One of the more peculiar signings in recent Tooth & Nail Records history, sister-sister duo Poema (comprised of Elle and Shealeen Puckett) made a name for themselves earlier this year with their debut EP Sing It Now. The style they carried in their first effort wasn't anything complicated or really all that profound, but something about their approach was charismatic and comforting to the listener. Incidentally, their approach is carried on through their Christmas project, Once A Year: A Poema Christmas EP, which boasts five more tracks for their newfound fanbase of holiday joy and merriment.
Like with every EP, Poema only gets a few songs to work with. It is immediately evident from the first track, "Have Yourself a Merry Christmas," that this EP picks up right where Sing It Now left off. The semi-sweet melodies with acoustic guitars and keyboards make a return, but for the Christmas theme the Pucketts implement, it fits interestingly well. Slow and serene, the vocals jump out to carry the old favorite along in deft fashion. "Wool Coats" reflects on winter memories, pastimes and romance, and to be picky about it, it's really not a Christmas song at all; but with a few saxophone interludes, the song is quite a charming original.
While the first two tracks succeed at what they aim for, the other three falter in a few spots. Poema's cover of Mindy Smith's "Santa Will Find You" stands out with the inclusion of a string section and a hauntingly fitting guest spot by Aaron Marsh of the late band Copeland, but the song's theme feels misguided. With lines such as "If you're far away on this holiday eve, and you're dreaming of being at home/if you're worried at all that you may be forgotten, you should know that you aren't alone.../so don't worry because Santa will find you/wherever you are, Santa will find you tonight," the song seems to advocate finding comfort in the commercialized aspect of Christmas instead of the true Reason of why we celebrate the holiday. "So Much More" somewhat falls into the same hole as well, focusing more on the love of family and friends (and the accompanying gifts to open on Christmas morning) rather than love of Christ that makes Christmas what it is. The EP isn't completely devoid of Jesus' birth, however, as Poema concludes with an acceptable adaptation of "Little Drummer Boy." Call it nitpicky, but when the duo decides to change the words from "I am a poor boy too" to "I am a poor one too" to awkwardly "de-genderize" the song, maybe a different song would have been wiser to cover.
On the surface, Once A Year: A Poema Christmas EP isn't a bad product at all from the Pucketts, and the style Poema exhibits fit the songs reasonably well to keep the entire project afloat. However, with not a whole lot of emphasis on the Nativity and more on the "stuff" of Christmastime and the cold weather, the EP borders on being disappointingly shallow. Fans of the duo will dig into this short set with little problem, but anyone looking for a more profound or spiritual look at Christmas won't miss much bypassing this effort.- Review date: 11/14/10, written by Roger Gelwicks of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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