Why is Labor Day celebrated?

We all love that day off from school or work, that long weekend to go to the lake house, have a barbeque and visit with relatives, but let’s face it, most of us don’t really know why Labor Day is celebrated, or the history behind the holiday.

Labor Day, which is celebrated on the first Monday in September, honors and recognizes the American labor movement and the role of laborers in the development and achievements of the country. The holiday originated in the late 1800s, after the Industrial Revolution, when trade unions were growing steadily. Unionists thought that there should be a day to recognize labor, so the first parade was organized in New York City, and it became an official holiday in 1894.

You may be wondering, what kind of music did people listen to back then, in the late 19th century? Well, we’ve compiled a short list of historical tunes that are sure to impress your friends and family at your Labor Day celebration!

I’ve Been Working on the Railroad – 1894

With its lyrics about rising early in the morn to go work on the railroad, this American folk song embodies the spirit and history of Labor Day. Railroading was a career that many young men took up at around age 18 to 20. They began as shop laborers with the possibility of being promoted to the positions of skilled mechanic, brakeman, freight conductor and passenger conductor. And not only did the explosion of railways create jobs, but it also transformed many sectors of the U.S. economy, such as manufacturing, agriculture, and finance. 

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot – 1872

This African American spiritual song was originally composed in 1865 by Wallis Willis, a Choctaw freedman, who had probably been inspired by the sight of the Red River, where he worked alongside. The river may have reminded him of the Jordan River and the Prophet Elijah, which are referenced in the song.

A minister at the Choctaw boarding school heard Willis singing the song, so he transcribed the lyrics and melodies, and sent it to the Jubilee Singers of the historically black Fisk University in Nashville, who popularized the song in the early 1900s.

While Strolling Through the Park One Day – 1884

Originally written and published by vaudeville performer Ed Haley, this tune has been featured in many films and was sung by Judy Garland. Interestingly enough, a few bars were also sung by the NASA astronauts when they landed on the moon with the Apollo 17 mission. I was strolling on the moon one day…” 

Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue – Janis Siegel, John Di Martino & Lonnie Plaxico

The oldies are neat and everything, but after the novelty wears off, they’re probably not the type of music you want to listen to for hours on end. After the collective ride down American memory lane, maybe it’s time to change the playlist up and play something a bit more modern, like this 2020 jazz rendition of Crystal Gayle’s country hit!

If you’re looking for more jazzy country tunes to play at your Labor Day party, our new album Cryin’ In My Whiskey is available in our store and on all major music platforms now. And if you’d like to book one of our wonderful musicians for your event, please contact us today. 

What is the National Day of the Cowboy?

Created in 2005, the National Day of the Cowboy celebrates the role and contributions that cowboys and cowgirls have made to America’s history and culture. The NDOC organization even gives out awards to individuals and organizations that promote and preserve pioneer and cowboy history! The day is observed on the fourth Saturday in July, so that means this year, July 24th will be the day to put on your boots and saddle up!

Cowboys began appearing in the heartland and wild west after the Civil War. Working mostly as ranchers and ranch hands, cowboys raised cattle and horses, and herded them across the plains to slaughterhouses. And since the western frontier was still widely unexplored at the time, it was a lawless land that swirled with riches, adventure and violence. Amid this backdrop, the mythical, stoic image of the cowboy became popular. 

Now you may be wondering how you can celebrate the National Day of the Cowboy. Well, you could put on a cowboy hat, go to a rodeo, and then come home and listen to these country western songs that we picked out for you. Find a partner, say howdy and have a hog-killin’ time square-dancing the night away!

Roy Rogers – Don’t Fence Me In

Known in his heyday as the “King of the Cowboys,” Ray Rogers acted and sang in over 100 Western films. This 1944 tune, which he sang with his wife Doris Rogers, became known across the country and for generations to come as the cowboy theme song. Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above…

Marty Robinson – The Streets of Laredo (Cowboys Lament)

Derived from a traditional Irish folk song, titled “The Unfortunate Rake,” this cowboy ballad was named one of Top 100 Western songs of all time and has become a folk music standard. In the song, a dying cowboy tells his story to another cowboy in Laredo, Texas.  

Gene Autry – Back in The Saddle Again

Nicknamed the “Singing Cowboy,” Gene Autry personified the honest, brave and true hero, and he was a significant pioneer in the history of country music. “Back in the Saddle Again” was first released in 1939 and became Autry’s signature song because who wouldn’t want to be transported to the land where the longhorn cattle feed on the lowly gypsum weed?

Janis Siegel, John Di Martino & Lonnie Plaxico – Always On My Mind

This bittersweet, remorseful ballad, made famous by the outlaw country star Willie Nelson, is given a jazz treatment in this brand-new version. Including a lovely flute solo from Aaron Heick, this rendition really pulls at your heartstrings. Tell me that your sweet love hasn’t died…

If you’re looking for more country tunes to celebrate the National Day of the Cowboy, check out our newly released album, Cryin’ in My Whiskey, which is available in our store and on all major music platforms. And if you’d like one of our talented musicians to perform at your event, please contact us today! 

Life is a Picnic! – Relaxing Tunes to Listen to on National Picnic Day

With the unpredictability of the weather nowadays, we have to seize any opportunity we can to go outside and have a picnic. So, in honor of National Picnic Day on April 23rd, go grab your friends and family this weekend, tell everyone to bring a dish to share, sit outside and bask in the sun while listening to these upbeat tunes! That is, as long as there’s not a random surprise blizzard… Let’s cross our fingers that doesn’t happen, and spring is here to stay!

Billie Jo Spears – Blanket On The Ground

Whether it be a handmaid quilt or the classic red and white checkers, nothing says picnic like a blanket on the ground. In reality though, this 1975 country hit is actually about a more adult type of picnic… it’s sung from the perspective of a middle-aged woman who convinces her hesitant husband to make love outdoors in the moonlight.

Bob Dylan – Forever Young

When I think about picnics, I also think about family reunions, conversations and laughs over paper plates of macaroni salad. So, what better way to enjoy a picnic than with this lovely song written in 1974 as a lullaby for Bob Dylan’s eldest son. “Forever Young” conveys the wishes and hopes that parents have for their children: May you build a ladder to the stars and climb on every rung. 

The 5th Dimension – Stoned Soul Picnic

Tell you friends to hurry to the picnic because, as the 5th Dimension sings, There’ll be lots of time and wine, Red yellow honey, sassafras and moonshine. Gosh, that sure sounds like the type of picnic I’m looking for! Written by Laura Nyro and released by The 5th Dimension in 1968, this tune has a unique sound—a mixture of pop, R&B, soul, jazz, light opera and Broadway that’s referred to as “champagne soul.” 

Paul Simon – Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard

This 1972 folk rock song is a playful and lighthearted tunne about two boys who have broken a law at the schoolyard. When “mama pajama” finds out, she goes to the police station to report the crime. This song makes me think of all the horsing around and tomfoolery that kids can get up to at a picnic when their parents aren’t looking. And the percussion in is very unique for American pop music since it was created with a Brazilian friction drum called a cuica, which is often used in samba music.  

Janis Siegel, John Di Martino & Lonnie Plaxico – Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue

The original song, a lament on a lost love released by Crystal Gayle in 1977 probably wouldn’t typically be thought of as an upbeat, outdoorsy picnic song, but this new rendition from Janis Siegel, John Di Martino and Lonnie Plaxico is anything but blue! These world-class musicians de-ranged the song a bit in their version, making it faster paced, and they also end the tune with a huge party that features Aaron Heick on clarinet. You won’t want to miss this wildly exciting and jazzy spin on the old country hit!

If you’re looking for more snazzy country tunes to play during a picnic, you might want to check out Night Is Alive’s newest album, “Cryin’ In My Whiskey,” which features the vocals of Grammy-award-winner Janis Siegel, the piano of John Di Martino and the saxophone of Lonnie Plaxico! “Cryin’ In My Whiskey” is available in our store right now. Or if you’d like to book one of our lovely musicians for your picnic, please contact us today.

4 Songs that Tell Stories for World Book Day

There’s nothing like a good book to pull you out of life and transport you to another reality. Whether it be Twilight, Ready Player One, Pride and Prejudice or the Handmaid’s Tale, there’s a story out there for everyone. But did you ever realize that some of the best songs also tell a story? I don’t know about you but when I was growing up listening to country music, that was my favorite part—the ability to learn about someone’s life story in the short span of just a few minutes. Well, today, in honor of World Book Day, celebrate on April 23rd, we’re bringing you four songs that tell some really resonating stories. 

Tracy Chapman – Fast Car

This is a gritty, realistic story of a woman trying to escape from the vicious cycle of poverty. The protagonist’s mother left the family, and her father is an alcoholic, so she quit school to take care of him. One day, the narrator hopes that she and her lover will drive away in a fast car, just ‘cross the border and into the city. She imagines a whole different life for them: you and I can both get jobs and finally see what it means to be living. This poignant 1988 folk-rock song conveys a sense of hope and optimism towards the future. 

Randy Travis – Three Wooden Crosses

“Three Wooden Crosses” is the tragic story four passengers—a farmer on vacation, a teacher seeking higher education, a sex worker and a preacher, all of whom were searing for lost souls on a late-night bus trip from the U.S. to Mexico. There’s a fatal accident when the bus is hit by an 18-wheeler, and three of the passengers are killed. And that’s all I’m going to tell you for now—you’ll have to listen to the rest of the song to find out what happened to the person who survived… and there’s a few surprising plot twists!

Bobbie Gentry – Fancy

This Southern Gothic style song is a narrative told from the perspective of a woman in her thirties named Fancy, who is looking back on the summer she turned 18. It’s a memorable story about a woman using sex work to overcome childhood poverty. Bobbie Gentry, the country star from small town Mississippi, wrote and recorded the song in 1969. 

Gentry sings that Fancy grew up in “a one room, rundown shack on the outskirts of New Orleans.” Fancy’s mother spends her last penny on a dancing dress and tells her daughter to “start sleeping uptown” and “just be nice to the gentlemen, Fancy, and they’ll be nice to you.” Eventually, from her relationships with wealthy, powerful men, Fancy comes to own a Georgia mansion and a New York City townhouse. 

Janis Siegel, John Di Martino & Lonnie Plaxico – Where Do I Put His Memory?

There’s no sadder story than the story of losing a loved one. With its poignant lyrics, this country song, written by Jim Weatherly and first released by Charlie Pride in 1979, touches on the human condition and the persistence of memory. And now, the story is being retold in this new rendition from the 2021 album “Cryin’ In My Whiskey.” In this version, John Di Martino arranged the song in a Venezuelan joropo rhythm, and New York City guitarist Jesse Lewis is also featured! 

If you’re looking for more jazzy retellings of classic country stories, look no further than the album “Cryin’ In My Whiskey,” which is available in our story right now!

John di Martino Post #2

Ah, the sweet bliss of a Friday afternoon. Nothing beats it. Except maybe this Friday feature with New York City based musician, John Di Martino. 

If you read last week’s feature, you’ll know that Martino is more than just a jazz pianist, he is also a composer, arranger and producer. But did you know that Martino also has worked in a wide range of musical genres? 

Martino has a long collaboration with percussionist and musicologist, Bobby Sanabria. Together in 2000, they produced the album “Afro-Cuban Dream: Live & In Clave!!!” which was nominated for a Grammy award and received critical acclaim for its progressive approach to the art of the big band. Martin is also active on the world beat scene, working with South African bassist Bakithi Kumalo. 

More recently, Martino has been exploring the fusion of country western and jazz music in the new album, “Cryin’ In My Whiskey.” Released by Night Is Alive, this album also features the vocals of Janis Siegel and the bass of Lonnie Plaxico. “Cryin’ in My Whiskey” is just what we need to be listeninng to right now in order to celebrate this (hopefully) post-covid era. The songs on this album tell the stories of country classics with a jazz twist. You won’t want to miss it! 

“Cryin’ In My Whiskey” is available at https://nightisalive.com/portfolio/cryin-in-my-whiskey/ and all major online music platforms. 

What music inspires the versatile John Di Martino you may wonder? Well, look no further, we have the answers you’re looking for below:

  • Besides jazz, what genres of music do you like to listen to? 
    • I love to listen to classical music, world music—I really love all music!
  • Who are some other musicians that inspire you? 
    • I am inspired by Herbie Hancock, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Gil Evans, John Coltrane, Bela Bartok & many others!
  • What is your favorite tune from Cryin’ In My Whiskey
    • I love all the tracks, but I will say: “Break It To Me Gently.”

4 Country Jazz Tunes to Celebrate National Beer Day

We all know about Oktoberfest in Germany, but did you know that the U.S. celebrates National Beer Day on April 7th? It commemorates the day in 1933 that the prohibition on selling beer was lifted. “I think this would be a good time for a beer,” President Roosevelt famously said upon signing the legislation.

A man in Virginia named Justin Smith first unofficially celebrated Beer Day in 2009 and since then it has gained official recognition by the state of Virginia and is toasted to by brew aficionados all over the country. 

Who wants to miss out on an excuse to drink and be merry? This Wednesday, go to the brewery or beer store nearest to you and pick up a growler of your favorite beer—whether that be an IPA, ale, lager or pilsner—and kick back with some friends in the backyard while listening to these folksy jazz tunes! 

Ray Charles – Oh, Lonesome Me

Partly inspired by his small southern hometown, Charles came out with the album Modern Sounds in Country Music in 1962, which was a groundbreaking fusion of genres. It was so successful that Charles came out with a second volume of country jazz music, from which comes this song, “Oh, Lonesome Me.” 

First written and recorded in 1957, this song is a fun, lighthearted lament of unrequited love that’ll pair well with a fruity, full-bodied amber ale! 

Willie Nelson – Georgia On My Mind

From his 1978 album, Stardust, comes this brilliant reinvention of the popular Ray Charles song, “Georgia On My Mind.” Nelson’s rendition features harmonica solos, which really adds that country flavor. Grab a piney IPA and enjoy that hop flavor while you get lost in Nelson’s weather-beaten voice. 

Chet Atkins & Mark Knopfler – There’ll Be Some Changes Made

In 1990, Chet Atkins, also known as “Mr. Guitar” and “The Country Gentleman,” joined forces with Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler to create the Grammy-award-winning album Neck and Neck. From this album comes the song “There’ll Be Some Changes Made,” which is a country version of the jazz standard originally published in 1921. Listen to this friendly tune while drinking a classic long neck lager!

Janis Siegel, John Di Martino & Lonnie Plaxico – He Stopped Loving Her Today

Named in several surveys as the greatest country song of all time, “He Stopped Loving Her Today” was released in 1980 by George Jones. When vocalist Janis Siegel first heard the song, she was struck—the story simply grabbed her and inspired her to collaborate with John Di Martino and Lonnie Plaxico on this new jazzy rendition, featured in their 2021 album, “Cryin’ In My Whiskey.” The ambiguous lyrics and Siegel’s lovely voice make it a perfect song to pair with a smooth, golden pilsner!

If you’re looking for some more country jazz tunes to create the best beer-drinking ambience, look no further. “Cryin’ In My Whiskey,” the newest release from Night Is Alive, features many country classics, like “Always On My Mind,” “Break it to Me Gently” and “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” all with a funky jazz twist. “There’s nothing out there like this,” said Kathy Salem, the Producer and Managing Director. “I wanted this music to be accessible by all.”

“Cryin’ In My Whiskey” is available in our store right now and on all major music platforms! 

John Di Martino Post #1

The weekend is finally here! Thank goodness! Now it’s time to have some fun and get to know this creative jazz pianist, John Di Martino. 

Martino was born and raised in Philadelphia, and as a teenager he spent most of his time at local jazz clubs, where he still returns to work on occasion. Martino eventually moved to New York City, where he is now based, and began his career.

Described as a “shape-shifter,” Martino is known for occupying many different realms as a composer, arranger, jazz pianist and producer. As a jazz pianist, he’s performed and recorded with famous musicians like Eddie Gomez, Kenny Burrell and James Moody. As a musical director, he has accompanied Dianne Schuur and Jon Hendricks. 

We’re lucky enough to feature this world-class pianist, who has performed in China and Carnegie Hall, on our newest album, “Cryin’ In My Whiskey.” Also featuring the vocals of Janis Siegel, this album is a blend of country western and jazz music that is full of classics you’re sure to recognize, like “Always On My Mind” and “I Fall To Pieces.” 

I know it’s Friday and we don’t want to think about next week yet, but the tunes from “Cryin’ In My Whiskey” will make your commute to work on Monday feel like a luxurious cruise.    

“Cryin’ In My Whiskey” is available at https://nightisalive.com/portfolio/cryin-in-my-whiskey/

and all major online music platforms. 

#JohnDiMartino #CryinInMyWhiskey #jazz #feature #musician #pianist #composer #arranger #NightisAlive #countrywestern #album #crossgenre

We got to sit down and pick Martino’s brain. Check out his answers below!

  • What are you most looking forward to in the coming months? 
    • I look forward to the return of live gigs and touring, but much more recording in the meantime!
  • Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for young musicians? 
    • Find your unique ‘God-Given’ voice and trust in it! The practice of imitation is only a tool for learning!
  • What is your favorite tune from Cryin’ In My Whiskey
    • I love all the tracks, but I will say: “Break It To Me Gently”

Spring is Here! – Country Jazz Tunes to Celebrate Daylight Saving Time

With spring creeping up on us, you may be wondering, when exactly is daylight savings time? When do the clocks change? Well, this year, your clocks will move forward one hour on Sunday, March 14th at 2am. So, what are you going to do with that extra hour of sunlight? How about kicking back with some country jazz tunes while you watch the sunset! You can nod your head to the music while you watch the darkness of winter dissipate and the brightness of the warmer months approach.

Jimmie Rodgers & Louis Armstrong – Yodel No. 9

You may not be very familiar with country jazz music, but actually the two genres have a long history of intermingling that dates back to 1929 with this collaboration between Louis Armstrong and Jimmie Rodgers (aka the “Father of Country Music”). The narrative lyrics about a man standing on the corner of Beale and Main in Memphis combined with yodeling and Armstrong’s signature trumpeting creates a song that will get you looking forward to taking long walks outside in the sun.

Janis Siegal, John di Martino & Lonnie Plaxico –  Are You Alright?

After listening to that 1929 throwback, it’s time for something a bit more modern. This brand new 2021 rendition of “Are You Alright?” features the Grammy-award-winning vocalist Janis Siegel, the NYC jazz pianist John Di Martino and the double bassist Lonnie Plaxico. First written in 2007 by Lucinda Williams, “Are You Alright?” is a song that really speaks to our current collective moment. As Siegel points out, “This tune seems like an anthem for the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s the question we are all asking each other over and over again.”

Ray Charles – You Don’t Know Me

When you think of Ray Charles, you probably think of rhythm and blues, soul and jazz, but Charles was also a country star inspired by the music of the small southern town in which he grew up. In his widely successful 1962 album Modern Sounds in Country Music, Charles did jazzy renditions of the most famous country songs in history. “You Don’t Know Me,” one of the songs on the album, reached the #2 slot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. With its evocative, honest and heart wrenching lyrics, originally written by Cindy Walker in 1955, “You Don’t Know Me” is perfect for a moment of relaxation and contemplation on your back patio or front porch during that luminous late afternoon golden hour. 

Janis Siegal, John di Martino & Lonnie Plaxico – Don’t it Make My Brown Eyes Blue

This is another song from the new 2021 album, Cryin’ in My Whiskey. This rendition retells and spices up Crystal Gayle’s 1977 version while still preserving the essence of the original. Ending with the lively clarinet of Aaron Heick, this tune will make you want to swing, party and jump for joy that spring is finally here!

If you’re ready to welcome the spring with some head-nodding country jazz, we can help. Night is Alive is proud to release the album Cryin’ in My Whiskey, which includes nine tracks of familiar country favorites such as Willie Nelson’s “Always On My Mind” and “I Fall to Pieces,” each with a jazz twist. The album is available right now in our store. And if you’d like to book one of our lovely musicians for an upcoming party or event, contact us today.