Artist: Steven Curtis Chapman
Title: Joy
Label: Provident

Like his new Provident labelmate Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman definitely knows a thing or two about making a holiday album. But for Chapman, it's the third time that’s truly the charm with Joy, an album that totally lives up to its name.

Striking a fantastic balance between singing the carols we all know and love like “Joy to the World,” “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let it Snow” and “What Child Is This?” Chapman also throws a few festive originals in the mix with “Christmas in Kentucky,” “Christmas Time Again” and “Christmas Kiss.”

Far less ornamented than his usual pop recordings, the more stripped-down vibe suits this material, not to mention Chapman’s voice, particularly well. And while he does a great job with the more upbeat tracks, it’s the slightly melancholy moments with the haunting performances of “In the Bleak Midwinter,” “Christmastime is Here” and “I Am Joseph (God is With Us)” that truly sing.  Warm and contemplative, they can’t help but instantly transport the listener to a holiday state of being.

After such a long, storied career in Christian music, it’s nice to see that Chapman still has a few new tricks up his sleeve. Perhaps, what’s even more surprising is that it took a third Christmas effort to showcase just that.

If a picture didn’t already say the proverbial thousand world with the album cover, what ultimately makes Joy such a delight is that you can’t help feeling it with every track. In fact, it’s an album you won’t mind listening to again and again for years to come, which is far more than you can say for most established artists’ holiday efforts.

*This Review First Published 12/6/2012

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