Its really true: You only get one chance to make a first impression, said guitarist Eric Tingstad of Sammamish.
He and multi-instrumentalist Nancy Rumbel are playing in Olympia tonight and Saturday.
They made quite an impression with their 1985 debut album, and theyve since made three more holiday albums together.
But asked if hes especially into Christmas, the guitarist hesitated for a moment.
The interesting thing is when I was a young child, Christmas was sort of taken away from me, he said. I must have been about 7 or 8, and my father was sort of like, Ive had enough of this Christmas commercial stuff. Im getting more into Zen Buddhism.
From that time until I was out of high school and gone, Christmas became less and less a part of our family tradition.
These days, he said, he and his wife, Carol, celebrate the holiday. I really like going downtown, he said. I love the lights and the decorations.
But hes not one of those people who start listening to carols the day after Halloween.
Rumbel, on the other hand, could listen to carols just about anytime if she likes the arrangement.
The Oxford Book of Carols is one of my favorite music collections, said Rumbel of Issaquah. And over the years, Ive really enjoyed collecting holiday music. I have a lot of holiday recordings, and every year I try to buy a new one.
She grew up singing in a church choir and participating in Christmas pageants.
Yet it was Tingstad who suggested The Gift.
I was working on a Christmas album at the time that I met Nancy, he said. I had just started sketching it out, and we were getting together for tea and coffee and playing music. I came to her with a couple of Christmas tunes and said, Why dont you play the melody, let me play the guitar, and lets see what happens?
I realized pretty early on that we had a unique sound going on.
Part of that unique sound is the mixture of Tingstads guitar with Rumbels ocarina, oboe and English horn.
Another part is the new arrangements of traditional tunes.
Im coming from my Americana guitar background, my country background, Tingstad said. Many of the songs sound a little bit Western. And well do a couple of pieces in more of a Spanish kind of mode.
The guitarists Badlands, which was released in February, takes the Americana style toward the Southwest. (Rumbel plays on the album, along with Byron Metcalf and Cindy Cashdollar from Asleep at the Wheel.)
It is music that conjures up images and feelings of being in the Southwest desert, he said. It has a lot of guitar, a lot of pedal steel and dobro. ... Its just a lot of fun.
The duo will perform both holiday and non-holiday music at their Olympia concerts at Traditions Cafe.
Traditions is a favorite venue, Rumbel said.
Theres a real sense of family there, she said. Its a wonderful place to hear music because its small. The experience is very up close and personal. Ive even found instruments there to buy.