The Lower Lights: Fresh Christmas Sounds – UPDATE

Regular readers know I’ve been ranting for years about the need for fresh interpretations of our most beloved Christmas Carols; some of the radio stations around here have been looping Christmas music since before Thanksgiving and it’s the same stuff, every year: Mariah Carey bouncing, Tammy Wynette keening, Andy Williams howling and bombast from all the new, young singers. They’re all talented, but really? Is that loop all of the worthy Christmas music out there?

I mean, I’ve given up waiting for some savvy program manager to add The Roaches version of We Three Kings to the lineup! (Check out track #13) Or Amy Grant’s Breath of Heaven.

But I hope some enterprising playlists pick up on the wonderful work done here by a Mormon group called The Lower Lights, whose story and Christmas album Tony Rossi explores, here:

With a folk and bluegrass-flavored sound reminiscent of “Down from the Mountain,” the “O Brother, Where Art Thou” concert, The Lower Lights hooked this country-music-loving city boy from the second I heard the festive banjo arrangement at the beginning of “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful.” With a guest vocal from Brooke White (American Idol, Jack and White), that song sets the tone for the sacred and joyful music that follows. Though the album consists of traditional carols we’ve all heard before, like “Away in a Manger” and “Angels We Have Heard on High,” The Lower Lights make them sound fresh in no small part due to the sublime harmonies this collaboration produced.

You’ll want to read Tony’s whole, interesting piece, but I am too excited about this album not to mention their smart and exquisite rendition of Christina Rosetti’s “In the Bleak Mid-Winter” which can hear here, along with a few other cuts — you’re gonna love “Oh Come all Ye Faithful” too! I kicked and starting singing along with that a few bars into it! It’s completely infectious.

Here’s a clip of the recording process
, and below it, a non-Christmas hymn, called “Secret Prayer”, just because it’s good! You can order the Christmas Album here

Katrina Fernandez
is also fed up with the usual radio loops!

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Kathleen

    Could you link to the carol/video that you posted last year: “In the Bleak Midwinter” sung by a young boys’ choir.

    I loved it. thanks, Kathleen

    [you mean this? -admin]

  • pianogirl88

    Elizabeth….I just sent you a link to the Darke arrangement of “In the Bleak Midwinter” as well as “Once in Royal David’s City”. I’m saving links to post on FB over the next few weeks until we get to Christmas ~ not necessarily doing only things appropriate in Advent, but just the favorites that I love. I found a great video of “Every Valley” from Messiah that I will post tomorrow before I leave for the college.

  • Kathleen

    Thank you so much. “In the Bleak Midwinter” is even more beautiful than I remembered.

  • Jennifer Fitz

    That is just beautiful – thank you for the link! Our house favorite for cleaning-up to is City On A Hill’s “It’s Christmas Time”. Which dates me, I suppose, but it’s a great album. For instrumental, Michael Shull’s “Dulcimer Christmas” is actually made to be sung to. I’m interested to see what else other readers recommend.

    Jen <– always on the lookout for good Christmas & Advent music.

  • Scott

    thanks for the kind words, so glad you are enjoying the album.


  • Stephen Tefft

    Perhaps you might like this:

    I have two CD’s of original Christmas music if anyone might be interested… They make great gifts.

  • Scott Mescher

    My current Christmas favorite is Holy Child by Canadian singer Mark Masri……….it’s an awesome rendition, Mark has a terrific voice and the song pretty much follows St Luke’s gospel for Christmas……….you can listen to a segment here :

    or pick it up cheap at Itunes, etc…..

  • Browndog

    You might like this as well:
    Karla Bonoff’s version of the First Noel

  • Michelle R

    That was great – thanks! A new Christmas album…er…CD to buy.
    Sam Payne ( also has some fun and different arrangements on “Angel in the Snow”, but I couldn’t find a way to link to any for you.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Elizabeth, have you heard of a group called “Blackmore’s Night?” They have a great Christmas album out, with the best version of “Good King Wenceslaus” I’ve ever heard!

    Also, country music singer Brent Holl does a very good version of “O Sing a Song of Bethlehem”, an Anglican Christmas hymn, which is relatively obscure, and therefore hasn’t been done to death.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Benjamin Britten’s “Ceremony of Carols”, a classical piece, is also wonderful. I’m trying to get it onto my ipod, at the moment.

  • Bryan

    Sara Groves “O Holy Night” album is one of the most beautiful Christmas albums I have ever heard. It includes several arrangements of classic carols (I especially like her version of “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”) and several beautiful songs of her own composition (“To Be With You” is an exceptional example). I recommend it most highly.