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Your King Has Come: Christmas Music, With Dignity

  • Dan Schantz Entertainment Writer
  • 2001 25 Nov
<I>Your King Has Come</I>: Christmas Music, With Dignity
It is difficult to record a good Christmas album. We’ve heard all of the songs a million times. The melodies were written long ago, usually to be sung by a choir rather than a pop vocalist. The lyrics and arrangements run the risk of turning trite the most astonishing event in history. Is it any wonder we don’t listen to Christmas albums in July?

So it was with some fear that I listened to Your King Has Come, a production of Detuned Radio Records that pulls together the talents of Derek Webb (Caedmon’s Call), Andrew Osenga (The Normals) and eight other artists at varying stages of “Making It Big.” According to the liner notes, the album seeks to “compel you to seek this King, marvel at His majesty, wonder at His grace, and fall at His feet in awe.” For the most part, the album succeeds.

Four traditional Christmas hymns, centered around an acoustic guitar, open the album and create a mood more suited for a candlelight Christmas dinner than putting up Christmas decorations. Come Thou Long Expected Jesus serves as the invocation, in which the voices of Derek Webb and Sandra McCracken capture the eager yearning for the messiah’s arrival. O Come All Ye Faithful then invites believers to worship before the child messiah, after which What Child Is This and It Came Upon a Midnight Clear expand on the significance of the child we’ve come to worship.

The musicianship is usually understated enough to maintain the dignity of Christmas, while the voices speak with strength, tenderness or excitement as the need arises. Influences include Bruce Cockburn, Over the Rhine, the Indigo Girls, Mark Heard and Rich Mullins.

The album then turns up the volume. Jeremy Casella’s original, Joyful Fire, considers the wonder of a shepherd beholding a flock of angels, and considering his jubilant responsibility in light of the angels’ announcement. Although the electric guitars and drums are jarring after the soft acoustic feel of the first four tracks, the song works on its own terms.

The gem of the album is next: Of the Father’s Love Begotten by Andrew Osenga of The Normals. The fifth century hymn, usually sung by crusty Presbyterians, is renovated with the nearly acoustic sound of late 1980s Adam Again or late 1990s Bob Dylan: a coil-spring blues guitar, a swinging backbeat, a bass solo to punctuate the lyrics and a vocal performance that is nothing short of captivating.

The disc returns to an acoustic guitar format for Matthew Smith’s traditional O Come, O Come Emmanuel and borrows the chorus for the competent but lackluster title track that follows, sounding somewhere between Michael Card and Rich Mullins. The album wraps up with the piano-based Still Is the Night, a rendition of Silent Night more literal to the German. Your King Has Come concludes with O Holy Night.

Will I listen to the disc in July? Probably not. But maybe, like me, you’ve had enough of the malls. Maybe you’re sick of the television telling you that the “real reason for the season” is mere peace and family. Maybe you see your need to meditate on the reason we seek peace and do whatever we can to gather with family. Maybe this album is for you.

Your King Has Come is available at your local Family Christian Store.

Daniel Schantz lives in Washington, D.C., where he tries to unite Calvinism, the circus, and Douglas Coupland into a consistent whole.