Christmas music is as much a part of the holidays as tinsel and holly. But, if Christmas Muzak has you wishing the season was over before it’s begun, we offer these suggestions to bring a little joy back into your world.
Bryan Duncan & the NehoSoul Band
First released in 2005, A NehoSoul Christmas! is one of those albums that you look forward to dusting off each holiday season. Duncan’s arrangements bring refreshing, upbeat rhythms to some of the best-known Christmas classics, including “Little Drummer Boy,” and “Silent Night.” Song of Salomon’s background vocals are reminiscent of the soulful harmonies of the old Motown days. Featuring Duncan’s smooth vocal prowess backed by Big Band musical accompaniment, “Christmas Comes But Once a Year” is an easy favorite.
Grammy-winning Casting Crowns released its first Christmas album in 2008. The original song, “While You Were Sleeping” (from the Lifesong CD) is a welcome addition to a compilation primarily made up of Christmas hymns sung in Crowns’ familiar modern-worship style. The substantial vocal talents of Crowns’ female members, Melodee DeVevo and Megan Garrett, are more prominent on this album than some of the band’s previous CDs. Most notably, the women share lead with Mark Hall on the cover of Amy Grant’s “God is With Us.”
Heath’s brand new release showcases his abilities on anticipated classics, including “Away in the Manger” and “Silent Night.” But we’re also treated to three newly penned songs, “The Day After Thanksgiving,” “Momma Wouldn’t Lie to Me,” and “Just a Girl.” Heath’s rendition of Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song,” is surprisingly fresh for an oft-covered standard. The singer/songwriter has exhibited a boldness in his music of late and this first Christmas compilation seems to be following a similarly unpredictable line. The result should please even the most die-hard traditionalists while bringing some new Christmas music aficionados into the fold.
In another 2005 release, the quintet from Texas put their personal spin on familiar Christmas fare. The ballad “Joseph’s Lullaby,” penned by lead singer Bart Millard is the only original song on the album. Still, this is by far one of the best, most original Christmas albums produced in recent years. From the mandolin-based bluegrass sound on “Silent Night,” (also featuring an uncredited appearance by Amy Grant) to an inspired version of “Winter Wonderland” and “White Christmas” that sparks with a New Orleans jazz sound, MercyMe once again hits on all cylinders. A sure bet to melt even the most Grinch-like heart.