Just because I’m a Bahá’í and don’t celebrate Christmas doesn’t mean I don’t love this season. Quite the contrary, in fact. There are so many aspects to it that I love, including the music. Maryland’s Fetal Records recently released A Colorful Christmas, a compilation album that sounds both familiar yet quite different from your typical Christmas album. Tapping into the record label’s existing talent, the set of 21 original songs and covers cover a broad number of genres, including blues, reggae, punk, rock, and world.
Some of the selections are known classics performed in a very recognizable way. The simplicity of “Angels We Have Heard On High” makes its lyrics sound even more poignant than usual; Charlie Sayles’ deep vocals come off as humble to the point of shyness yet warm and inviting, with the accompanying acoustic guitar and brush-played drums adding to the overall effect. Similarly, Sayles’ vocals add depth and warmth to “Silent Night”, making it sound like a version your grandfather would pick up his guitar and play. Not quite so similarly yet overlapping in sound is the delicately plucked guitar on the acoustic “Greensleeves” – it carries the entire song in a reflective, quiet way.
Other tracks are quite different from what one typically associates with Christmas music but don’t come off as jarring. Rather, they come off as intriguing. With Christianity having started in the Middle East, the musical touches from the region in “O Star of Mystery” come off as fittingly exotic. Between the flutes, the hand drumming, and the deep male vocals, this very short number is an attention-grabbing one.
The reggae vibe injected into “O Come O Come Emmanuel” comes off at first as a little odd but because it is introduced with a more typical rock-flavoured sequence, we are eased into it. Once the initial surprise washes away, listeners can appreciate the warmth of Scott Taylor’s vocals and the simple, yet tight instrumentation.
“Homeless Christmas” turned out to be a lot more cheerful than anticipated. The toe-tapping blues-infused rock number brings a sense of hope to such a dire situation. The upbeat “Peppermint Milkshake” is carried by a bouncy drum-led beat with horns and slightly distorted female vocals that seem to come from a 1970s television show.
Even songs that seem completely un-Christmas-like are thoroughly enjoyable, although they might not do well with traditionalists, such as the toe-tapping, blues-heavy rock of “A Christmas Blues”. It features a harmonica solo followed by one on guitar near the halfway mark that is built on a very groovy, almost sultry beat that makes for a good song but an unusual Christmas-related track.
In some ways, this album can be seen as an exploration of the true meaning of Christmas: getting out of one’s comfort zone and accepting the full diversity of the people who adhere to the Christian faith. Well worth a listen, A Colorful Christmas will add color to both your Christmas and perhaps even to your perception of the world. More information about Fetal Records and the compilation is available on the official website.
Pictures provided by Working Brilliantly.
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