December 10th, 2023

carrie underwood my gift spotlight pageCourtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


The Christmas season is officially here and with that in mind, it’s now officially time to start breaking out some awesome Christmas music. 

Typically, I have a firm rule about not starting listening to any Christmas music until Dec. 1 (because let’s face it, the radio stations start pushing it WAY too early), but last week, as I was preparing some Thanksgiving work for the paper, I broke my rule for about an hour when I dialed up Carrie Underwood’s latest album “My Gift” on YouTube to help me get into a bit more of a festive mood. It turned out to be exactly what I needed. 

The first thing I’ve got to praise is the vocals throughout the album. Underwood is fantastic on each track and her powerful and sweet vocals get a big chance to fully shine as the album goes along – one issue I had with her last album “Cry Pretty” was I felt her voice was overshadowed by everything else during production, which was a bit of a shame since Underwood’s got such a great vocal talent. But with “My Gift,” everything’s much more minimalist (in a good way) and you get to hear Underwood slay every note in every song. The minimized instrumentals are also done in a very good way and they help set the mood for each song perfectly, particularly with the album’s opening song “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” – I always prefer when this song is done on a more minimal scale because to me, it lends itself to being done that way and letting the singer’s vocal talents truly shine. 

charlie brown thanksgiving spotlight pageLinus gives a prayer in this scene from “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.” The special is just one of many popular Thanksgiving episodes to take in this year. Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


The Thanksgiving holiday is officially here and along with all that delicious food, prepare to stuff yourselves with some good TV after the meal. 

I did a column here last year about some of my favorite Thanksgiving-themed episodes and since there were too many for me to use for just one column, I decided to do a sequel for this time around. So prepare yourselves for some good TV this Thanksgiving Day. 


“Thanksgiving” (That 70s Show)

This episode from the show’s first season follows the Foreman family’s Thanksgiving festivities as daughter Laurie (Lisa Robin Kelly) brings her friend Kate (Jenny Maguire) home with her for Thanksgiving and dad Red's mother, Bernice, constantly calls asking about Thanksgiving dinner, much to mom Kitty’s annoyance. I enjoy this episode every time I watch it because the comedic timing is on point and much like other holiday episodes, everyone learns a little something about what Thanksgiving means to them. It’s one I definitely recommend if you’re looking for something funny to watch after dinner. 

chris stapleton spotlight pageCourtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


As I’ve mentioned here before, music is a big deal with me and I listen to a lot of it, whether it’s on the radio to/from the office or at home or at work while writing up stories for the paper here. 

Recently, I had quite a bit of work to sort through for the paper here and loaded up YouTube on my computer. One of the suggestions came from the newest album “Starting Over,” from Chris Stapleton (one of my favorite country artists) and almost immediately, I was hooked. So I found the rest of the album and I was NOT disappointed by what I heard. 

One of the first things I’ve got to give praise to with this album is how overall solid it is throughout – typically, when I listen to an album, there are a handful of really strong songs and then the rest end up ranging from average to just overall not good. With “Starting Over,” though, every song is strong and steady and of really good quality in just about every aspect – the backing instrumentals are great, Stapleton’s raw and scratchy lead vocals set each song’s mood perfectly, and his wife Morgane’s backup vocals complement his perfectly. Among that, however, here is some variety to be found – there are times when the album takes a more rock approach, there are times when it takes a more bluesy approach, and other times, the songs take on more of an outlaw country/traditional classic country vibe, and the overall effect is just a great, solid album for people to listen to. 

All that being said, one of the main things that stood out to be about the album was the backing instrumentals. The guitar parts, acoustic and electric alike, help set the atmosphere of each song so well and those parts are driving and extremely well done – I enjoyed each and every one of the handful of guitar breaks featured on the album. Also deserving praise are the drum section – they also helped each song’s atmosphere come to life and there are many times where I would have actually liked to hear them featured more.