An Excellent New Christmas Album
Bruce Von Stiers
As I write this it is near the end of October. The other day I received a Christmas album to review. You might think it a bit too early to break out the Christmas music. But not really. Especially when the album is faith based and is from a terrific Contemporary Christian artist.
The artist is Andrew Greer. He has a group of talented musicians backing him that he calls the Angel Band. A couple of years ago I reviewed Andrew's album called Angel Band: The Hymn Sessions. Not only did I like it, so did a whole lot of other folks. Andrew's music might be called Christian alt folk but that doesn't quite capture the essence of his songs.
This new album also features the Angel Band. The album is actually titled Angel Band: The Christmas Sessions. It has eleven tracks and lasts thirty-five minutes. The album was produced by Chris Kimmerer, who not only played drums for Sonic Flood, but has worked with Derek Webb, Crystal Thomas and Rachel Lampa.
With the album I also received some information about each song and a two-page glowing review from singer/ songwriter Cindy Morgan. She also did a duet on the album with Andrew.
Musicians who played on the album were Kyle Buchanan, Johnson Roberts, Cornelius Perry and Chris Kimmerer. Andrew also played on the album. Additional people helping out on the album were Travis Patton, Justin Sanders, Ward Williams, Phil Madeira, Emily Deloach, Melissa Greene, Julie Lee and Lee Ann Roberts.
From the first song, I could tell that this was going to be a great album. Andrew leads off with Do You Hear What I Hear. He infused a light folk tone to the classic holiday song. Not only does Andrew have fluid vocals, the backing vocals and the guitar are excellent. And the violin that filters through the song adds an extra folk styling.
An original tune written by Andrew is up next. The song is a mellow tribute to God and Jesus called The Beginning of Love.
Another original tune is My Troubles, which Andrew co-wrote with Kyle Buchanan. It has bits of Joy to The World mixed with endearing, haunting lyrics. In her review of the album, Cindy Morgan mentioned this song was a bit darker and had a “Johnny Cash-esque” sound to it. Even if I hadn't read that, I would have come to same conclusion about the song. It has a definite country-folk sound to it.
Andrew does a tender, folk influenced rendition of In The Bleak Midwinter. There is some terrific mandolin and guitar backing Andrew.
Often haunting, Andrew gives a gentler tone to the classic Ave Maria. Sandi Patty, who has recorded this song herself, lends her superb voice to this wonderful rendition.
The musical trappings of Andrew's rendition of Lo How A Rose E'er Blooming includes a nylon-string guitar and a hammered dulcimer. The latter portion of the song features an orchestral string and choral sound.
Head bopping, toe-tapping music can be found in another original song, My Soul Sings. This smile effecting song, co-written by Andrew and Anthony Mangin, is their interpretation of The Magnificat.
Another classic holiday song finds its way into the eighth position on the album. Joining Andrew in a terrific rendition of The First Noel is Phil Madiera and Emily Deloach. I especially liked Emily's part in the song, with the guys providing nice backing vocals. Of course, Phil has a distinct voice that does well here too.
The McCrary Sisters, Ann and Regina, performed on the earlier Angel Band album. They also appear here, helping out on a very well done rendition of Little Drummer Boy.
I mentioned earlier that Cindy Morgan sang on the album. Her contribution is a terrific duet on A Cradle In Bethlehem.
Closing out the album is Silent Night. Gentle and warm are what came to mind when I heard this rendition. It was a wonderful way to end a terrific Christmas album.
It's really never too early or late in the year to listen to Christmas music. Especially when it is indeed faith based and extremely well done. Such is the case with Angel Band: Christmas Sessions. The album has both terrific traditional Christian Christmas songs as well as touching original compositions. Andrew Greer has provided an excellent Christmas album.
Angel Band: The Christmas Sessions will soon be available. In the meantime, check out Andrew's web site for the most up-to-date information on this, and other music from him. That site can be found at www.andrew-greer.com
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© 2013 Bruce E Von Stiers