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PHC's Mountain Aires Record Christmas CD

December 3rd, 2008

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 338-8727
OfficeOfCommunications@phc.edu

The Mountain Aires. Third from left: Zachary Simmons. Second from right: Sammy Dallas

 Long regarded as a bright, well-spoken group, Patrick Henry College students are also beginning to receive recognition for their musical gifts. Coinciding, interestingly, with the announcement of a new “music leadership” track of courses at PHC for the spring semester, another group of gifted student musicians has released a new Christmas CD. A bluegrass band known as the Mountain Aires, featuring PHC students Sammy Dallas and Zach Simmons, recently released their second album, Christmas, which recreates the feel-good, foot tapping style of its maiden CD, Echo the Legacy.

Christmas has already sold nearly 1000 copies, and contains 15 Christmas songs, including many classical favorites, some lesser known Gaelic tunes, and three original songs. Some of the well known classics include “Carol of the Bells,” “Joy to the World” and “Jingle Bells.”  And while sales may not yet top record charts, Dallas and Simmons know it's a great start for a non-professional bluegrass band.

“It represented the work from the last album, which opened up avenues for getting the CD out," said Dallas. "So in this case, we had an established track record so people knew what they were getting from us."

The two students have also sold quite a few CDs to their classmates at PHC, where they frequently perform at campus events.

The Mountain Aires feature several of the duo’s close friends back home in Wake County, North Carolina, where they all started playing together in 2004. They recorded Echo the Legacy in 2006, which sold 1300 copies.

Recording Christmas, both agreed, was much easier technically than their first album, whose long, hard learning curve involved much trial and error.  “After recording the last CD, we came into this CD more prepared,” Dallas said.

“Not only were we more experienced with the studio,” Simmons agreed, “but we had more time for the sound to mature, to create new textures that we couldn’t have two years ago.”

While both enjoyed recording the album, lead time required to produce the CD meant rehearsing and playing Christmas music in… July.

Recalls Dallas: “It put me in more of a Christmas spirit in July, when we [recorded the CD], than I got into the previous Christmases. It was a good reminder in the middle of the year to remember the reason for Christmas.”

The Mountain Aires are currently selling their CD from their website, mountainairesmusic.com, which Simmons said was proving fruitful. They are also on digstation.com, a site Simmons described as being an iTunes for unsigned bands. They eventually plan on putting the album on iTunes.

While both Dallas and Simmons said that it is getting harder to record with the band because members have chosen to attend different colleges, they still want to continue recording. They plan on releasing some singles and have talked about recording another CD.

Article written with reporting by Tanner Lovett.