By Guy D’Astolfo | Dec. 19, 2019
The holiday season is a time to reconnect with family and friends and that’s what country-music artist A.C. Jones plans to do.
On Dec. 21, the Canfield-based Jones and her band will present Evergreen & Holly, a dinner show to benefit the Salvation Army.
It will be the act’s first appearance on their home turf since an August show at Morley Pavilion in Youngstown.
It’s also the fifth straight year for the holiday fundraiser, and the first in the Stambaugh Auditorium ballroom.
The event has raised more than $17,000 for the Salvation Army in its first four years, including $7,200 last year.
“It gets bigger every year,” Jones says. “We’re hoping to raise $10,000 alone this year.”
In addition to the performance, the event will comprise a buffet dinner, cash bar, a basket raffle and more. “The biggest highlight, which everyone says we can never change, is a giant table of homemade cookies,” says Jones, adding that she and her band will make the treats in “a marathon baking session.”
Last year, they had thousands of cookies in about 18 varieties, including tiramisu bites and chocolate chip.
The benefit got off to a rough start in 2015. “People still call it the Christmas barn party because the first was in a barn in North Jackson,” Jones says.
Space heaters were brought in but they did little to fend off the cold December air. “Everybody had their coats on and was shivering; and I was convinced that no one would ever come back but as they left everyone said ‘When are we doing it next year?’ ” Jones says.
The event took place in B&O Station last year and is going next-level in 2019.
“This is the first year we reached out and advertised it beyond our website,” Jones says. “We’re making the community aware of it.”
Tickets for Evergreen & Holly are $30 and available at StambaughAuditorium.com, by phone at 330 259 0555 and at the box office. The event begins at 6 p.m.
Jones is currently putting the finishing touches on a Christmas album, which will be available for purchase as a CD at the Stambaugh show. It includes holiday standards, including some “with a twist,” and a couple of originals that she wrote. Jones says one of those originals will soon be released as a single.
The holiday show will cap a busy year for Jones, one in which she and her band:
The act is currently squeezing in showcase performances for state- and county-fair boards as it lines up its 2020 summer tour.
Jones hits the road every summer, but this year’s tour was the band’s most extensive. It included two rainy days at the Minnesota State Fair, the second-largest fair in the United States behind Texas.
“It was quite an experience,” Jones says. Her band played on the same stage as national acts Lone Star and War & Treaty on back-to-back days.
State fairs are a great way to gain exposure to thousands of people at a time, but what if the weather doesn’t cooperate? No problem.
“It poured down rain for two straight days [in Minnesota], with one day ending in giant-sized hail,” Jones says. “But a ton of people still came out. They stood in the rain and danced in the rain; and they discovered that the closer you got to the stage it was more dry[because of the overhang].”
Jones also played at the Ohio and Nebraska state fairs, and a multitude of large county fairs in the Midwest and West.
At a show in Wisconsin, the band was forced to rush off stage as a storm that was spawning tornados was fast approaching.
“As I’m singing I heard this hum in the background,” she says. “I didn’t know what it was but I just thought, ‘Better sing through it,’ and then someone came on stage and grabbed me [to get her off the stage]. When I turned the corner [and could see behind me], I was shocked at the dark sky. People were scattering.”
The hum, incidentally, was a tornado-warning siren.
The band apparently didn’t waste any time on its road trip, turning downtime into a recording. It just released “Campfire Sessions,” a four-song acoustic EP recorded one evening at a campground in Iowa.
“We sat around a bonfire and played,” Jones says. “You can hear the fire popping, and there was also a lot of geese around there. You can hear the crickets. It was very raw and real and it’s a tradition we would like to keep.”
Mike Myhal, guitarist and band manager, says the campfire recordings posed a technical challenge but they got it done.
Jones has spent much time in Nashville this year working on her next studio EP, which will be released in 2020.
“I’m proud of every single song on it,” she says. “If I had one word to describe it, it would be ‘empowering.’ It is music that will leave you feeling empowered.”
Of the four songs, Jones wrote one and co-wrote two. A songwriter pitched the fourth song to her.
One of the new songs will be selected as the next single, a follow- up to 2018’s “Mr. Moon,” which spent time on the Billboard Country Indicator chart for upcoming artists. The video for “Mr. Moon” can be viewed at her website, ACJonesMusic.com.
While “Mr. Moon” brought out the old-school side of Jones, the upcoming EP will reflect the full picture.
“I have an attachment to old-school, but this will be a bit more modern,” she says. “The emotion and melody behind the songs is 100% me. These are definitely songs that are good for radio, radio-forward, and they hold a unique sound while pulling in that modern sound that is fresh and new and will catch your ear.”
While she is spending a lot of time in the studio, Jones stays in touch with her growing fan base in a novel way: a series of cooking videos on her website.
“I have always felt that cooking and country music go hand in hand, and it’s such a great way to connect with people,” she says. “Now that we are touring and finding people in Idaho and beyond, it’s a way to connect with them other than music. It’s like they’re sitting at my table even though they are hundreds of miles away.”
Jones develops all of her own recipes from scratch.
“I test-kitchen them at home,” she says.
The videos also satisfy the scientific side of Jones, who earned a biochemistry degree from the University of Mount Union.
“They test my chemistry background,” she says with a laugh.
Copyright 2020 AfterHoursYoungstown.com, Youngstown, Ohio.