Christmas Music – something for everybody

Christmas in the post-War United States

Christmas – what is your Christmas soundtrack?

About October every year I start to search for new Christmas songs to add to my growing list of carols… I have enough for a whole days listening so far.
However wading through some of the new albums is like listening to the sound of a wrecking ball smash all your favourite Christmas songs into 1000 little tiny pieces.

So what is the best of this years Christmas offering?

For Those about to ROCK:

OK… so for the lovers of Christmas songs that rock a little harder than the usual…. here is this year’s picks:

John  Schilitt: The Christmas project
For those who remember the good old days of Christian rock, you would remember the legendary band Petra. John Schlitt was lead singer for the popular Christian rock band from 1984-2006. For those who like the whole 80’s hair rock, and the rock from the 90’s such as Def Leppard, Aerosmith etc, this would be a good fit… rocking up some old classics, and like any good rock band from that era the vocals are enough to break window panes… let me hear you Scccccccccreeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaammmmmmmmmmm!

Side note: If you are looking for a little rocking single, download ‘Little Drummer Boy’ by Whiteheart… a bit of a Christmas rock classic that you should have in your collection

For those looking for some soul:

Ok something heavy isn’t your thing what about some Gospel based stuff.

Marvin Sapp: A Christmas Card
Marvin, who made his name in the contemporary gospel group ‘Commissioned’ with his distinct Gospel sound, gives a rounded Christmas album with ‘A Christmas Card’ . This album gives a good mixture of new Christmas focused songs as well as a scattering of old classics with a modern Gospel twist.

Jonathan Butler: Merry Christmas to you
The first Christmas album by the two-time Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter-guitarist Jonathan Butler is a little gem. Gospel, soul and jazz  tinged Christmas songs with a couple of new songs to make sure this album is one for the stocking. It has some great gentle jazz infused guitar colouring this album from the start to the end… just enough to keep you wanting more,  like that turkey you’ll go for seconds for!

A little poppy and something new:

I LOVE discovering people who are doing some of my favourite songs in new and exciting ways… and I love finding albums that bring new Christmas songs and that tell the Christmas message (which is thousands of years old) in a new and exciting way!

For King & Country: Into the silent night
This has to be the greatest find for me this Christmas.
With the Indie pop infused feel of the likes of FUN (Some Nights) this EP is just a cool little album, mixing great harmonies with beats that push the songs forward and the pop sensitivity of a marshmallow in a hot chocolate – sweet and gooey with depth and flavour.
The single ‘Baby Boy’ is my favourite new song this Christmas with a chorus that cries ‘Allelujah’… pushing towards the phrase “Endless hope and endless joy started with a Baby Boy” – isn’t that how Christmas started?

Citizens: Repeat the Sounding joy
For some funky Indie pop from Mark Driscolls ‘Mars Hill Church’, check out Citizens. Funky guitars and horn sections give a feel of SKA music without actually being a SKA band… it’s great to hear this sound re-imagined. This is a fun album and will almost guarantee to get your foot tapping at some of the arrangement. The great thing about albums that sit with more of an Indie feel is that they often aren’t as polished as some other albums… and believe me for albums like this it’s a great thing.

The Classic ‘Christmas’ album:

Some people are just looking for a Christmas album that does stray to much from the norm… it’s the sound of the malls and I understand that… so hear are some new albums with that middle of the road Christmas sound.

Brandon Heath: Christmas is Here
“Chestnuts roasting by an open fire…” accompanied by the sound of strings and a soft snare drum being played by sliding brushes. This sums up this album. For those who like Micheal Buble then this is the type of album you need to add to your list this Christmas.

Sidewalk Prophets: Merry Christmas to You
Like Brandons album the Sidewalk Prophets ‘Merry Christmas to You’ is filled with strings and fun as the band focus on bringing you faithful renditions of some of the classic arrangements that we know for Christmas… From the ‘doo wops’ from ‘White Christmas’ to the haunting melodies of  ‘What Child is this’…

and finally….

Just for Fun:

A Christmas is a time where we remember the gift we were given by God at Christmas, his son Jesus  Christ. It should be a celebration, and while there are times to be reflective it’s about coming together as a family and celebrating.
If only I could find an album that is fun, but Christ focused, family focused but not stiff around the neck…

The Robertson Family: Duck the Halls, a Robertson Family Christmas
The Robertson family have shot to fame with their fly on the wall reality TV show called ‘Duck Dynasty’, that show’s a  multi-millionaire Christian redneck family, that made it’s money from making Duck callers. The focus of the family is Christ, family and the love for the south, and these guys (and gals) will make you chuckle out loud as they just say things as they see it.
The albums is true to this also, with members of the Robertson family reading parts of the Christmas story and a mixture of a few classics like “I’ll be home for Christmas” and “Away in the Manger” with award winning bluegrass star Alison Krauss. Most the album is a fun country/bluegrass redneck Christmas with “Santa looks a lot like Daddy” “Camouflage and Christmas lights” and “Hairy Christmas” with Country stars like George Strait, Luke Bryan and Josh Turner also helping out along the way.
This album is worth the money for the closing prayer alone… remember what Christmas is about and thanking Jesus for dying on the cross and raising again so that we could too. If only every Christmas album could be as upfront about the gospel message as this one is.


Album Review: Luke Dowler ‘West’

west_coverWhat is the sign of a great songwriter?

I think it’s when the artist can release an album that when stripped back stands on it’s own merits, both lyrically and melodically… and still makes you feel like it’s relevant and forward focused.

This is why I love Luke’s approach to his music “I try write each song as if it’s my last” says Dowler.
Lets be honest, with all the hype of album releases and hit songs and the occasional craze hit single, isn’t the thing the music buying public is most interested in songs that connect to them?
These new songs from Lukes newest EP ‘West’ are the best he’s produced yet.

The EP starts of with the pulse of the bass drum , and some percussive clicks, before the familiar groove of the acoustic guitar pull the song ‘Revelation Firewater’ in.
I knew when I heard this track that Luke had grown. It was a strange mixture of Dave Matthews and Bruce Springsteen but still uniquely Dowler…

‘Good Enough’ has to be my favourite track on the album… this is the type of track that Luke fits best in. Sure, he can do other styles well (as this album will show) however this type of track is where Luke is G.O.L.D.
‘Good enough’ is a heart felt track that has a swag of a southern song, the gospel feel church and a whole heap of soul… it starts off beautifully with an acoustic guitar and Luke lamenting “You’re taking me for a ride, but I’m doing all the driving”. It’s a soul searching song that leaves Luke asking “Let me know when it’s good enough for you”… as the song grows so does the soul of the song.

‘Hold up the Sky’ a simple bluesy track that again showcases Dowler’s craft of songwriting.  This is the most stripped back track of the album and is what Luke is all about. This is heart and soul. This is about love. This is about adventure. This is about creating. This is about holding on to the things you treasure the most.
“Most people want the best things in life, but they don’t want to watch them grow”

The EP finishes with what I think is a bit of an odd choice. ‘Halfway’ is a track that is heavy on the drum machine beats and is a bit of a distraction from the path the other tracks have laid before it. While I can see the need to try and highlight the fact that Luke is multi-dimensional and can do a variety of styles… it just feels a bit out of place… It’s great that Luke tried to push new ground, however what Luke does best is the heart felt, soul tinged melodies that connect with you when you least expected.

And so ‘West’ seems to show a new ‘all grown up’ version of Luke Dowler.
Luke has discovered his groove, his soul and his heart and this is the most complete album from Luke yet.
If this is the new direction that Luke is going to be going in, I really look forward to see more of it.