PICTURED: Kelly Zirbes (of Kelly’s Lot) and Doug Pettibone. Photo courtesy of Totally Local VC

We could all use a little holiday cheer right about now and The Local Love Project Holiday Album: The Spirit of Giving has come along just in time. Featuring top local musicians performing holiday favorites, the collection is the very embodiment of good will toward all, most specifically those affected by California wildfires. Proceeds from the sale of the album will benefit the Local Love Project, a non-profit Ventura County-based disaster relief organization.  

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Sugaray Rayford, Kelly’s Lot, Raging Arb and the Redheads, Towse, The Vonettes, Boom Duo and more put their unique spin on holiday songs, ranging from “O Holy Night” and “Angels We Have Heard on High” to “Rockabilly Christmas” and “Run Rudolph Run.” Even the Ventura High School Choir gets in on the act with its rendition of “That’s Christmas to Me.”

The idea to record an album came about during last year’s Thomas Fire Remembrance concert at the Libbey Bowl in Ojai. Kat Merrick, founder of the Local Love Project and Totally Local VC, remembers being backstage with some of the musicians and Ralph Carter, a local record producer/songwriter/musician.

“It was like a love fest,” Merrick recalls. “Ralph said, ‘We should make a CD to remember this.’ ” They decided to make a holiday album because the Thomas Fire began on Dec. 4 — and what better way to lift spirits when they need it most? 

Carter and John Baffa, a recording engineer and the founder of TV Tray Recording Studio, donated their time, studios and talents to produce the album. Merrick acted as executive producer and one artist after another signed onto the project. “It’s just another example of the community giving back to each other,” Merrick says. Recording the album was an emotional experience. “It’s so beautiful,” she adds. “Sitting in the studio, a lot of the musicians were crying.” 

The rest of us can get teary-eyed — in a very good way — by listening to the album, which is available on CD ($15) at a number of local shops, including Avenue Thrift Store, BMC Hardware and Spicetopia in Downtown Ventura. (More stores will be carrying it soon.) It is also available to download at the Totally Local VC website (www.totallylocalvc.com/local-love-at-its-best-a-holiday-cd-to-benefit-fire-survivors/) and on Spotify.  

Fans can see some of the musicians in person on Friday, Nov. 8, at the Local Love Project CD Release Party and Second Annual Thomas Fire Remembrance Event at the Masonic Lodge in Downtown Ventura. “It will be an evening of music, love and a time for our community to come together,” says Merrick. Thomas Fire survivors who are signed up with the Local Love Project, or who can show proof of loss, are admitted free to the event.

The holiday album is just one of the many things that Totally Local VC’s Local Love Project has done and continues to do for survivors of California wildfires. Merrick herself lost her home to the blaze, but within two days from the start of the Thomas Fire, she helped start the nonprofit.

“You feel better when you help people,” says Merrick.

She is not alone. The project’s mission is “Locals helping locals,” with a primary goal “to activate and organize our members of the community in the aftermath of a disaster.” It is a multi-stage effort that doesn’t end when the smoke clears and the sirens fade.

“It’s a three- to seven-year recovery period,” Merrick explains, from evacuation to settling into a new home to acquiring all the basic necessities. The list is long, but the community rallied. “The community has never been this tight.” The Local Love Project has helped more than 700 wildfire survivors and helped warehouse and distribute more than $1.9 million dollars in necessary items. 

The need continues but the Local Love Project is still going strong, just like the community it represents and serves. Purchases of The Local Love Project Holiday Album will help make it even stronger. 

The Local Love Project CD Release Party and Second Annual Thomas Fire Remembrance Event takes place on Friday, Nov. 8, at the Masonic Lodge, 482 E. Santa Clara St., Ventura. For tickets and more information, visit www.totallylocalvc.com.