Every family seems to have their little Christmas traditions come the holiday season. For some, it’s settling in for a poignant reading of the Christmas story and for others it’s a night on the couch sipping at rum-spiked eggnog while watching “A Christmas Story” marathon. Others celebrate with more hearty traditions, handcrafting edible delicacies while others make a night of it, driving around town to “ooh” and “ahh” at the brilliant light displays. Of course, if you’re longtime collective Folk Angel, those traditions also include the releasing of some great music like this year’s Live at Green Lux: Christmas Songs, Vol. 6.
Folk Angel has spent the past several years, beginning with the release of Christmas Songs, Vol. 1 in 2009, taking on the holidays, fusing their unique sensibilities with Christmas classics, reworking them as well as writing some originals to help “retell the Gospel story that illuminates all things.” And by and large, the group has been successful and this latest record finds them at the top of their game, performing live and showing great musicianship alongside a heartfelt vibe of celebration and worship.
The Texas-based band gets this off to a warm and inviting start with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” the vocals rich and accented by acoustic guitar before swelling into the band’s original “It’s Almost Christmas Time.” A song that manages to honor both the nostalgia of the holiday as well as its deeper streams of meaning, the track is a solid and energetic hit while “Angels From the Realm of Glory” shines with a reworked melody and kicking backbeat.
“Joy to the World/Go Tell It On the Mountain” is a fusion of rich country folk, swells of pedal steel and shuffling drums are given life by a reinvigorated melody line and playful whistling as the latter portion of the track is warm and heartfelt, the live handclaps giving the familiar classic an organic boost of life. “Away In a Manger” follows with a strong keyboard influence, not taking too many liberties while “Angels We Have Heard on High/Silent Night/The First Noel” is a great mashup of classic rendered in Folk Angel’s signature sound, plinks of banjo rambling throughout and pressing the track forward.
Those same banjo tones provide color and texture on the sublimely rendered “O Holy Night,” a gang vocal swelling throughout, enhancing the familiar yet always powerful lyric while “O Little Town of Bethlehem” is reimagined as a smooth worship track, the chorus rising to the ceiling with passion and a tagline that finds the band singing, “Oh, He has come!” That declaration gives way to what is perhaps the album’s most powerful moment, a spoken word interlude entitled “God With Us” that celebrates the coming of the Christ child and moves from that moment and looks to his sacrifice and our salvation, serving perfectly as a standalone moment of meditation as well as an opener to closing track “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus/Joy to the World.” The former sets the tone, building off of the truth already expressed while the latter lets it all hang out in a celebration of joy and hope, ending things on the perfect note.
Live at Green Lux: Christmas Songs, Vol. 6 finds Folk Angel operating at their very best. Continuing their mission of mixing and mingling Christmas songs with their own flair, the band musically molds them into shapes that take listeners into new places, allowing familiar lyrics to wash over them again, finding new life in their deep truths. Perfect for those looking for something deeper this Christmas season, yet still exciting and engaging, Folk Angel has what you’re looking for.