Since “The Christmas Shoes” first became a mainstream hit, eventually morphing into best-selling books and movies, NewSong has continued to tap into that part of the American consciousness that loves homespun holiday heart-tuggers. “The Christmas Hope” follows in that same vein, yet with a captivating mix of styles. There’s something for everyone. It’s definitely got a Hallmark feel to it, which appeals to many listeners, but others will enjoy the jazz ballad “Southbound Flight” and the richly orchestrated “What a Wonderful World.”
The hushed tones of “Song of Christmas” open the project, the lush strings gradually building to a grand proclamation, lead vocals soaring. Oddly, neither the website or the CD packaging list vocal credits; suffice it to say, as always, NewSong brings it home, vocally. The first track to really capture my attention was the rockabilly take on “Jingle Bell Rock,” a la Brian Setzer, and yes, NewSong can swing when they want to. Didn’t see that one coming, did you? The gentle “What a Wonderful World” follows, nicely positioned, before the Christmas trilogy: Shoes, Blessing, and Hope. Of the three I enjoyed “The Christmas Blessing” most, Rachael Lampa’s warm vocals a delightful addition.
I’ve confessed to this before on this site: my weariness of the over-done and confusing “Little Drummer Boy.” I know, I know, it’s un-American. But I have to say that NewSong’s atmospheric take on this Christmas classic took me by surprise, and I enjoyed their thickly percussive rendition. The following track, the jazzy “Southbound Flight” was another treat, so good they did it twice. The first track uses classic jazz instrumentation, very smooth. The bonus version is stripped down and intimate, its raspy vocals beautifully paired with the warm lap steel.
To further diversify the project, NewSong offers a quietly sparkling “Silent Night/O Come Let Us Adore Him” medley, which wanders the musical terrain in a very free-spirited way. But don’t chill too much; next track is an up-tempo hand-clapper. Anointed joins NewSong for the classic gospel song “Jesus What a Wonderful Child.” By the time you hit that second “Southbound” you have been won over by NewSong’s multifaceted Christmas blessing. Let “The Christmas Hope” surprise you this season. Merry merry.