New Music Reviews: October 2021 Christmas Releases

New Music Reviews: October 2021 Christmas Releases

Click HERE to listen to all these albums on YouTube Music; then, come back here to leave us a comment letting us know if you agree with our reviews!

Artist: Jason Crabb
Album Title: Home For Christmas
Producers: Tim Akers and Jay DeMarcus
Label: Red Street Records
Song Titles: Being Home For Christmas; Mary Did You Know; Who Could’ve Dreamed
Version Rated: YouTube Music
Rating: 4 Stars (scale of 1-5 Stars)

When it comes to Christmas music, I wish more artists would release a 3-song EP as Jason Crabb has done. I like this concept better than rehashing a bunch of classic songs performed the same way we’ve heard them performed before. (By the way, the Zach Williams album below is a rare exception.)

With that being said, one of the three songs Crabb includes is yet another version of “Mary Did You Know” that brings nothing new to the song we haven’t heard before. Thankfully, the opening and closing tracks are brand new songs. The soulful “Being Home For Christmas” sounds like an instant classic with a mid-tempo soulful groove. “Who Could’ve Dreamed” is a thought-provoking ballad that asks “Who could’ve dreamed this child could be God with us?”

A complete album of new Christmas songs would be better, but an EP with one classic and two new songs ain’t a bad ratio. Rumor has it we’ll see these same songs return on a full-length Christmas album in about twelve months.


Artist: Zach Williams
Album Title: I Don’t Want Christmas To End
Producer: Jonathan Smith
Label: Essential Records
Song Titles: Christmas Time Is Here; Merry Christmas Baby; Mary Did You Know; White Christmas; Go Tell It On The Mountain; That Spirit Of Christmas; Silent Night; This Christmas; Run Run Rudolph; I Don’t Want Christmas to End
Version Rated: YouTube Music
Rating: 4 1/2 Stars (scale of 1-5 Stars)

I wasn’t sure what to expect in a Christmas album by Zach Williams, the guy who hit the scene in a big way with “Chain Breaker” in 2016 and followed it up with a great album Rescue Story in 2019. He’s recorded some serious stuff.

Williams went to Muscle Shoals, Alabama to record this album. With the rollicking opening track, “Christmas Time Is Here,” it appears Williams just wants to have fun on I Don’t Want Christmas To End. This is the most upbeat, celebratory version of that Vince Guaraldi classic I’ve ever heard, and just when you think it’s over, there’s a little more. The fun continues with the soulful “Merry Christmas Baby.” It’s a studio recording, but it’s inspired by the Bruce Springsteen live version including a sax solo.

There are ten tracks on I Don’t Want Christmas To End with a mix of secular classics like “White Christmas” and “Run Run Rudolph” and sacred favorites like “Mary Did You Know” and “Silent Night.” Brace yourself, though. You’ve never heard “Mary Did You Know” set over a groove quite like this, or for that matter, “Go Tell It On The Mountain” either. The only new song is the title track which is saved for last, but don’t believe for a minute the familiar song selection implies any lack of creativity on the part of Williams or his team.


Artist: Stan Whitmire
Album Title: Heaven’s Child: 20 Christmas Songs of Comfort and Peace
Label: Green Hill Records
Song Titles: Cherish That Name; Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song); All Is Well; O Come All Ye Faithful; Welcome To Our World; What Child Is This; Away In A Manger (Cradle Song); Heaven’s Child; Who Would Imagine A King; Some Children See Him; Come Thou Long Expected Jesus; Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne; Sweet Little Jesus Boy; Ordinary Baby; Bethlehem Morning; Down From His Glory; I Call Him Lord; Reaching; It Came Upon The Midnight Clear; Silent Night
Version Rated: YouTube Music
Rating: 3 Stars (scale of 1-5 Stars)

Heaven’s Child is a collection of 20 Christmas songs played on piano by Stan Whitmire, and it’s about as low-budget as it gets. Billed as “continuous play,” the CD offers an hour and two minutes of music without a break. Whitmire is an excellent musician and these arrangements are so simple and slow-paced, I would not be at all surprised if he actually played the entire thing in a single take. He could churn out several dozen albums like this per week, which is too bad, because he’s capable of so much more.


Artist: Gordon Mote
Album Title: Christmas Hymns & Carols
Label: Green Hill Records
Song Titles: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing; Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas; O Christmas Tree; Silver Bells; Mary Did You Know; White Christmas; Angels We Have Heard On High; Christmas Time Is Here; O Come, O Come, Emmanuel; The Christmas Song; What Child Is This; I’ll Be Home For Christmas/Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (reprise)
Version Rated: YouTube Music
Rating: 4 Stars (scale of 1-5 Stars)

Gordon Mote is on my top five list of all-time favorite piano players, so I was pretty happy when I saw he was releasing a new Christmas album for 2021 titled Christmas Hymns & Carols. In 2020, he shared a video on social media platforms each day leading up to Christmas, so I hoped some of those arrangements had found their way to this album. Later I saw it was recorded for the Green Hill Records label, known primarily for releasing boring, slow concept music, and I had reservations.

Thankfully, Mote’s creativity comes to the forefront. Tracks like the opening “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “O Christmas Tree” take you on a journey where you’re not entirely sure what he may do next. Others like “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and “White Christmas” initially seem predictable. But then you notice the unique chord structures, occasional flourishes, and improvised transitions that are satisfyingly fresh each time around.

Christmas Hymns & Carols trends toward slow-paced arrangements, but we also get “Angels We Have Heard On High” with a “Shave And A Haircut” quote and Mozart licks transitioning to a fierce walking bass pattern at one point. The album as a whole is not ideal, but those moments are worth seeking out.


October Christmas Releases Reviewed Previously
Gaither Vocal Band – All Heaven And Nature Sing (5 Stars)
Kevin Williams & Mark Lowry – Simply Christmas (4 Stars)
Click HERE to read those reviews

Jason Crabb
4 out of 5
Zach Williams
4.5 out of 5
Stan Whitmire
3 out of 5
Gordon Mote
4 out of 5
Overall

Average rating of all four albums:

3.88

Good
3.88 out of 5

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /nfs/c10/h06/mnt/141983/domains/blog.musicscribe.com/html/wp-content/themes/multimag-theme/includes/single/post-tags-categories.php on line 7
Category Reviews

David Bruce Murray

David Bruce Murray is a church music director in Ellenboro, NC. He is the author of Murray's Encyclopedia Of Southern Gospel Music and the owner of both SGHistory.com and MusicScribe.com. David plays piano for Southern Sounds Quartet and the Foothills Community Choir.

MusicScribe Comments

We love comments
No Comments Yet! You can be first to comment on this article!


Warning: Illegal string offset 'rules' in /nfs/c10/h06/mnt/141983/domains/blog.musicscribe.com/html/wp-content/themes/multimag-theme/functions/filters.php on line 200

Warning: Illegal string offset 'rules' in /nfs/c10/h06/mnt/141983/domains/blog.musicscribe.com/html/wp-content/themes/multimag-theme/functions/filters.php on line 207

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.