes into a 10 year professional career speaks volumes – Slik, The Rich Kids, Thin Lizzy, Visage, Ultravox and of course the most famous one off group in musical history Band Aid had by then all had the guiding hand of his musical navigation.

Then you have to take account of Midge’s musical directorship of a series of rock concerts for The Prince’s Trust, Night of the Proms, Wicked Women for Breakthrough and in honour of Nelson Mandela; record production for Phil Lynott, Steve Harley and countless others; his video direction of memorable hits by the Fun Boy Three, Bananarama and others, or a whole swathe of landmark singles by Ultravox; TV, theatre and film music credits ranging from ‘Max Headroom’ to stage and big screen.

His influence on the sounds of the 1980’s are undeniable. We couldn’t be happier to present to Toronto the incomparable Midge Ure on Friday, January 31, 2019. Tickets available right now.

website: http://www.midgeure.co.uk/?LMCL=KtblER&LMCL=bMYOoR&LMCL=KtblER
youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dx-Mho3qU2I

 


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Albert Lee

Thursday, January 30, 2020 | 8:30pm

Albert Lee
$40 Advance / $45 Door

Albert Lee is one of the most respected and renowned guitarists in music history, having worked with The Everly Brothers, Eric Clapton, Emmylou Harris and The Cricketts over his long and illustrious career. The British-born country-rock artist started his career during the emerging rock ‘n’ roll scene of sixties London, when he swapped bands with the likes of Jimmy Page and Chris Farlowe.

“The ultimate virtuoso. His skill is extraordinary, his ear is extraordinary and he’s gifted on just about every level.” – Eric Clapton

After moving to the U.S. and assimilating himself into the country music scene, Albert quickly garnered a reputation as one of the fastest guitar players in the business. He recorded a number of solo albums, and won a Grammy in 2002 for his contribution on ‘Foggy Mountain Breakdown’. He continues to tour today, and plays his signature Ernie Ball Music Man Guitar.

“A brilliant guitar player. His sound is unmistakable – often emulated, never equalled.” – Emmylou Harris

website: http://www.albertleeofficial.com
youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2z9lg-JZvxs

 

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Albert Lee

Wednesday, January 29, 2019 | 8:30pm

Albert Lee
$40 Advance / $45 Door

Albert Lee is one of the most respected and renowned guitarists in music history, having worked with The Everly Brothers, Eric Clapton, Emmylou Harris and The Cricketts over his long and illustrious career. The British-born country-rock artist started his career during the emerging rock ‘n’ roll scene of sixties London, when he swapped bands with the likes of Jimmy Page and Chris Farlowe.

“The ultimate virtuoso. His skill is extraordinary, his ear is extraordinary and he’s gifted on just about every level.” – Eric Clapton

After moving to the U.S. and assimilating himself into the country music scene, Albert quickly garnered a reputation as one of the fastest guitar players in the business. He recorded a number of solo albums, and won a Grammy in 2002 for his contribution on ‘Foggy Mountain Breakdown’. He continues to tour today, and plays his signature Ernie Ball Music Man Guitar.

“A brilliant guitar player. His sound is unmistakable – often emulated, never equalled.” – Emmylou Harris

website: http://www.albertleeofficial.com
youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2z9lg-JZvxs

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Lynn Harrison

Sunday, January 26, 2020 | 7:30PM

Lynn Harrison
Advance $20.00 / Door $25.00 *

Lynn Harrison makes a triumphant return to Hugh’s Room for the release of Something More, her sixth solo album.

Lynn’s latest recording is powerful, poetic, and irresistibly listenable. As singer-songwriter Allan Fraser says, Lynn writes and performs songs of “empathy and intelligence… that engage on multiple levels simultaneously.”

Something More was produced by acclaimed guitarist, and singer-songwriter in his own right, Noah Zacharin, who joins Lynn for a concert that promises to be warm, intimate, and moving. They’re joined by bass player and multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire David Woodhead, who has frequently, and brilliantly, collaborated with Lynn for several years.

Concertgoers can expect to hear all of the new songs from Something More, along with many additional and beloved favourites from Lynn’s extensive catalogue.

One listener aptly describes Lynn’s music as “a brightly ringing sound-bite in an uncertain world.” With the release of Something More, she interrupts, even disrupts, the currently chaotic world, to bring us even more of her unique and timeless inspiration, hope, courage, and joy.

 

website: http://www.lynoleum.com/home/
youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZP6_26lK44

 

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Celebrating the Music of Tina Turner

Saturday, January 25, 2020 | 8:30pm

Celebrating the Music of Tina Turner
$35 Advance / $40 Door *

Tina Turner is the unofficial queen of rock ‘n’ roll and one of the world’s best selling artists of all time. This winter, we are going to take you on a journey from the start of her career beginning in the mid-fifties right up into the modern era. In just ninety minutes non-stop energetic show like you’ve never seen before here at Hugh’s Room Live

This spectacular show will feature Toronto’s R&B Vocalist Quisha Wint with special guests Gospel Contemporary Recording Artist Karen Jewels, Toronto R&B Jazz Soul man Justin Bacchus alongside a SEVEN-piece high energy band: Shamakah Ali, Roger Williams, Joe Palawan, Duff Musiq. Background Vocalists: Michelle White, Joanne Harris and Jill Zadeh.

website: http://www.quishawint.com/
youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RASBg4R_BU

 

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Ken Whiteley Gospel Brunch

Sunday, January 19, 2020 | 2:00pm

Ken Whiteley Gospel Brunch
$25 Advance / $30 Door *

Doors: 12:30pm
Brunch: 1:00pm
Performance: 2:00pm

Ken Whiteley is a prolific songwriter, a gifted and versatile instrumentalist and powerful singer, as well as very successful record producer. His regular brunch series at Hugh’s Room Live has become a cornerstone of the Hugh’s Room Live music calendar. Join us on January 19 as the man himself brings together another cast of renowned gospel musicians and vocalists to rejoice in the sounds of Sunday.

Artists TBA

* All-you-can-eat brunch ($20) not included in ticket price
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Sweet Baby James: A Tribute to James Taylor

Saturday, January 18, 2020 | 8:30PM

Sweet Baby James: A Musical Tribute to James Taylor
Advance $25.00 / Door $30.00 *

James Taylor is an American singer-songwriter and guitarist. A five-time Grammy Award winner, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 100 million records worldwide.

Taylor achieved his breakthrough in 1970 with the No. 3 single “Fire and Rain” and had his first No. 1 hit in 1971 with his recording of “You’ve Got a Friend”, written by Carole King in the same year. His 1976 Greatest Hits album was certified Diamond and has sold 12 million US copies. Following his 1977 album, JT, he has retained a large audience over the decades. Every album that he released from 1977 to 2007 sold over 1 million copies. He enjoyed a resurgence in chart performance during the late 1990s and 2000s, when he recorded some of his most-awarded work (including Hourglass, October Road, and Covers). He achieved his first number-one album in the US in 2015 with his recording Before This World.

He is known for his popular covers of other people’s songs, such as “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)” and the aforementioned “You’ve Got A Friend”, as well as originals such as “Fire and Rain” and too many more to mention is an event description.

Michael Wrycraft is a Juno-Award Winning graphic designer / art director / photographer who specializes in music. Join us for a night sharing songs and stories behind this amazing writer.

 

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Matt Weidinger Presents a Tribute to Van Morrison

Friday, January 17, 2019 | 8:30pm

Matt Weidinger Presents a Tribute to Van Morrison
$35 Advance / $40 Door *

… Matt Weidinger and his stellar group of musicians have put together a live music gem.” – Bob Hunt, The Blues Studio Sessions

Young Matt Weidinger is an old soul. Steeped in real-deal rhythm & blues, blues, and soul music from his earliest years, he is renowned for his blue eyed soul vocals, guitar playing, and prowess on the Hammond organ. Matt’s 2018 Registry Theatre amazing concert of the music of Van Morrison was a season highlight, with its rich, authentic take on a genuine music icon. The concert such a hit that Matt will be back next season for Van The Man Volume 2. – Lawrence McNaught,  Registry Theatre

“Matt’s interpretation of Van’s music is a deeply moving personal memoir of Celtic soul. Simply marvellous..Actually fantabulous!” – Bruce Hall,  Grand Rivers Blues Society

Born decades after Van Morrison was creating some of his most enduring music, singer-songwriter, Matt Weidinger, has a musical connection to the ’60s and ’70s, what he calls the golden age of record-making.

Anyone who’s seen him perform would agree with the “old soul” label, so it’s particularly fitting that he’s taking on the songs of an old soul master with his latest tribute to the music of Van Morrison.

It’ll be something of a retrospective of Van the Man’s extensive song catalogue, with a particular focus on the early stuff that was Weidinger’s introduction to Morrison’s brand of Celtic soul.

“I started listening to Van Morrison in high school, with Astral Weeks … and then Moondance,” he says, soon uncovering a treasure trove of musical offerings. “He’s got a huge catalogue. With Van Morrison, there’s just so much to see, so much to discover.”

Morrison has been prolific, with dozens of albums to his credit since 1967’s Blowin’ Your Mind! Fifty years on, in fact, he’s currently touring 2017’s Versatile, a collection of jazz standards and originals.

For Saturday night’s show, Weidinger’s put together a seven-piece band, including two horns to reflect the sound for which Morrison is known.

Weidinger’s own influences stem from the ’60s, as can be heard in both his vocals and his choice of music. Like Morrison, he began performing as a teen. For a relatively young performer, he’s already got more than a decade of experience under his belt that has earned him a solid following. In addition to singing and writing songs, he’s a multi-instrumentalist, equally at home on the piano, organ, guitar, bass and mandolin.

In preparation for the show, he’s had to dig deeper into Morrison’s music, developing an even greater appreciation for it … and banking some songs for future performances.

“Any time I can learn songs that I can put in my repertoire, add to the list, it’s great,” says Weidinger, adding such exercises help his own songwriting, providing a way to see words and music from a different perspective.

website: http://mattweidinger.com/
youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HB0vCB6QHEg


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Eric Andersen and Scarlet Rivera

Tuesday, January 14, 2020 | 8:30PM

Eric Andersen and Scarlet Rivera
Advance $30.00 / Door $35.00 *

Eric Andersen
Eric Andersen, one of the founding fathers of the great American Folk Family, continues to evolve and reinvent himself.  It’s as though he has an unquenchable thirst to create new works and adapt the works of other literary icons of the past. For me that is the mark of a true artist, constantly moving the finish line and looking for new ways to express himself and not fearful of taking the great works of others and translating them into song in his own undeniable fashion.

Andersen is the most elegant of singers.” – Rolling Stone
A singer and songwriter of the first rank.” – The New York Times
Eric Andersen is a great ballad singer and writer.” – Bob Dylan

 

Scarlet Rivera
Scarlet Rivera is a talented and accomplished American violinist. She is best known for her work with Bob Dylan, in particular on his album Desire and as part of the Rolling Thunder Revue.

Bob Dylan is often credited for discovering Scarlet before the rehearsal for his 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue tour. After a session with her, Dylan invited her to play on the “Rolling Thunder Revue” tour.

Scarlet has multiple CD’s as a composer in numerous styles, instrumental, New Age, Celtic and world music. Scarlet has performed in the US, Europe and Japan with her Celtic group. She also recorded and performed with Tracy Chapman, Indigo Girls, Kori Linae Carothers, Keb Mo and others. Scarlet was a soloist with the Duke Ellington Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center and the Carnival of Venice, Italy. She continues to be an active recording artist, performer and composer, and we’re over the moon she’ll be joining Eric Andersen on stage at Hugh’s Room Live on Tuesday, January 19, 2019. Tickets are on sale right now.

 

 

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Sammy Miller and The Congregation

Monday, January 13, 2020 | 8:30PM

Sammy Miller and The Congregation
Advance $20.00 / Door $25.00 *

Sammy Miller and The Congregation are on a mission, crisscrossing the country like a vaudevillian revival show with evangelic fervor for music. The seven-piece band is pulling people out of their solitary lives and putting them in the moment with a bracing dose of joyful jazz performed with infectious theatricality. The New York City-based, familial collective has captured its frenetic energy and unflinchingly optimistic songwriting on its debut album, Leaving Egypt.

“We want to get people back in a room together,” Sammy Miller says. “I love the idea of being unhinged, sincere, vulnerable, and breaking down walls through humor. Music is an uplifting gift, and I want to be generous in sharing it with people.”

Sammy Miller and The Congregation has been described as a mashup of the sensibilities of Ben Folds and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. The band freely mixes vocal and instrumental tracks live and on record, asking the audience to go along for the ride with the lead melody being carried by vocalists half the time, and instruments the other half.

The seven-piece group is a community of adventurous and charismatic superstar musicians who are conservatory-trained but who have not lost their childlike wonder and awe for playing music. The band lineup is Sammy Miller, drums and vocals; Sam Crittenden, trombone; Ben Flocks, tenor sax; Sammy’s sister Molly Miller on guitar; Alphonso Horne, trumpet; Corbin Jones, bass and tuba; and David Linard, piano. Independently, the band members have performed and recorded with notable artists including Wynton Marsalis, Lady Gaga, Jason Mraz, and Beyoncé.

Sammy convened the band in 2014, and 2015, he earned a Grammy Award nomination for his work as a drummer with Joey Alexander. Since the band’s inception, the Congregation has played nonstop around the world. Select highlights include performances at Umbria Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, Jazz At Lincoln Center, The White House, The Kennedy Center, Prokofiev Concert Hall in Russia, and at the Newport Jazz Festival where the group received a standing ovation. The seven-piece band has also garnered prime critical acclaim from such venerated outlets as Los Angeles Times, Wall Street JournalSF WeeklyVanity Fair and Jazz Journal, among other publications.

In addition to these accolades and accomplishments, the award-winning theatre incubator Ars Nova selected The Congregation for the “Makers Lab” to develop their genre-bending show, Great Awakening. Sammy Miller and the Congregation have also done an exuberant TEDx video illustrating their philosophy on jazz and showcasing their irresistible theatricality and musicality.

Sammy started playing drums at age five in a group with his five siblings. “After school we would teach ourselves rock songs, disco songs, and country songs — ”everything was fair game” he recalls. When he got a little older, he discovered an all-consuming love of comedy and jazz. As a kid, he’d go to the library and check out 30 CDs a time, alphabetically exploring the jazz section from Ahmad Jamal to Zoot Sims. He also became obsessed with comedians such as Chris Rock, Lenny Bruce, and Bobby Slayton. “I’ve always loved the risktakers in entertainment — the people who would rather get it real than right,” Sammy shares.

Starting his career at an improbably young age, Sammy was cast on Mad TV at 11 years of age. At 18, Sammy moved from LA to New York City; at 21 he started studying for his master’s in jazz at Juilliard. “When I was at Juilliard, I realized jazz couldn’t just live in a conservatory vacuum. It needed to provide its initial function of being an expansive creative outlet where the rules are there for you to break and improvisation went beyond notes and into an experience,” Sammy says.

He soon found a cadre of jazz students who felt similarly — outliers who were fiercely individual on their instruments, but also craved a manner of expression beyond the solo. “We all went to Juilliard and have these credentials, but we didn’t like the insular feeling of the jazz scene. We were seeking warmth and connection,” Sammy says. These misfit creatives descended on venues around NYC where the genre was not played. “I wanted to find a new audience,” Sammy says. “We played in dive bars where people were scared of jazz.”

Their live show grew to be something of a mix between a comedy troupe and a dazzling rock band that played a vigorously reimagined strain of jazz. “We let ourselves be free on the bandstand and we took the audience with us,” Sammy says. The band’s boundless energy, inclusive ideals, catchy songwriting, and revue style presentation made them a word-of-mouth buzz band. The septet expanded its reach through adopting the rock band philosophy of touring endlessly in a van to build a fanbase.

The Congregation’s 9-song debut album, Leaving Egypt, opens with the lone drum figure of “Searching For Ragtime.” Here, the music is stripped down to its essentials, its heartbeat. The journey from there spans rollicking gospel-tinged jazz, rowdy and funky New Orleans second-line music, smoky back alley blues-jazz, and stately balladry. The album concludes bookended with a tender solo piano track “When I’m Gone”.

Select album standouts include the singles “Shine,” “Date A Jew,” “Bluebird,” and “It Gets Better.” The track “Shine” boasts Sammy’s ingratiating vocals, undeniably uplifting lyrics, playful piano hooks, and an imaginative arrangement with dynamic horn and backup vocal-driven crescendos. Sammy sweetly tucks in some purposeful messaging in “Date A Jew.” This is a simmering narrative track that showcases the Congregation’s groove pocket and its subtle musical interplay. The balmy “Bluebird” exudes a Paul Simon-imbued folk elegance. “It Gets Better” bursts forth with a loping groove, and cleverly unfolds with moody passages that veer into the sunny side of the street.

Leaving Egypt was cut in four 16-hour days at the legendary United Studios where the many famed Count Basie sides were tracked. The band enlisted drummer extraordinaire Jay Bellerose (Alison Krauss, Ray LaMontagne, Robert Plant, B.B. King) to supervise and produce the proceedings.

The debut represents a milestone for Sammy Miller and the Congregation’s creative continuum. It captures the group’s vulnerability, communal nature, charming and warm wit, and playfully virtuosic musicality. “This is us,” Sammy says of the album. “I’m proud of it, and I’m eager to embark on our mission to bring joy to people’s lives through music.”

website: http://www.sammymillercongregation.com/

youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOtXFbstD3A

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