If you're caught with an empty sack only a few days left before Christmas, believe me, I understand. Sound Check is ready and willing to lend a hand. Here are a few recommended items with local ties. It's the Sound Check Last-Minute Gift Guide.
For lovers of Christmas soul. The CD "Christmas is On!" from Gary U.S. Bonds. As Hampton Roads was reminded this year, Bonds still knows how to rock a party. The singer returned to his hometown of Norfolk back in January to help pay tribute to the late sax king Clarence Clemons. This, Bond's first full-length holiday album, includes several original tunes penned by Bonds and his daughter, Laurie, including "Christmas is a Phone Call Away" and "Santa Bring My Baby Home to Me." "I love a good time had by all and what better way to spread the good cheer than release a Christmas CD full of music to get your feet moving and you spirits lifted," Bonds said, as quoted in a press release. The disc is $15.99 from Amazon.com. By the way, Bonds in the final stages of putting together a memoir titled "By U.S. Bonds: That's My Story." The book is due out early next year on Wheatley Press.
For the classic soul connoisseur: Tickets to see Smokey Robinson at The Ferguson Center for the Arts in Newport News April 6. I missed Robinson the last time he played the Ferguson. I've been kicking myself every since. The man's an American treasure. Tickets are $52-$92 from the Ferguson website.
For the fans of future funk: Pharrell Williams' book "Pharrell: The Places and Spaces I've Been" is as unconventional as you'd expect from this music producer, fashion entrepreneur and eccentric pop culture celebrity. If someone on your list loves the music he created with everyone from Jay-Z to Britney Spears or with his own band N*E*R*D, this is a prime choice. List price is $55, but, at this writing, Amazon.com is showing that the book is out of stock. A special edition from Pharrell's own website is offered for $250.
For lovers of homespun acoustic sounds: Bill Gurley's new solo CD "Break of Day" is a gem, the kind of polished, heartfelt disc that's likely to please admirers of music by John Hartford, Alison Krauss or Tim O'Brien. Gurley, a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter who lives on the Northern Neck, is a craftsman of the first order.
For the folk fiend: The CD titled "Old-Time Smoky Mountain Music: 34 Historic Songs, Ballads and Instrumentals Recorded in The Great Smoky Mountains by Song Catcher Joseph S. Hall." We're straying across the border for this recommendation. I think it's worth the stretch. The disc, assembled with help from two professors at East Tennessee State University, was nominated for a Grammy this year in the Best Historical Album category. It's available from the Great Smoky Mountains Association.