If Gary Hoey knew that his brand of hard rock Christmas music would become a 20-year tradition, he "probably wouldn't have done it on an eight-track in my bedroom."
But that's how the New Hampshire-based guitarist made "Ho! Ho! Hoey," his first collection of blazing instrumental versions of holiday favorites -- and an album that preceded the likes of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the Brian Setzer Orchestra and others who have staked a claim in Yuletide music. He's released two other volumes since then, along with a couple of compilations, and every season finds him on the road playing the material.
"I don't think I realized back then that nobody had taken rock arrangements to songs the way I did," Hoey, 55, says by phone from his home. "We didn't know we were treading new ground, and we sure didn't know we were doing something that has become a tradition with people.
"It's an honor I've become connected with Christmas like this. If I'd thought about doing it, it would've felt too challenging. It just kind of happened this way."
Hoey was, in fact, planning a fourth holiday album this year and has already begun working on it. He ran out of time for the current season, however, although he did contribute a version of "O Holy Night" to "A Blue Elan Christmas," an album raising fund for the Alliance For Children's Rights. That's set him up for a busy 2016, however, as Hoey plans to release not only the Christmas set but also a blues album, the follow-up to 2013's "Deja Blues."
"Once I recorded ('Deja Blues') I realized this is what I want to stick with, the blues," says Hoey, who will be previewing two of the new songs during his holiday shows. . "This second one's a little more rock than the last one; I'm fusing some more of my sound into it. Blues is always a tough thing to take on for any guitar player; you have so much respect for the old guys that created it, so I treat it with kid gloves.
"Really, one of the hardest things I've ever done is record a blues record. I'm hoping the second one's a little easier, y'know?"
8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 4-5.
Callahan's Music Hall, 2015 South Blvd., Auburn Hills.
Both shows are sold out.
Call 248-858-9508 or visit atcallahans.com.
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