The 21st noel

Now in its 21st iteration, the annual Christmas Jam — the charitable brainchild of local hero/guitar god Warren Haynes — is as exciting as ever. It's also a tried-and-true event. Fans know the deal: Haynes' musician pals and collaborators are invited to take part in the fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity. Instead of wielding hammers and skill saws, the wildly disparate group hefts guitars, saxophones, basses, turntables, harmonicas, voices and whatever else they've mastered all in the name of a good cause. Well, two good causes: sweet jams and even sweeter houses for those in need.

In the spirit of the season, Xpress has done some digging and we've turned up some little-known facts about these well-known artists, including their personal contributions and connections to the soundtrack of the holidays.

Counting Crows

Holiday playlist: Sings "A long December, and there's reason to believe maybe this year will be better than the last," on hit song "A Long December."
Random quote: "Sometimes the world seems like a big hole. You spend all your life shouting down it and all you hear are echoes of some idiot yelling nonsense down a hole." — Lead singer Adam Duritz, from

Ani DiFranco

Holiday playlist: She sings "Around my neck could be a flaming Christmas wreath. And I'd still be smiling underneath," in 2009 hit "Smiling Underneath."
What you might not know: DiFranco was born in Buffalo, N.Y., and still lives there. She got her start playing Beatles covers, but has since released more than 20 albums of original material.
Why she rocks: DiFranco performs in sky-high platform boots yet pulls off more leaps and kicks than a Bruce Lee film festival.

Gov't Mule

Holiday playlist: Sings "Guess it always was your hallelujah, guess it was your saving grace," in the song "I Shall Return."
Random quote: "For bands like us, we play a long time. We play for two and half hours, so it's okay and very welcomed in our eyes and the audience's eyes to pull out a cool cover in the course of a long show." — Warren Haynes to


Holiday playlist: For moe. it wasn't enough to work in an arbitrary mention of the holiday or a sharply ironic carol. Nope. In 2003 the band released Seasons Greetings from moe., including "Jingle Bells," "Blue Christmas" and "We're A Couple of Misfits," which includes a mention of reindeer.
What you might not know: Before settling on their permanent name, moe. spent a week test driving the moniker "Haggis."
Why they rock: Christmas Jam is not moe.'s only gesture of giving back. The band is known for its fundraising efforts, including a Tsunami Benefit concert in 2005 where they (thanks to matching funds from Dave Matthews' Bama Works Village Recovery Fund) raised $155,000.

Stax Legend William Bell

Holiday playlist: Recorded "Everyday Will Be Like a Holiday" with Stax in 1967 and "Soul-a-lujah" parts 1 and 2 in 1969.
What you might not know: William Bell was the first male vocalist signed to Stax records. He won his recording contract when he came in second place during an annual mid-South talent contest in Memphis.

Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews

Holiday playlist: According to Andrews' Web site, "On December 4 [2006] Trombone Shorty made his acting debut on the NBC hit show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." It was a Christmas show and the musician performed "O Holy Night."
What you might not know: Andrews performed on the 2004 BlueBrass Project, a sort of musician's exchange between WNC and New Orleans. Artists including Larry Keel, Woody Wood, Jason Krekel, members of Acoustic Syndicate, The Rebirth Brass Band and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band got together to fuse influences and styles and record the exhilarating jazz/gospel/funk/soul/roots album The Same Pocket, Vol.1.

Adam Deitch

Holiday playlist: Deitch participated in's end-of-year roundup "Auld Lang Syne Set 1" last year. He also produced Hasidic rapper Matisyahu's album Light (dropped this past August) which includes the song "One Day," featured in the new NBC 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics commercials.
Random quote: "My mom was playing gigs while she was pregnant with me. While she was pretty well pregnant, actually, she was still playing. She and my dad had a duo. … My father would play keyboards and sing, and my mother played drums." — Adam Deitch to Tama Drum.

DJ Logic

Holiday playlist: According to the Hard Head Management Web site, it was the Christmas gift of a pair of turntables that started DJ Logic on his current career path.
What you might not know: Though Logic (born Jason Kibler) came to turntables through an interest in hip-hop, he performs with bands from every genre — including sitting in with Bob Weir's Ratdog on the Grateful Dead number "China Cat Sunflower/I Know You Rider."

Audley Freed

Holiday playlist: Freed signed on as guitarist with the Black Crowes prior to the band's release of By Your Side (1999); he played on 2001's Lion. Early in the Crowes' career, they started the Taller Fanclub, whose members — at certain shows — were allowed to ask pre-performance questions. Recordings from those shows were then distributed around the holidays and were knows as the Taller Fanclub Christmas tapes.
What you might not know: Though he's toured with Jimmy Page, Peter Frampton and the Dixie Chicks and other huge names, Freed grew up in Raleigh.

Jackie Greene

Holiday playlist: Sings "And in the winter of December, turn your good side on the chill, and in the winter please remember, I loved you then and I love you still," in his 2001 song "Never Satisfied."
What you might not know: According to Arts & Culture, when Jackie Greene first played the Monterey Jazz Festival (at the tender age of 23) he played the harmonica with "much more digestible clairvoyance" than Bob Dylan and "sold more CDs and DVDs and signed more autographs at the Tower Records booth than any other participating artist."

Col. Bruce Hampton

Holiday playlist: Hampton played the role of Morris, a songwriting band manager, in Billy Bob Thornton's Sling Blade. In the film, Thornton's deranged character Karl carries around a stack of books including Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.
Random quote: "I have frozen to death many a January in Cincinnati. We used to play there in the late '60s, early '70s. I remember we played outside at the Cincinnati Zoo and it was supposed to be sunny and it turned out to be 8 degrees." — Col. Bruce Hampton to Cincy Groove.

Jimmy Herring

Holiday playlist: Herring played lead guitar on Widespread Panic's 2008 Free Somehow with the Christmasy-sounding "Angels on High." OK, it's not really a holiday track, but the lyric "Angels on high, the babies born today, cover the Earth with love and lullabies," is plenty warm-fuzzy.
What you might not know: Before noteworthy turns with Widespread Panic, The Allman Brothers Band, Aquarium Rescue Unit, Jazz Is Dead, Phil Lesh and Friends, The Dead, Justice League, and Project Z, Herring was a high-school band geek: He played saxophone.

Ron Holloway

Holiday playlist: Saxophonist Holloway performed with late Asheville native Root Boy Slim whose Sex Change Band recorded the holiday fave "Christmas at Kmart."
Why he rocks: Holloway was a member of Dizzy Gillespie's final quintet.

Robert Kearns

Holiday playlist: This year, Kearns took over bass responsibilities for legendary rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd who, in 2000, released Christmas Time Again which includes not-to-be-missed tracks "Santa's Messin' With The Kid" and "Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin'."
What you might not know: Kearns cut his teeth in the Raleigh-based rock band Cry of Love with fellow Christmas Jam musician Audley Freed.

Kevn Kinney

Holiday playlist: In 2002, Kinney was featured on a holiday compilation which included 19 Atlanta-area bands (among them Arrested Development's Speech and singer/songwriter Shawn Mullins), released by Atlanta radio station 99X. Kinney's track was "The Christmas Song."
Why he rocks: Kinney lent his talent (and his song, "Walk in the Woods") to the 2006 47-artist compilation Case For Case: A Tribute To The Songs Of Peter Case. Proceeds from the release benefit the Washington, D.C., charity Hungry For Music's musical-instrument donations to underprivileged children.

Eric Krasno

Holiday playlist: Krasno is MySpace friends with New Orleans-based hip-hop artist Eddie Christmas.
Random quote: "The biggest challenge for me is having the confidence to be the lead singer. I've always sung background here and there but now I'm the lead singer and that's my next big challenge." — Eric Krasno to about his side project from Soulive, The Eric Krasno Band.

George Porter Jr.

Holiday playlist: Porter has an album credit on Aaron Neville's star-studded 2008 2-disc The Best of Christmas compilation.
Why he rocks: With singer/keyboardist Art Neville, Porter formed The Meters in the mid 1960s, thereby kick starting the funk sound that still influences up-and-coming bands today.

Brad Whitford

Holiday playlist: Last year, Aerosmith (with whom Whitford plays rhythm guitar) performed a live version of the song "Feels Like Christmas" at a Vancouver concert. If you like doing detective work, try tracking it down. Also, there's a seasonal stage spoof, performed by Chicago's Annoyance Theatre, called An Aerosmith Christmas. The tagline is, "Will Aerosmith's evil drummer, Joey Kramer, destroy Christmas?"
Random quote: "That was really a lick that I had. Steven and I wrote that together. He sat down behind the drums. He's a drummer and he liked it. That's where it started. He likes some oddball things sometimes, kind of out of the way riffs. This was kind of a funky riff and he sat down on the drums and in short order we created 'Last Child.'" — Brad Whitford to Goldmine Magazine about writing an Aerosmith hit song.

Nigel Hall

Holiday playlist: Hall contributed organ to this year's Fight for Love release by American Idol alum Elliot Yamin who, last year, dropped the disc My Kind of Holiday.
Random quote: "My mother used to put headphones on her belly and blast George Duke and Herbie Hancock and Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway. Hence, Nigel Hall has come to break it all down." — Nigel Hall to Maine Today.

Jeff Austin

Holiday playlist: As Yonder Mountain String Band's mandolin player, Austin contributed to seasonally themed tracks like "Snow on the Pines" and "East Nashville Easter."
What you might not know: Austin didn't even know how to play the mandolin when he started out with YMSB's banjo player Dave Johnston in Johnston's band The Bluegrassholes. These days Austin has another side project that makes a pun (albeit a more tasteful one) of the bluegrass genre: Grateful Grass.

Mike Barnes

Holiday playlist: Barnes, formerly of Asheville rock band Prayin' for Rain, now plays with Peggy Ratusz & the Daddy Longlegs and The Caribbean Cowboys. The latter released A Six String Christmas, available through the band's Web site.
Why he rocks: Not only has Barnes contributed to decades of the Asheville soundtrack through the bands with which he plays, he's also been a faculty member of the UNCA Jazz Studies program since 1995.

Fred Eltringham

Holiday playlist: Eltringham currently drums for The Wallflowers but in 1999 he played with Stepladder on the track "Someday at Christmas," found on compilation album Viva Noel: A Q Division Christmas.
What you might not know: On the sound track to 2001 romantic comedy Say It Isn't So (with Heather Graham and Chris Klein), Eltringham is credited with the Gigolo Aunts track "Everyone Can Fly."

Ed Roland

Holiday playlist: Roland's band, Collective Soul, performed the Elvis Presley classic "Blue Christmas" on the 1995 compilation You Sleigh Me: Alternative Christmas Hits.
Why he rocks: The vocalist is no stranger to music for charity: Each year around Thanksgiving he puts on the Ed Roland and Friends Annual Holiday Benefit.

who: Christmas Jam
what: Gov't Mule frontman Warren Haynes' annual jam and fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity
where: Asheville Civic Center
when: Saturday, Dec. 12 (7 p.m.  $55 general, $349 VIP. Proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity.

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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