Christmas Recommendation

In addendum to the last post, I’d also like to highly recommend Jars of Clay’s new Christmas album, aptly titled Christmas Songs. I’m a huge fan of Christmas, but I’m not a huge fan of Christmas albums by everyday recording artists, so an album has to be really stellar for me to be sold (I pumped Sarah McLachlan’s Wintersong to everyone last year, for example, but couldn’t come close to warming to James Taylor’s middling effort). But Jars’ album isn’t the warmed-over pop nonsense that clutters holiday shelves these days, with halfhearted renditions of carols sandwiching poorly composed originals, instead, it’s as good an album as they’ve ever put out.

It makes sense that Jars would be fully suited to such an endeavor, this is a band that successfully reinvents their sound for each new album, so putting themselves into a Christmas mindset proves a fluid transition. Standouts from the album include original songs rather than being the dreck you sort through waiting for “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas;” both the peppy “Love Came Down at Christmas” and sedate “Winter Skin” are exceptional. Some of the best standards are the ones that are most unlikely, like a beautifully orchestrated, thumping-bass version of Paul McCartney’s terrible “Wonderful Christmastime.” Epic reinventions of past favorites like “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “Drummer Boy” are here as well, but my favorite so far is the poetic “Peace Is Here,.” “Angels sing in righteous envy, kings of earth kneel by the throne,” croons Dan Haseltine. “Born to push against the Fall, far as the curse is found.”

Let’s see James Taylor match that.

By the way, exactly a year from now you can purchase the Third Day/Jars of Clay Christmas concert and hear my voice. Due to my endless network of connections (my co-worker, Nick), I scored some backstage passes to the show and ended up sitting just behind the soundboard. However, I ended up seated perilously close to the crowd mics, which aren’t really set up to have people be that close. So during the sing-alongs, you might notice a pleasantly off-key New England-Texan twang coming from your speakers, along with a voice that occasionally goes “woo!” at inappropriate intervals. I’ve pretty much got my Christmas shopping for next year done.