Who doesn't love Christmas music in its appropriate time? Well…some people don't, but we who appreciate it for what it is can always rest easy in the knowledge that we'll only hear the carols from artists who genuinely love it as much as we do. This time our entertainers are Kutless, who most should know are no strangers to the world of worship music, having written and recorded two praise albums already, Strong Tower and It Is Well. Once again out of rock and roll mode, you can easily predict what their first ever Christmas EP, This Is Christmas, might sound like.
It's not like there is anything new to hear; there aren't that many ways to write Christmas music. It's Kutless playing a few classics and two originals. The EP opens with a heart-warming rendition of "Oh Holy Night," and then moves into its title track, which had previously been released as a single. The words set the stage of a still Christmas night, "Beyond the bows and mistletoe, the tree with presents wrapped below, there's more to this than you had ever thought," and then asks more than once, "What is Christmas if there never was a saviour wrapped in a manger?" A question many forget to ask.
After this comes "Breath of Heaven" and "Mary Did You Know," both of which are fairly rudimentary but enjoyable nonetheless. The real gem is their delivery of "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear," which was given some special attention and stuck as a more memorable song. A particularly cool and haunting twist to the melody features the addition of female backup vocals and a bridge of sultry acoustic guitar noodling. To finish off is "Beautiful," the only original track written for the EP, "It's beautiful: a child, a saviour, a king, with love like the world's never seen. It's beautiful: the bright shining star in the east, as angels sing, 'Gloria, unto us a saviour is born.'" Such a lovely track makes me wish the carols would continue.
So how do we critique an album that doesn't really sound at all like Kutless? Well, the musicianship is flawless, no surprises there. The whole thing does seem a tad rushed though. They come in, play a few Christmas songs, and get out; bing, bam, boom. There isn't quite enough intimacy there to make you want to put it on and curl up near the fire. Before you know it, it's finished, you're unsatisfied, and you have to finish your cocoa in silence.
Well, the upside is that this isn't a silly, have-fun Christmas adventure like you'll hear from a lot of artists. Kutless pays honest tribute to what Christmas really means, without any fluff. It's a little cold (there are no tracks about decorating the tree or roasting chestnuts), but it's a welcome distraction from the glitz. This Is Christmas is an EP that puts the "Christ" back in "Christmas," at least for a little while.- Review date: 10/18/11, written by Wayne Reimer of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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