Review: Various Artists – Christmas: Joy to the World

CentricityThe Centricity Music stable of artists isn’t one known for big, splashy acts. Rather, the artists couched on the Centricity label are more known for their quiet, steady approach to their craft, boasting solid singer-songwriters like Andrew Peterson and Jason Gray as well as bands such as Canadian imports Downhere. This past year has seen that musical family grow as Jonny Diaz, Lauren Daigle, Unspoken, and Carrolton have come under the label’s wings and this holiday season they lend their talents to the simply titled Christmas: Joy to the World.

The album only boasts eight tracks but, while there are a few retreads, it’s a solid effort that showcases the best of the label’s roster, both old and new. Newcomer Lauren Daigle shows herself to be a force to be reckoned with, her rich and velvety vocals taking center stage on “Light of the World,” framed by bright keyboards and a swelling arrangement that makes full use of her powerful voice. Her take on “The First Noel” is a little less dynamic, subtle percussion carrying the track forward while Daigle sings through the familiar lyric with warmth and poise.

Jason Gray lends his voice to an eclectic rendering of “Joy to the World,” infused with an infectious pop groove and a renewed chorus that makes it worth a listen while Downhere reprises their Christmas favorite, “How Many Kings.” Unspoken reworks “Feliz Navidad” with some uplifting, spiritually-tinged lyrics as Carrolton delivers an appropriately moody, acoustic-fueled take on “What Child Is This” and Jonny Diaz croons his way through “Asleep in the Hay.”

But, as is so often the case, Andrew Peterson takes the cake here, his acoustic folk stylings, rich with guitar and dobro, carrying the message of the coming of the Christmas child with reverence and awe. It’s a warm, honest, and open track that truly does seem to capture not only the heartbeat of the season but of the artists represented here themselves, serving as a strong tent pole for the collection.

And that collection is one that, while not always stunning, is always solid and inviting. The Centricity collective old and new each deliver on their respective tracks and the inclusion of a familiar retread feels more like an old friend come to visit as opposed to a moment of over marketing and that’s a beautiful thing.

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