Warner Robins band gets international reviews of Christmas release

lfabian@macon.comDecember 25, 2013 

The Alex Tjoland Band is currently working on its third album.


International acclaim wasn’t on Bo Sammons’ mind when he invited a 13-year-old boy to bring his drums to church.

The invitation came about six years ago when Alex Tjoland’s life had gotten pretty complicated. The self-described “shyest kid ever” wasn’t having an easy time in middle school, and there was some trouble at home.

“He was down in the dumps about it,” said Sammons, a Warner Robins attorney who enjoys writing songs and playing the guitar.

Sammons noted the boy’s talent and invited others to sing and jam.

The Alex Tjoland Band was born, named for the drummer boy at the heart of the group.

Sammons was thinking about the teen when they coined the name.

“How cool would it be to be 13 years old and have a band named after you?” Sammons thought.

Now the band is making a name around the world.

“I’m very happy we’re getting these reviews from random places,” said Tjoland, now 20 and studying music at Middle Georgia State College. “It’s great. Lots of fun.”

The drummer plans to continue his music studies at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville with a goal of playing for the United States Air Force Band.

A Christmas album recorded last year, “Silent Revelry,” was released on iTunes in early December. It’s getting play on Internet radio and streams on some Christmas-oriented stations.

Sammons was determined to create some new Christmas music to supplement the classics.

Christ United Methodist Church asked him to incorporate as many names of God into one of them, which became “God in Us, Emmanuel.” Other original tunes include “Surf’s Up, Santa Claus” and “An Angel Said to Mary.”

After the band signed a publicist, reviews started coming in from all over, including Belgium.

Blogger Brent Black in Kentucky described the music as “an incredibly eclectic mix of country, alternative rock, folk, with a smoldering bluesy vibe.”

A reviewer for a Connecticut newspaper mentioned the album in a Christmas review that included new music from Susan Boyle, Johnny Mathis and AMC’s “Mad Men.”

A blogger in the United Kingdom, The Rocker, said: “They really seem to mean what they’re saying. ... They’re still young ... and there is something about them you just want to coddle.”

Macon musician Joey Stuckey also took the band under his producer wing.

“I think that Bo is one of the finest writers of lyrics I’ve ever heard,” said Stuckey, who recorded the band at his Shadow Sound studio. “He’s such a great storyteller.”

Sammons sought out Stuckey when the band recorded “Shot at Redemption,” its Christian debut album.

The band is working on a third album to spotlight the Americana, country sound of lead singer Rachel Elkins. The www.musicinbelgium.net reviewer called Elkins “a singer with a phenomenal voice.”

Sammons thought releasing a Christmas album might give the band traction to get noticed in a digital world of satellite radio.

“I don’t know how people listen to music anymore,” Sammons said. “Used to be people listened to whatever radio station there was. Now there’s Sirius in the car with so many channels. I don’t know how they monitor who listens to what.”

What Stuckey heard loud and clear was Sammons’ original motive for the group.

“Everything he does comes out of love,” Stuckey said. “This whole thing started because he wanted to make a young man going through a difficult situation have something positive in his life.”

Sammons admits they are not generating income, just having fun. But Stuckey says Sammons’ storytelling ability could help change all that once folks get hooked.

“They’re not going to want to put it down,” he said. “Where it goes, who knows?”

Sammons’ greatest hope is that families embrace “Silent Revelry” and make it part of their holiday tradition.

“I hope that some of the music means something to people,” he said. “And they pull it out at Christmas and remember to slow down and hug their loved ones and enjoy the season.”

For Tjoland, the band is like having another family, and not just because his brother, Erik, plays bass.

He credits the group with bringing him out of his shell and helping his faith grow.

“I just hope we’ll be able to praise God through the music and play anywhere we can go,” Tjoland said. “Having fun while praising God.”

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