Billboard Bits: Muppets, LeAnn Rimes, New York Guitar Festival

Martina McBride Joins "Muppet Christmas Carol" soundtrack, LeAnn Rimes plans free New York show and the New York Guitar Festival readies for its sixth year.

Martina McBride's version of "When Love Is Gone" is a new addition to "The Muppet Christmas Carol" soundtrack, reissued yesterday (Nov. 22) in conjunction with an anniversary DVD edition of the classic holiday film. The balance of the Walt Disney Records set mirrors the original version, with Paul Williams' songs and score as sung by such beloved characters as Kermit the Frog (as Bob Crachit), Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem and Statler and Waldorf (as the late Marley Brothers).

Still featured on the disc is Meredith Braun's original "When Love Is Gone," as well as star Michal Caine (Ebenezer Scrooge) singing the joyous "Thankful Heart" upon his Christmas morning epiphany.

Dubbed "Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition," in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Jim Henson Company, the new DVD due Tuesday (Nov. 29) includes remastered version of the film in full-frame and widescreen format. Also reissued on DVD Tuesday are "The Muppet Movie," "The Great Muppet Caper" and "Muppet Treasure Island."

-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.

LeAnn Rimes will perform a free Nov. 30 lunchtime concert in New York Greeley Square (33rd St. & Broadway). In addition to her performance, the event will include photo opportunities with Santa Claus, free gift wrapping and cookie decorating all tied to MasterCard's "Home for the Holidays" promotion and sweepstakes.

As previously reported, Rimes will join Martina McBride and Carrie Underwood Dec. 8 in Auburn Hills, Mich., for the Country Cares concert to benefit Habitat for Humanity's work in Gulf Coast communities damaged by recent hurricanes.

-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.

Daniel Lanois, Bill Frisell, Jorma Kaukonen, Vernon Reid and Taj Mahal are among the artists slated to take part in the sixth annual New York Guitar Festival. The Jan. 14-Feb. 8 concert series will boast 60 guitarists playing 20 concerts at seven Gotham venues, including Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall and Joe's Pub.

"The New York Guitar Festival was established to raise money to fund scholarships to provide guitars and musical training free of charge," says founder David Spelman. "In the process, we aim to encourage hope and inspiration through music making at a time when arts education has fallen prey to so many budgetary cutbacks."

Others slated to perform include Toshi Reagon, Sonny Landreth, Rory Block, Jesse Harris, Laura Cantrell, Chocolate Genius, Alvin Youngblood Hart, the National, Mark Eitzel, Dan Zanes, Martha Wainwright and Michelle Shocked. For a full schedule, visit the event's
Web site.

-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.