Written by: Laura Chambers (November 9, 2017)
At no time of the year is the saying “everything old is new again” more true than Christmas. Whether it’s reviving that classic toy your grandparents wrote to Santa about, or decorating the house Victorian style with popcorn garland, colorful ribbons, and Yule logs, there’s something about the holidays that makes you want to remember the way it used to be. Music is no exception; artists who have long since moved off the top of the charts (last century!) return seasonally to radio stations everywhere with their renditions of timeless Christmas music. (It is also religious music’s time to shine, as you’re probably (sadly) unlikely to hear Jesus’ name praised on mainstream stations, rather than abused.)
Tenth Avenue North attempts to capture a bit of that nostalgia by presenting a collection of Christmas songs performed in the styles of Christmases past in their holiday album entitled Decade The Halls: Vol. 1. Each song embodies the spirit of music from a different decade, and many of the tracks include guest vocals from other artists.
I have to start by giving them points for authenticity; a ragtime(?) version of “Good King Wenceslas” sounds as though it’s being played on a phonograph, crackling noises and all. It reminds me of some of the really old radio shows you hear re-played at night these days. A joyful cover of “O Come All Ye Faithful” goes the way of big bands, complete with trumpet flourishes, drum solos, and a swinging tempo that invites dancing. I‘ll bet they had a lot of fun doing this. “O Holy Night” is more mellow and thoughtful, the perfect mood for a sacred meditation on the meaning and setting of Christ’s birth.
“The First Christmas” brings along Zach Williams for this rocking romp that tells the story of Nativity. There may not have been all of the trappings we associate with the holiday today, but we received the most important thing of all the first time around. Bonus points for the sax solo. “Deck The Halls”, which (sort of) lends the album its title, has an additional chorus that reminds us in the midst of decorating who it is that we’re celebrating. “We Three Kings” includes a “queen”, Britt Nicole, in its bluesy re-telling of the coming of the wise men. An added bridge takes the song higher, like a booster rocket strapped to a module.
“Go Tell It On The Mountain” is a different arrangement from the one they did some years ago. Nevertheless, it works. The addition of a children‘s choir echoing “Jesus Christ is born” makes me think of school pageants. A slow, sentimental cover of “The First Noel” features Colton Dixon. The harmonies in this track perfectly blend together, like the scent of gingerbread and pine boughs. “Mistletoe (The Christmas Sweater Song)” is a fun rock song wherein the well-dressed singer is waiting for his wife underneath the mistletoe, but she’s late to arrive. When she finally does show up, he’s been waiting for hours. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” mates the traditional song replete with thees and thous and an otherworldly dance melody; guest singing is Sarah Reeves.
Spanning the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, Decade The Halls has something for every generation of the family. And if the title is any indication, we can expect more holiday favorites from Tenth Avenue North eventually. I’m looking forward to it already.
Released: November 10, 2017
Label: ReMade Records
- Good King Wenceslas 1:43
- O Come All Ye Faithful 2:47
- O Holy Night (feat. Jon McLaughlin) 4:13
- The First Christmas (feat. Zach Williams) 2:22
- Deck The Halls 4:09
- We Three Kings (feat. Britt Nicole) 4:22
- Go Tell It On the Mountain 3:19
- The First Noel (feat. Colton Dixon) 4:31
- Mistletoe (the Christmas Sweater Song) 3:24
- God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (feat. Sarah Reeves) 3:46
10 Tracks 35:00
Buy on iTunes
More from Tenth Avenue North:
- Over And Underneath (2008)
- The Light Meets The Dark (2010)
- Tenth Avenue North Live: Inside and In Between – EP (2011)
- The Struggle (2012)
- iTunes Session – EP (2012)
- Cathedrals (2014)
- Followers (2016)