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New Christmas Music

11 December 2012

joyOne of my favorite things about the Christmas season is the music.

Because on the one hand, you have some really great hymns that only come out for one month each year. I love hymns because they’re tested. The ones that are being sung decades, if not a century, later use gorgeous music and great lyrics; they’ve stood the test of time.

Then there’s the modern, religious Christmas music. Some of which is an abomination, but some of which is beautiful and inspirational and hymn-ish in the making.

Even the not-religious Christmas music is mostly cheery and catchy, and just makes you feel good. (Some of it makes me never want to travel south of Illinois ever again. And some of it makes me never want to buy shoes in December, but most of it is delightful.) 

The problem is that it seems like everyone in the music biz wants to release a Christmas album every few years, and because I’m cynical I assume it’s usually to play off their fan base and rake in some extra dough.

Because you don’t have to write anything new for a Christmas album. You can just record some of your favorites, slap a nice image on it, and BAM – you’ve released a new album. The hymns have been done a million ways, so it’s hard to come up with a fresh feel, and who needs one more chick singing the same song the same way? If you can’t do it better than Etta James (and you can’t) then why waste our time? And original Christmas songs are harder to come up with because you’re going up against some serious tradition.

I love Christmas music, but I’m skeptical of new Christmas albums.

This year, though, my friend Shannon sent me Lincoln Brewster’s new Christmas album, Joy To The World, and I really dig it. I’m not much of a Lincoln Brewster fan, but this is a great bunch of Christmas tunes.

What I love about it, is that it’s very aptly titled. Brewster, for the most part, goes with re-recording the classics, but he absolutely reinvents some of them. That’s dangerous ground, but he nails it. He reintroduces a whole lot of joy to the music and the season that you didn’t even know was missing.

His title track, “Joy To The World,” is probably the most genuinely joyful version of that song I’ve ever heard.

That’s followed up with “Little Drummer Boy.” I know – I never really got that song either. Sing it in your head for a moment. Right. Now speed it up a bunch, add a hip hop verse (Brewster doesn’t rap, don’t worry – guest artist), and suddenly I actually like that song.

Same story through most of the album. Brewster takes “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” “Do You Hear What I Hear?,” and “O Holy Night,” and actually makes them joyful. These are great songs, and I like the original versions of most of them, but some of them, you have to admit, sound more like funeral dirges than Christmas cheer. Brewster’s versions sound like the guy really likes Christmas.

There are a few originals, and a couple are new. They’re peppy and Lincoln Brewster-ish.

If you’re looking for some fresh music for Christmas this year, check this one out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Have you heard this album? What do you think? What artist or album are you rocking this Christmas? Favorites?

Disclaimer: Although Integrity Music sent me a free copy of this album in exchange for a review, all of the thoughts and opinions above are completely my own.

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