If Christmas songs seem stale, and you wonder if they can ever sound fresh, Brandon Heath and producer Ben Shive answer a resounding “yes!”
Christmas is Here
Artist: Brandon Heath (www.brandonheath.net)
Label: Provident Label Group
Length: 10 tracks/34 minutes
If I could purchase only one Christmas recording this year, it would be Christmas is Here by Brandon Heath. The cover of a smiling, scarf-draped Heath, Christmas album in hand, vinyl record spinning in the foreground, fireplace in the background, all hint of the rich nostalgia that you find here.
This has all that one might want in a seasonal recording: new compositions and classics, humor and inspiration, playfulness and wonder; and not least of all, a talented producer, Ben Shive (Andrew Peterson), who is a master of retro sounds. Shive was at the helm of last year’s standout, Snow Globe by Matt Wertz, on which Heath was a guest.
The opening “The Day after Thanksgiving,” could not be timelier. I need not inform anyone that Christmas started earlier than ever this year. This is a lighthearted plea to wait until after the day for giving thanks.
“The Christmas Song” brings out the crooner in Heath, while “Momma Wouldn’t Lie to Me” has him fronting a swinging fifties sound. One of the last lines is so funny that I won’t reveal it. What would Christmas be without some surprises?
The a cappella “Silent Night” with its background choir of female voices, sounds like a song from an old Hollywood classic, along the lines of White Christmas or The Bishop’s Wife.
The horns and choir on the closing medley “O Come All Ye Faithful/Angels We Have Heard on High” make it stately. I enjoyed the occasional, restrained use of these items and strings.
By far though, my favorite moments are the bluegrass-influenced tracks like, “Go Tell it on the Mountain,” which has never sounded better. The judicious use of Dobro highlights this aspect. The interplay of acoustic sounds in a rural style befits the more spiritually-minded tracks.
This includes “Just a Girl,” a beautiful, imaginative look at the circumstances surrounding Christ’s birth.
If Christmas songs seem stale, and you wonder if they can ever sound fresh, Heath and producer Ben Shive answer a resounding “yes!”