RACINE — Combined, Jack Grassel and Jill Jensen have released more than 20 albums, but never a Christmas album.
And with the release of “Snow People,” they still haven’t released a Christmas album.
“We wouldn’t call it a Christmas album. It’s a winter album,” Jill explained.
Jack and Jill have been married for 19 years and work together as professional musicians. Jack is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, and Jill leads most of the duo’s vocals.
For years, the Racine couple has been hosting in-home holiday concerts during the wintertime. Their friends and fans have often asked for a Christmas album, but it wasn’t until last year that they committed to producing “Snow People.”
What you’ll hear
Eleven of the album’s 12 tracks are covers, reworked by the couple, but don’t expect every song to be instantly recognizable. One of their goals with the album was to avoid covering the unoriginal range of Christmas songs that Jack feels are played too often during November and December every year.
“People are kind of tired of Christmas songs,” he said. “If I go to the grocery store starting now, I already hear ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ … there is no reason why would need to record that song; it’s been done already.”
Not only do the songs on the album span several genres — jazz, pop, rock, blues and even a little rap — but they also achieve a variety of tones.
“Winter is not only glacial blue,” Jill said. “It’s not only green and red, it’s grey and brown and sometimes dead.”
The couple spent the last year scouring their memories and the internet for less-than-typical songs to record for “Snow People.”
“We didn’t purposely seek to find things that were obscure,” Jill said, although she admits that some of the tracks were unknown even to herself and Jack a year ago.
A friend remembered
One of the songs on “Snow People” is an original: “Snow Sprite.” It’s adapted from a poem written by Jill’s friend Leslie Sobota, an elementary school teacher who died in February from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease).
“I could very easily envision seeing her saying the words,” Jill said.
“This poem deserves a song,” Jack remembers thinking, “to continue our memory of Leslie.”
The CD can be purchased at: JackGrasselJillJensen.com; Schmitt Music, 1409 Washington Ave., Racine; Lincoln Music House, 3379 South 13th Street, Milwaukee.