{mosimage}This time of the year, the strains of Christmas music echo through the air in stores, offices and homes. Some of it is good, some of it is not so good. Some of it — usually the loops you hear playing over and over in stores — really gets on your nerves. I have a suggestion for those stores: Get rid of your pre-recorded tracks and slip in Faith Hill’s Christmas album, Joy to the World.
    Hill, who is without a doubt one of country’s shining stars, has put together a solid Christmas offering that reasonates with the true spirit of the Christmas.
    “I had a very clear vision for the type of Christmas album that I wanted to make,” said Hill of the album at its release in September. “Indicative of the big band orchestras of the ‘40s and ‘50s, with a full compliment of horns, stings, woodwinds, percussion and chorales. (The) orchestrations were a gift. They embodied everything that I could have imaged; unique and beautiful, and yet they seem as though they were always intended for these songs.”
    To get the sound she wanted, Hill reached out to The Nashville Orchestra as well as the London-based choirs Metro Voices and The London Oratory School Boys Choir. This album definitely isn’t your grandmother’s idea of a country music Christmas album. That’s not to say that it isn’t chock full of Christmas classics, because it is. The 11-track album has 10 of the most beloved Christmas songs in the world, and its 11th track is probably destined to become a Christmas classic.
    Hill’s voice soars on songs like “O Holy Night” and “Joy to the World.” I was not expecting the anthem-like rendition of “Joy to the World,” but the symphony’s backing, coupled with the majesty of the choir truly announces the joy of the birth of the Christ child.
    Hill’s voice doesn’t need a lot of trappings to help it soar. Take her execution of “O Holy Night.” The only instrument used in the majority of the song is Hill’s voice, and it is breathtaking. It is perhaps one of the best versions of the song I have ever heard.
    I have to say that while the traditional Christmas carols that celebrate the birth of Jesus are among my favorites, I am also a big fan of the secular songs as well. I am the first to belt out “Blue Christmas” or “Rudolph.” Don’t believe me, sit down and watch a Christmas show with me. But the inclusion of three of those songs — “Holly Jolly Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland” and “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” — is a little jarring. Not because they aren’t good. They are great. They are playful, and are enthused with a swing beat that leaves you wanting more. It’s more where they are in the CD that makes them problematic. You have these beautiful, heartfelt songs of adoration and then BAM — just like that — you’re hearing “You better watch out, you better not pout.” It just doesn’t flow. I think Hill should have committed to either having one or the other — but not both.
    But back to that song that I think is destined to classic status: “A Baby Changes Everything.” The first few lines of the song lead you to believe it is going to be a country song about an unwed mother. And, to a certain extent, it is. But it’s not about an unwed mother in our time, but rather an unwed mother who makes a trek to Bethlehem.
The song begins with these words: “Teenage girl, much too young / Unprepared for what’s to come / A baby changes everything;” and ends this way: “My whole life is turned around / I was lost and now I’m found / A baby changes everything.”
    To quote Faith, “Hallelujah.”
    Check out Joy to the World, you may find that it’s a favorite in your family, just as the songs are favorites with the Hill-McGraw family.

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