- Artist: Small Town Poets
- Album: Christmas Time Again – iTunes/Amazon
- Released: 11/25/2014
- Label: Indie
- Standout Songs: “This Day In Bethlehem” and “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear”
- Score: 20/25
The twice Grammy-nominated Small Town Poets are a Georgia based alternative rock group. This is their second Christmas release and the quality and musicianship still shines on this their seventh studio recording. The blend of pop/rock hooks, original songs, and ancient Christmas carols offers a surprisingly cohesive project. Christmas Time Again is something that will not annoy the holiday cynic while delighting the biggest fans of Christmas.
“Cantus Sacrum/What Child is This” introduces us to a vibey synth textures with a boys choir, setting an ancient-modern tone right away for this project. Perhaps this is apropos with the tile “Christmas Time” on the CD. Then we enter the fun of “The Wassail Song” where the distorted guitar tones and 70s-pop vocals make you want to smile. However, their original “Christmas Time Again” tells stories like good pop music–but minus the cheese.
Don’t worry about it not being “Christmasy” enough. The renditions of traditional songs actually work well and anchor the. I can see some modern worship teams cover them, as they have a fresh sound that still reflects that “timeless” feel we all want in Christmas music.
The music production is top notch. It is simple yet full of enough color and rhythm to keep you from sleeping on your Christmas road trip. As with any good production of a band, you want to imagine the live performance. Mission accomplished. If you are looking for “worship team” music, this is not the sweet spot for congregational sing-alongs. But, as I said already their treatments of traditional Christmas songs and hymns surely fill a huge void for the house of worship Christmas.
The artistry with tasteful use of traditional choral sounds, strings while still being the alt-rock band from Georgia you expect. “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” is an example of the artistry of the terrific musical arrangements on this CD. You hear a tribal synth rhythm loop and piano, and end up with power guitars textured with strings. This Christmas hymn has not been treated this well in my memory of Christmas music.
I have to mention the vocal group singing—not just the choral parts—make this project up a notch from typical rock Christmas albums. Whether it is backing vocals or the a cappella “Children Go Where I Send Thee” Smalltown Poets stand out for their vocal work as a band.
I recommend getting this CD and to give it a shot listening all the way through. Some projects are pieced together, others have more for those willing to allow space for the whole story to be told. Small Town Poets artfully bring timelessness and freshness to Christmas with Christmas Time Again.