Point of Grace Keeps It Country on Home for the Holidays

Artist:  Point of Grace
Title:  Home for the Holidays
Label:  Word Records

Latest Christmas collection offers country harmonies proclaiming the true reason for the season ...

Point of Grace has set the bar high with past Christmas albums. The first two, released when the vocal group was a foursome, brought their beautiful signature harmonies to life through two timeless seasonal soundtracks that closely mimicked the sounds found on the group's successive studio releases.

Home for the Holidays, the group's fourth holiday effort and latest as a trio (a third Christmas album was released in 2008 as a compilation of the group's first two holiday projects, along with one new track), follows the country sounds found on No Changin' Us. Produced by Stephanie and Nathan Chapman (Taylor Swift), the album is filled with the sweet timbres of the banjo, mandolin and steel guitar. However, the trademark harmonies are very much present, and though definitively "country" in sound, the trio doesn't stray so far to the left that longtime fans will lose interest. It's essentially a holiday version of No Changin' Us—country-tinged sound, strong Christian message.

From the first notes of the singable twist on "White Christmas" to the fun, Grand Ole Opry styled "Candy Cane Lane," Point of Grace puts a memorable stamp on some traditional favorites. The title track is intertwined with a rendition of "Silver Bells," on which their children join them. The trio also covers "Little Drummer Boy" and "Joy to the World." "Holly Jolly Christmas" is the only traditional favorite that seems a little out of place with its extreme country twang and unnecessary dialog in the middle of the song. However, it's the newer, original tracks that really stand out and make this collection one listeners will want to pull out year after year.

The gentle acoustic rhythm of Andrew Peterson's "Labor of Love" is a nice fit for Point of Grace's foray into country. This gem is a standout on Peterson's beloved Behold the Lamb of God album and tour, and the group's version is equally as charming. "Not So Silent Night" is a lovely play on words that boasts a plain melody but a strong message; while the last song, "The Giver and the Gift," is perhaps the best. Jim Brickman plays the piano part on a simple melody line, and while this song doesn't necessarily shine a strong spotlight on the group's well-known harmonies, lyrically, it's haunting with the poetic turn of phrase that Jesus is both the giver and the gift.

Though, on the whole, this release is not as strong as Point of Grace's previous Christmas albums, Home for the Holidays holds its own and provides enough festive arrangements and beautiful originals to be a memorable album fans will enjoy for years to come. And if there was any doubt as to the direction the ladies are going musically, this effort affirms that they are indeed country bound.

**This review first published on November 2, 2010.