Despite some Country star power, it’s the CCM artists who had the goods this holiday-music review session.
The Disc of the Day belongs to Point of Grace. Along with “Walking Through Bethlehem” by Billy Smith and Dixie & Tom T. Hall, Andrew Peterson’s “Labor of Love” gets my vote as the best new Christmas song of the year.
The DisCovery Award also goes to an artist from the CCM genre. Lincoln Brewster‘s hits on the Christian charts include “Everlasting God” and “Love The Lord.” This singer-guitarist rocks. Buy his album.
DAUGHTERS OF BLUEGRASS/Walking Through Bethlehem
Writer: Dixie Hall/Tom T. Hall/Billy Smith; Producer: Ben Isaacs; Publisher: none listed, BMI/ASCAP; Blue Circle
—Featuring the lovely voice of Sonya Isaacs, this bluegrass waltz is an awesome audio gem. When her sister Rebecca and mother Lily join in as harmony singers, it soars straight to hillbilly heaven.
TOBY KEITH/Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree
Writer: Johnny Marks; Producer: Toby Keith & Randy Scruggs; Publisher: St. Nicholas Music, ASCAP; Show Dog Universal
—Toby turns this rockabilly oldie into a honky-tonk two step. As always, few modern country vocalists are as thoroughly steeped in the tradition as this man is.
JAIDA DREYER/I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
Writer: Tommie Connor; Producer: Byron Gallimore; Publisher: none listed, ASCAP; Streamsound
—And speaking of two stepping, Ms. Dreyer takes this classic out onto the country dance floor while down-home fiddles and steel back her solid vocal performance.
SAWYER BROWN/Joseph’s Prayer
Writer: Mark A. Miller/Gregg Hubbard; Producer: Mark Miller & Dale Oliver; Publisher: Travelin’ Zoo/Myrt & Chuck’s Boy, ASCAP; Beach Street
—Tender and touching, this new holiday lyric finds Joseph addressing God about the newborn baby in his care. Softly persuasive.
TOBI GORDON/Follow the Star
Writer: Tobi Gordon & Rob Thorson; Producer: Robert Metzger; Publisher: Bobby & Billy/Sony-ATV, BMI; Platinum Plus
—She doesn’t seem to have much lung power, but the nicely arranged track keeps her wispy, lightweight performance afloat.
LORRIE MORGAN/Wrapped Up in Love
Writer: Oliverius/Cole/Linville; Producer: Mark Oliverius & Kelley Corbitt; Publisher: none listed, BMI; LM
—Merry and bright, with plenty of good-natured fun. The sprightly track bops along, and her vocal performance is splendid. You country kiddies out there ought to check out Lorrie’s Christmas events at Opryland for a tutorial about how a real pro puts on a show.
LINCOLN BREWSTER & KJ-52/Little Drummer Boy
Writer: Catharine Davis/Henry Onorati/Harry Simeone; Producer: Lincoln Brewster & Colby Wedgeworth; Publisher: EMI Mills/International Korwin, ASCAP; Integrity
—Brewster is a highly regarded worship leader at a church in Sacramento. If his music there is anything like this, those services must seriously rock. The drum track is outstanding and his voice fits into the groove perfectly. When the guest rappers kick in, the rhythms explode. The CD is titled Joy to the World. It is essential listening.
SHERRI GOUGH/Cold December Night
Writer: Sherri Gough/Bill DiLuigi; Producer: Sherri Gough; Publisher: Steel Train, ASCAP; SG
—Gough’s locally recorded Merry Christmas Believe CD is dominated by her well written original holiday tunes. She sings them in an earnest soprano that occasionally veers off pitch when she reaches into her upper register. Lower your keys, and you’ll be fine.
POINT OF GRACE/Labor of Love
Writer: Andrew Peterson; Producer: Stephanie Chapman & Nathan Chapman; Publisher: New Spring, ASCAP; Word
—This appears on the group’s Home for the Holidays album, as well as on a 16-track Word artists compilation titled A Very Special Christmas. The ballad is beautifully embellished with delicate mandolin, piano and fiddle notes, not to mention their celestial vocal harmonies. Breathtaking.
NATALIE GRANT/I Believe
Writer: Natalie Grant; Producer: Bernie Herms; Publisher: Nat-in-the-Hat, ASCAP; Word
—Her airy soprano aches while keyboards tinkle and strings sigh throughout a hookless, meandering melody. It’s all very fey.
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