Friday, December 30, 2016

Christmas Stories - Jenny & Tyler


Recapturing childlike wonder

Christmas Stories
Artist: Jenny & Tyler (www.jennyandtyler.com)
Length: 9 songs/35 minutes
Label: Residence Music

On Christmas Stories Jenny & Tyler succeed in making eight classics and one new song their own. The opening “Christmastime” is an original written by Jenny, Tyler and Trent Monk. Among the many seasonal references the song expresses the hope of finding childlike wonder. With the help of producer Ben Shive this is what the album accomplishes.

As with several of the songs there is a classic feel with a light jazz backing. This, however, is not the whole story.

The fourth track, “The Maker of the Sun and Moon,” an old British hymn, has a markedly different sound. It’s more like a soft rock anthem. It has a driving rhythm that is propelled by light percussion and strumming with some beautiful acoustic accents.

It also marks the turn to praise and worship:

     O Perfect Love
     Outpassing Sight
     O Brilliant One
     O Radiant Light

The chorus above may represent Jenny & Tyler’s contribution as they share the credit for the songwriting.

Again, there is somewhat of a change-up on the next song, “O Holy Night.” Jenny sings the first part like a tender lullaby with just sparse instrumentation before Tyler joins in with a fuller sound. The background is somewhat ethereal, which is a welcome change from over-produced versions. Too much production is not a problem on this release.

It would be easy to overlook the two instrumentals because they are short in length. That would be a mistake. Together they provide a tender, magical interlude and an elegant benediction.

“Handel’s Messiah” is the longest track, being a medley of highlights from the famous piece. The arrangements are different enough to enable the listener to experience this anew. Overly familiar pieces don’t require as much attention. This had me listening more carefully, and I was impressed by how the different parts present the complete story of Christ, from before His advent to His exaltation.

“White Christmas” is a delight with initially just acoustic guitar backing. As with “I’ll Be Home” the pace is relaxed. The words and sounds are crystalline.

This is the first time Ben Shive has worked with Jenny & Tyler but not his first Christmas effort. Together they have done a marvelous job of helping listeners feel a bit of wonder through a variety of styles.  
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