I’m the kind of person who, by the time we get to the first couple days in December, is ready to listen to Christmas music…until I get tired of it by, oh, the next weekend. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the old hymns and carols — in terms of sheer beauty and lyricism, few songs compare (Christmas or otherwise) to “O Holy Night” and “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” I can’t hear either of those songs without getting chills. No, my Christmas music fatigue is due to the fact that it’s just the same songs over and over again. And since every musician feels the need to do a Christmas album, we’re overrun with these songs in hundreds of mostly uninspired arrangements. Seriously, do we really need to hear your sugary interpretation of “Away In a Manger”? Or even worse: “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”? I lose patience for that kind of thing pretty quickly. (The exception: Sufjan Stevens. His versions of your favorite Christmas songs, along with traditional hymns like “Come Thou Fount,” are pretty much brilliant.)
Anyway, off the Grinchy soapbox. My aversion to the same old carols means I’m always looking for good, ORIGINAL Christmas music. And it’s hard to find, Sufjan notwithstanding. But one of my favorite Christmas albums is brimming over with original music, and you need to listen to it. It’s by Andrew Peterson and is a full-length record called Behold the Lamb of God: The True Tall Tale of the Coming of Christ. It’s a conceptual folk album with a rich, storytelling style. Peterson is an excellent songwriter and this is probably his best work. Listen to it online or buy the CD here.
To further entice you, watch this concert video of one of the songs — a really fun one called “Matthew’s Begats” — from the album: