I suppose there’s a reason that I’ve never recorded any non-religious holiday songs; even though I love “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (etc.), I guess I’m mostly drawn to songs that speak to the mystery of the Incarnation – the incredible story of God putting on flesh and living among us.
“Once In Royal David’s City” is a carol that dates back a little over 150 years. Though it isn’t often recorded, it deserves to be more widely known. It reads like a simple children’s sermon, as if explaining to a small child about Jesus’s birth and early life: “Day by day, like us He grew / He was little, weak and helpless / Tears and smiles like us He knew.”
For the music, I had a very clear idea; I wanted a very percussive guitar paired with a melodic cello and violin arrangement. The goal was to have very simple instrumentation that still felt complete and full.
As always, I’d love to hear what you think, so please comment below!
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Nine years ago, my manager introduced me to someone that she thought I’d enjoy working with – an artist and songwriter named Staci Frenes. Ever since that day, I’ve been a true fan. In honor of the Christmas season, I’d like to recommend to you Staci’s CD “Wise Men and Angels” – a record that has become a regular part of my personal holiday soundtrack.
Christmas records can go off the rails in several ways; familiar classics arranged in ways that are just too safe and cliched. Or, conversely, songs so extremely re-worked that they are beyond recognition. Here, Staci and producer Nate Sabin have carefully – and inventively – arranged the requisite classics (What Child Is This, O Come O Come Emmanuel, Silent Night, etc.) along with one very good original song (the title track).
Acoustic, inventive arrangements. Warm instrumentation. Staci’s effortless voice. It’s a perfect little gem of a Christmas record.
One of my all-time favorite songwriters was Rich Mullins. Although I don’t think Rich intended his song “Boy Like Me, Man Like You” to be a Christmas tune, I think it works perfectly.
The song asks the questions that I’d never thought to ask, but in retrospect seem so obvious. What does it mean that God became flesh – that Jesus was truly a little boy? Did the boy Jesus ever get scared playing hide and seek? Or try not to cry when he scraped His knee? I believe so. Jesus was fully human. Just like any little boy, He would’ve taken pleasure in skipping rocks and making snow angels (or maybe sand angels?) and He probably wondered why the girls were always giggling.
In Philippians 2, Paul writes that Jesus was “in very nature God” but chose to “empty himself” and become a man. This is the heart of Christmas – Emmanuel, God with us.
Check out “Boy Like Me” below – and please comment below to let me know what you think!
After my first solo record “All I Know” took off, I was suddenly faced with the need for a follow up record. I already had arrangements for several Christmas songs and had one original tune written, so a holiday project seemed like the right idea.
I don’t know why I never singled “What Child is This” to radio – especially considering that it’s my favorite carol arrangement on that record. Mandolin! Accordion! A song that’s usually so quiet and pretty turned into something urgent and upbeat – I just love the energy of it.
So here it is for your listening pleasure! And since I’m still a needy artist, please comment below with your thoughts. Or send cookies. Either way.
Our annual Christmas tour is coming up soon! My buddies Chris Cooke and Ernie Garza will be flying out West from their homes in Nashville, TN and Branson, MO (respectively) for a two-week run of holiday shows throughout the Northwest. Check out the video below for more info – and come out to one of the shows and say hello!
I almost didn’t record “Hark The Herald Angels Sing.” Let’s face it: this carol has been done to death – and worse, my arrangement seemed a little silly. So I considered dropping it from my song list.
And then, a memory; when I was a kid, for some reason the line “pleased as man with men to dwell” had always made me think of the phrase “pleased as punch.” And suddenly, I decided that my goofy version of “Hark” was actually okay. I realize that there’s no logic to this; I just felt, intuitively, that it worked. And now, it’s one of my favorite tracks on the record. Funny how that works . . .
“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20)
Not frivolous subject matter, to be sure. Listen for yourself below – and let me know what you think!
My Deep Roots record is – strictly speaking – a hymns project. So while “How Deep The Father’s Love” was only written 20 years ago, I knew it would fit in beautifully with a set of older, classic songs of the Christian faith.
In the studio, we went with a pretty simple arrangement that slowly rose to a dramatic conclusion; “His wounds have paid my ransom” – a lyric that answers the question asked by the title. Rachael Lampa provided some beautiful, heart-felt harmonies, and it quickly became one of my favorite tracks on the record.
What are some other modern worship songs that you feel could stand alongside great hymns of the faith? Comment below, y’all.
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