Review: Triumphant – He Is Christmas

triumphantFor those who like their Christmas holidays sprinkled with a healthy dose of southern charm, look no further than the latest release, He Is Christmas, from Triumphant. And while this celebrated quartet delivers plenty of classic southern gospel harmonies and stellar vocals, they’re not without a few surprises up their sleeve, keeping listeners pleasantly wondering what’s behind the next batch of pretty wrapping.

“Repeat the Sounding Joy” leads things off in fine fashion, a warm horn section backing the toe tapping track that showcases their rich vocal harmonies, feeling like an old Cathedrals number, while “Celebration Medley,” the first of two medleys on the record, follows and delivers a solid collection of Christmas classics, anchored by swelling strings, banjo fills, and more. “Medley of Fun” is the other medley that makes an appearance here and it’s just what it promises to be, drawing from the more mainstream holiday tracks and offers up something simply playful and fun.

Mid tempo rambler “Blessed Be the Day (Of Our Savior’s Birth)” is a strong group effort grounded by bass singer Eric Bennett’s low tones and Clayton Inman’s lived-in lead vocals while “Thank God For Kids” reaches for the heartstrings, the weepy steel guitar and tender lyric reminding listeners of a fleeting sense of innocence. Taking things the acappella route, Triumphant shines bright on a pitch perfect arrangement of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” a true highlight here, as “Jesus What A Wonderful Child” draws from more horns and delivers some needed energy.

Tapping into familiar southern gospel ballad waters, “Hope Has Hands” will be a favorite for fans of old school harmonies as well as “Jesus Is Lord For All Time (with Silent Night)”, highlighting David Sutton’s smooth tenor voice with a track that incorporates the familiar melody. And any modern Christmas collection would nearly be incomplete without a cover of “Mary Did You Know,” which is surprisingly and ably handled by Eric Bennett, his bass tones lending the track an extra bit of gravity.

Another surprise comes in the inclusion of the great Aaron Jeoffrey track, “He Is.” A great addition to the set list here, the track follows the progression of Christ through the Scriptures and is wonderfully fitting and wonderfully rendered by the quartet, trading off lines and infusing them with plenty of passion. Equally enchanting is the group’s cover of Cloverton’s Christmas envisioning of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” The lyric reworks Cohen’s tortured spirituality, to the chagrin of some no doubt, into outlining the Christmas story. And while perhaps some of Cohen’s depth is lost, there’s just something about that chord progression and the repeated praise of “Hallelujah” that really hits home and Triumphant knock it out of the park.

A great listen for southern gospel fans, fans of Christmas music in general, and especially for those who want to keep their eyes and ears focused on the reason for the season, Triumphant’s He Is Christmas packs more than enough to help make your season bright.

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