It’s not easy to restore my faith, per se, in Christmas carols. What was once a sign of presents to come and vacation to be had has been contorted like so many tannenbaum branches into the misshapen herald of yuletide pressure and maddening sameness.
Perhaps it’s seasonally fitting that a local pastor and musician provided my salvation this year. Cole NeSmith’s inspired, synth-heavy, appropriately Euro-tinged cover of 16th-century French carol “Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella” is one of many standouts on Hey, It’s Christmas! Vol. 2, the second annual collection of mostly Floridian indie carols curated by Orlando graphic designer and producer Greg Perkins. Among the album’s countless charms (streaming for free at heyitschristmas.com) is Oklahoma City singer-songwriter Eutopian Accident’s solemn take on “Masters in This Hall” (another oldie from France), Orlando buzz band Saskatchewan’s gentle, falsetto version of Wham’s “Last Christmas” and Moon in the Morning’s romantic original, “Hearts Are Warm (It’s Christmas).”
Perhaps most impressive is Nashville harpist-songwriter Timbre’s ethereal, mournful “Silent Night,” which is culled from her own gorgeous carol album, Silent Night (timbre.bandcamp.com), and captures within its seven-minute running time the divine humanity, chilly atmosphere and melancholic isolation that anyone, no matter their situation, can relate to this time of year.
Hey, It’s Christmas! Vol. 2 is a timely reminder that Christmas carols don’t have to be dreadful drugstore earworms seemingly engineered to guilt consumers into decking those halls a little harder. The fact that this beautiful collection was compiled by and mostly made up of area musicians is the real gift of the season.
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