Sounds of the 2012 Christmas Season: Reverence for the Season – Bob Dylan and Jim Cole

886975732326Any friends or family of mine know that I am a what might be called a Christmas music enthusiast. My library of Christmas music grows by leaps and bounds each year and it’s already large enough to take several days to get through without listening to the same track twice. In this post I’d like to feature a couple of albums that have risen to the top in my Christmas rotation so far this season. I think both are worthy of your consideration if you’re looking for a couple of decent albums to provide the score to your holiday season.

Bob Dylan’s CHRISTMAS IN THE HEART, in the past couple of years, has become a staple Christmas album for me. Those not familiar with him usually, at least, raise an eyebrow at the first sound of voice as it drops on top of the lush, warm background arrangement. But, it doesn’t take long to find the groove and begin enjoying the album which comes across as a nostalgic remembrance of classic Christmas music of years ago. From “Here Comes Santa Claus,” to “Silver Bells,” and “O’ Little Town of Bethlehem,” the album is, indeed, a heartwarming collection.

Jim Cole’s UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN is brand new in my collection this season and, while it is a different direction than Dylan’s Christmas album, it also treats the holiday season and the notion of a Christmas album with an intentional respect that comes through clearly in each song. While Dylan’s album focused on popular Christmas songs, both sacred and secular, Cole’s album focuses on the sacred center of Christmas with traditional favorites such as “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman,” and “What Child Is This?,” in addition to other tracks such as “In Bethlehem Tonight,” that, while lesser known, are just as carefully crafted and performed. The folk music tone of the album is reflective and quiet and Cole’s masterful guitar work provides a common thread throughout the duration of UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN. It isn’t as widely circulated as Dylan’s Christmas offering, but, certainly, just as worthy of your ear during the holiday season.

For Your Benefit: BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT by Josh Harmony – free download available 6/5/12

For those of you who are familiar with this blog, you know that the music of Josh Harmony has played a significant role in my life over the past year or so (see earlier Harmony-related posts). I was graciously introduced to his music by the ever-accomplished Erick Cole (who collaborates with Josh on a good deal of his music) a year or two ago and, since that time, have gradually become more and more appreciative of the distinctive and sincere approach that Josh Harmony takes in making music. It wasn’t until much later on that I found out that Josh Harmony is actually already a well-respected name in the skateboard world (see some great shots of him in action, an interview clip, and a music clip here). Anyways, my main point of this post is that Josh’s first full-length album, BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT, will be available for free download from his site starting tomorrow, Tuesday, 6/5/12 for a limited time. You owe it to yourself to check it out. Your typical run-of-the-mill-sausage-product music download, BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT is not. In the meantime, check out two songs already released by Josh via You Tube:

Encouragement For Encouragement: Josh Harmony

Skateboarder and musician Josh Harmony has a very worthwhile project in the works that he could use some help with to get off the ground. While its true that he is a pro skateboarder, the down economy has hit the skating industry as well and the funding necessary to give his new full album project the support it needs is simply not a given. He’s got some great incentives listed for pledge categories starting out as small as $1, so, please, take a moment to watch the video and give it some thought. Music from his last two EP’s LAMPS and TALLER THAN TREES have been a tremendous source of inspiration and encouragement for me in the wake of the end of my father’s battle with brain cancer. For that, I owe a great deal to Josh, Erick, and all involved with this great music.  Please check out the video and consider making a pledge. Thanks.

View the video here.

Wheels

In that early morning hour

Of the only night

That winter chose to bite

The wheels left tracks

In a thin layer of snow

From the back door past

The reach of the porch light

Into the dark

Of little consequence

A business transaction

Complete

With an appointment made

For later

In the day

To seal the fate

Of the broken jar

The gurney carried

But that you

Left

Behind

It was the tracks

In the snow that continued on

In my mind

As I drove home

The singer sang

“Let Jesus lead you,

Let Jesus lead you,

Let Jesus lead you

All the way

All the way 
Lord

From earth to heaven

Let Jesus lead you

All the way”

Sundays Vol. 2 – A Worship Collective

SUNDAYS VOLUME 2: A WORSHIP COLLECTIVE, from Calvary Church Of Pacific Palisades, has been one of the most consistently played  albums in my library over the past several weeks since it first arrived in my mailbox thanks to a friend. There are a couple of reasons for this including the the logical and probably most cited rational anyone would use for wearing out new music: its great music! However, unlike a typical album that one might pick up that has one or two tracks that stand out and become the pillars that support the weight of the rest of the album, SUNDAYS VOLUME 2 showcases a flowing stream of inspired, artfully-crafted, quality music throughout the duration of the album. While the dynamics of intensity, emotion, and arrangement vary within and between each track there remains a constant of focus and consistent artistic integrity in the music that makes the album seem less like the backing score to the passage my daily life and more like a sanctuary where the chatter and static of my daily routine dissolves and the elements of life that should be foremost finally come into focus into their proper order. Unlike many other albums that I’ve heard that might be classified as worship, the tracks on SUNDAYS are all arranged in a manner that effectively balance the vocal and musical contributions of worship leader Travis Taylor with those of vocalist Kendall Payne and musicians such as Erick Cole to create recordings that are personal, creative, and cohesive without devolving into a collection of tracks featuring individuals pining for the limelight or, alternately, generic congregational anthems that lack creativity and are quickly forgotten. Lyrically, each of the songs shift the listener’s attention, through slightly varied angles of reflection, to our Father and recognition of the many ways that He provides for us: hope and peace of mind in the midst of challenging times (“Be Still And Know,” “Overcome”), redemption (“Maker Of The Ocean), and the privilege of having the opportunity to praise Him (“How You Love Us,” “Adoration”). Each track showcases an eternal truth in its lyrics coupled with carefully textured, quality music that has been able to stand the test of repeated listenings and will for years to come.

Preview and order the individual tracks or SUNDAYS VOLUME 2 – A WORSHIP COLLECTIVE as a whole

For more information:

Music – Calvary Church Of The Pacific Palisades

Travis Taylor