Haul out the Hooey

Well, it happened, dear readers. I was out in a big box store minding my own shopperly bidness, when I heard the most dreaded, four-note sequence known to the American shopper in the months of November and December: that cutesy little ba-dum-bum-bum walk-down from the V to II just before Brenda Lee, whose voice I’m pretty sure was robotically engineered by the corporate overlords of holiday shopping to sound like Christmas Kool-Aid incarnate (artificial, over-sweet, and dispensed by the gallon), launches into what I can only think of anymore as a sonic weapon of mass destruction: “Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell…” Can’t we just all agree that the song should start using the more experentially appropriate lyrics “jingle hell” or simply never be played again, ever?

Since that’s unlikely to happen, it’s once again time for me to provide my annual pre-Christmas warning about the crappiness of holiday music, which I first complained about several years ago.

It’s only November 29 and I’m already sick to death of “Jingle Bell Rock” and Burle Ives and “White Christmas” and the Ray Conniff Singers (”let’s all sing in unison everybody!”). Hasn’t anyone realized that there are only so many ways to rearrange “Silent Night” and “We Three Kings” before the songs collapse under their own threadbare weight? The state of Christmas music - Christian and secular - is atrocious.

The entire post is here. Don’t you say you weren’t warned.

Here’s to seriously hoping all this bad music doesn’t keep you from having a Happy Thanksgiving!

Update: Reader NG tsk-tsks me for failing to acknowledge Bob Dylan’s recent Christmas music corrective, Christmas in the Heart. I haven’t heard it and probably won’t rush out (digitally speaking) to get it. That’s not because it may not be very good (the clips on Amazon are sort of … perplexing, but Dylan’s is not a voice that excerpts well either), but because a)Bob Dylan seems to be dangerously close to Robert DiNiro territory these days (always doing an ironic imitation of popular perceptions of Himself) and b)Christmas music is just too far gone for even a genius like Dylan to breath new life back into the skeletal remains of holiday standards.

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  1. John wrote:

    Bah, humbug.

  2. Marty Funderburk wrote:

    There’s not much incentive to write Christmas music these days. Most new Christmas projects are loaded down with the old standards and may, or may not, include one new song. Because Christmas is steeped in nostalgia, people buy Christmas music that beckons to a simpler time - not to listen to, but to create a festive atmosphere with familiar background music. The grandfather of one of my friends wrote “Silver Bells” - he’s long gone, but she gets amazing royalty checks every year - like clockwork. So, while I may tire of hearing the same old Christmas songs every year, you wouldn’t hear me complain if I’d written one!

  3. cdguy wrote:

    Marty’s right. Some of those 4th quarter royalties are pretty awesome. I bet a handful of composers (and we could name a couple in our genre) who sing “God bless ASCAP & BMI” every spring.

  4. Randy wrote:

    Ah-ahl ha-have a-ah Blue Christmas, thank you thankyouverymuch. Y’all can have the rest.

  5. NG wrote:

    Below is a link to a site providing an index of hymns and carols of Christmas. It also provides the lyrics.

    There are a lot of ones of which I wasn’t aware.


  6. Paul wrote:

    Worth checking out this year - Big Daddy Weave, “Christ is Come” a tearjerker like Christmas Shoes is “I’ll Be Brave this Christmas”. Also Christ Tomlin “Glory in the Highest” Has anyone heard the new Ernie Haase and SSQ Christmas album or Christmas from Bill and Gloria Gaither?
    Already out of print, just to prove what happens to innovative Christmas CDs - Andrew Peterson’s “Lamb of God”

  7. Jake wrote:

    #6 Paul — Yes, I have heard the new EHSS Christmas album. Disclaimer: I am a big fan of EHSS. That said, I think it is a fantastic album. As was the case with Ernie’s solo Christmas album and the previous EHSS Christmas album, this one is a mixture of sacred and secular, fast and slow, traditional and non-traditional songs. With 16 tracks, it is a bargain, and it has something for everyone. Good quartet singing, but still lots of solo parts featuring each of the individual members. You can tell they are having fun singing, and it definitely gets out of the stereotypical ho-hum Christmas music.

  8. Hummingbird wrote:

    I think the Casting Crowns version of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” called “Peace on Earth,” (came out last winter) may very well be one of the newer Christmas songs to gain popularity.

    The song is an excellent old Christmas hymn based on a Longfellow poem and if you read the backstory of the poem, it becomes even more poignant.

  9. CVH wrote:

    Not to sound like the Grinch…oh, hell, who cares? I like Ernie Haase but I think their new Christmas record is pretty poor. The material ranges from predictable (”He Started the Whole World Singing”…gee, a Gaither copyright, hmmmm) to “Mr. Heat Miser”? OK, if you’re trying to put together a project that appeals to adults and kids, maybe, but even then there have got to be better songs that could be chosen.

    Beyond that, the vocals sound off in places - it’s almost as though they took a rough mix and ran with it - especially a few places where the choir just blasts in - not feathered in gradually - but just THERE - and predictably, right on cue where the lyric references a “choir”. Subtle, it ain’t. And there’s one spot on one tune (I don’t remember which one) where Tim Duncan has a solo line that’s doubled - really badly. To me it just doesn’t sound like the quality I’m used to hearing in their mixes.

    The orchestrations aren’t bad but the kick drum is way out in front of the mix on too many songs. I like much of Wayne Haun’s work but IMO this one’s a loser.

    Marty Funderburk makes an excellent point - maybe one new, original song on a record. Why? Not that there aren’t any decent Christmas songs being written but why pay mechanicals if you can record 10 or 11 public domain tunes and keep your budget down? Ho, ho, ho…let the crap roll on.

  10. Matthew Moore wrote:

    If you do not have “Joy, Joy” by David Phelps, you are missing out on one of the greatest Christmas recordings there is. Between that nd GVB “Greatest Story Ever Told” I Have all the Christmas msic I need.

  11. Joe wrote:

    But then there was the time I was alone in KMart, shopping for some grandkids’ toys, lost in my own thoughts…then in a moment, brought into the amazing presence of the “canned” Christmas music playing above my head.

    “…God and sinners reconciled!”

    4 words that speak to ALL the true story of Christmas brought to this sinful world. The whole thing, in just 4 words.

    It was a moment I will never forget. 4 words, by Charles Wesley. Music by none other than Felix Mendelsohn. That hymn, by the way, has some of the most enduring/endearing words ever written. Especially verse 2.

    I pray every year that the REAL music of the season, written by Scripture-loving believers of years ago, who lived for the Savior Who came to die for them, will still, reach the hearts of the lost. THANK GOD that among all the pure unadulterated camel dung that is passing for “Christmas music” these days, they still are playing the grand old gospel Christmas hymns. May they NEVER grow old!

    The best new Christmas hymn I have heard in the last 5 years, is “He Made A Way In The Manger”. Abolutely awesome.

  12. John wrote:

    Many folks have forgotten, or never knew, about the Cathedrals Christmas A cappella. That is, imo, the best Chrsitmas album ever. I know, we all make those comments frequently about the “best ever.” But, not me. In this case, it really, really applies.

  13. quartet-man wrote:

    #12 John, there are some really good songs on that, but I wish they hadn’t stacked the vocals so much. My favorites include Joy To the World and God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman, but I prefer the live version of the latter from their video back in the day. Just their four voices and no stacks. Great!

  14. Johnathan Bond wrote:

    MERRY CHRISTMAS! Here are two new Christmas songs that I have recently written.
    1) Do You Know JESUS (Matt McFarland - Crossway) http://www.southerngospelreporter.com/radio/doyouknowjesus.mp3
    2) The Gift Made The Difference (Johnathan Bond - Young Harmony) http://www.southerngospelreporter.com/radio/thegiftmade.mp3

    I hope you enjoy them both!
    Johnathan Bond

    - Always remember GOD is bigger than your problems!

  15. pk wrote:

    Steve Free, a hometown boy and international singer wrote a new song a couple of years ago called “Just a Baby Boy” which is really good. Probably the best Christmas song I’ve heard in a long time.

  16. Kyle wrote:

    My two favorites are the GVB’s “Greatest Story” album and the Oaks’ “Inconvenient Christmas.”

    The former only has one “traditional” cut with “The Christmas Song” (two, if you count “Mary, Did You Know;” I don’t). The rest of the CD is a solid and well-produced masterpiece of new material that isn’t too flashy, and at 10 songs, is a perfect length.

    The latter is, in my opinion, one of the best ORB CD’s ever made. The production is modern, crisp, and right all around. Again, only a few “standards” (”Midnight Clear,” “Beautiful Star,” and “Hallelujah Chorus”), and the remaining 8 songs are all new compositions.

    I’ll refrain from the self-promotion….

  17. NG wrote:

    I’m amazed Doug would write this blog in the same year in which Bob Dylan recorded his first Christmas album in more than 45 years of recording. His renditions of such classics as Here Comes Santa Claus and O Come All Ye Faithful bring a tear to the eye.
    Music lovers are rejoicing.

  18. Janet B wrote:

    Listening to Bob Dylan sing anything brings me to tears…and not in a good way! :)

    Ok…I’m a Christmas music freak. Love, love, love it. I work in a nationally-known retail store & I am in charge of the Christmas music this year. He he he. Our customers will be treated to the sounds of the Gaither Vocal Band, Signature Sound, Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael W. Smith, David Phelps, The Hoppers, Gordon Mote, Anthony Burger…as well as some Bing, Perry, Andy, and yes - Burl. Stick that in your Grinches hat, Doug! ;-) You should stop in sometime…

    I just got the new EHSS cd this past weekend. While I’m not in love with every song, What Child Is This? is my new favorite version. WOW. The best part is that they sing the correct lyrics - not just repeating “This, this is Christ the King” all the way through. “Nails, nails shall pierce Him through; the cross He bore for me, for you.” That is what it’s all about - amen?

    A happy & safe Thanksgiving to all!

  19. HP wrote:

    If you’re tired of the same ole music try these albums
    Downhere…”How Many Kings”
    Newsong….”The Christmas Hope”
    I never did like the song “Good King Wenceslas” till I heard Downhere’s version.

  20. HP wrote:

    Oh and Travis Cottrell’s album is nice. Really good song “Ring the Bells”

  21. cdguy wrote:

    Another recent song I love is from the contemporary Christian band DownHere. “How Many Kings” was big at CCM radio last year, and should do well again this year. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view) it hasn’t been covered by thousands of artist (like “Mary’d Juneau”), so it’ll take a little while for it to catch on at secular radio.

  22. Todd H. wrote:

    The best Christmas CD ever made was Mariah Carey’s “Merry Christmas.”

  23. NG wrote:

    Here’s a review of Dylan’s Christmas album which calls it “just a really bad record.” And you thought Doug wrote harsh reviews.

    Now that Dylan has done three gospel albums and one Christmas album, maybe he can be inducted in the SGM Hall of Fame provided he can find someone to sponsor his plaque.

  24. Matt G. wrote:

    I still contend that Avalon’s album Joy is one of the finest out there. There’s a great mix of new and traditional tunes. Jesus Born on This Day and Good News are the two highlights of the CD. Another great one in my humble opinion is The Gary Bonner Singers album For Unto Us. http://www.bonnermusic.com/

  25. NG wrote:

    Sorry I forgot to include the link to the review I mentioned in #23. Here it is:


  26. joe wrote:

    #23: LOL!

  27. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    All of Bob Dylan’s songs bring a tear to my eye…until I can find the ear plugs.

  28. Alan wrote:

    Oh dear…a Bob Dylan Christmas album? I went to hear him live a couple of years ago. He’s an American icon, after all. Willie Nelson opened for him. May I say that old Willie sounded like Pavarotti compared with Dylan? No offense, and music is indeed very subjective, but I shall pass on a Dylan Christmas CD. If he sang “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, I fear that it would make me long for the joys of being back in the West Bank. And if he sang “The ox and lamb kept time…” I believe I’d be begging for the ox and lamb to sing instead of him. And, if he sings “I’ll be Home For Christmas” to me, I have plans to travel over the holidays. :-)

  29. steven wrote:

    I tried listening to bob dylan christmas sound clips but it gave me the creeps.
    I actually, after hearing all the hoopla and criticisms, purchased the new EH&SS christmas cd. I’m actually quite pleased and listened to it a few times. I enjoy it because they mix sacred with secular songs, fun and faith filled (oh that was nice..).
    I agree with the poster about David Phelps “Joy, Joy” cd…one of the best Christmas projects.

    If you want a REAL good christmas musical selection try to find a James Brown Christmas cd…sure you may not understand a single word but it’ll get you in the spirit..HEEEEEYYYYYYYYYY

  30. Irishlad wrote:

    Doesn’t seem like a year since “O holy crap” thread.

  31. wanderer wrote:

    Hey don’t forget Kenny and Dolly’s Christmas album was pretty good.

  32. Irishlad wrote:

    Thanks to #4Randy i logged on to whatdoestheinternetthink.net and punched in Southern Gospel,waddya think the results were?…………well see for yourselves.

  33. planotx wrote:

    I like Christmas music, though I don’t consider the 25th of Dec His ‘birthday’. One of my favorites, Doug, IS Brenda Lee’s song, but not so much for the vocal as the instrumental. Maybe I’m just not sophisticated enough these days, but I love “Silent Night”, “Angels we have heard on high”, “God rest ye merry gentlemen” and a whole lot more. Are you going to start in on old simplistic hymns next?

  34. Casual Observer wrote:

    My new favorite is “The Song of Christmas” on NewSong’s “The Christmas Hope” project - sung by Drew Cline when he was a part of the group. But Michael Buble’s version of “Grown Up Christmas List” ranks right at the top of my all-time favorite Christmas songs.

  35. DMP wrote:

    I do love Strange Way to Save the World. I listen to it year round…

  36. Kyle wrote:

    Hand of Sweet Release.

  37. Kyle wrote:

    Also, is it just me, or is EHSS’s arrangement of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” pretty much identical to the Cathedrals’?

  38. Seriously wrote:

    This is a great Christmas song — not brand new, but certainly original.

    Written by Chris Rice

    Tears are falling, hearts are breaking
    How we need to hear from God
    You’ve been promised, we’ve been waiting
    Welcome Holy Child
    Welcome Holy Child

    Hope that you don’t mind our manger
    How I wish we would have known
    But long-awaited Holy Stranger
    Make yourself at home
    Please make yourself at home

    Bring your peace into our violence
    Bid our hungry souls be filled
    Word now breaking Heaven’s silence
    Welcome to our world
    Welcome to our world

    Fragile finger sent to heal us
    Tender brow prepared for thorn
    Tiny heart whose blood will save us
    Unto us is born
    Unto us is born

    So wrap our injured flesh around You
    Breathe our air and walk our sod
    Rob our sin and make us holy
    Perfect Son of God
    Perfect Son of God
    Welcome to our world

  39. Just Me wrote:

    Most all Southern Gospel Christmas music brings a “tear to my ear”!

  40. HW wrote:

    “Every Light That Shines at Christmas” is clearly a step above most Christmas projects, and that’s coming from someone who’s not an Ernie Haase/SSQ fan. Wide variety, fresh arrangements, new original songs, surprising choices — not your “throw it together at the last minute for your product table” offering.

  41. NG wrote:

    Now sure is this satire or not but the site below says a modern version of Joy to the World rewritten to remove references to Jesus has been voted the worst politically-correct carol by churchgoers.


  42. natesings wrote:

    #37- yeah, pretty sure that was intentional

  43. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    Word Music released a good choral collection of mostly new Christmas songs in 2008:

    It’s orchestrated by Lari Goss with great vocal arrangements.

    I never cease to be amazed by how many choral products sound exactly alike…but this collection is a cut above.

  44. Doug Sword wrote:

    HW, I couldn’t agree more. “Every Light That Shines at Christmas” is several cuts above most Christmas projects, SG or not. If you haven’t had a chance to see it, EHSS did a Christmas special on Gospel Music Network. It had several songs from the project. It was so well produced. It shows how good SGM can be when it is professionally staged.

  45. Doug Sword wrote:

    I meant to say Gospel Music Channel

  46. Jake wrote:

    # 44 Doug Sword — I didn’t get to see the Gospel Music Channel presentation, but as of last week you can buy the video of it from EHSS. Check it out at www.erniesigsound.com. It’s only $20, and it has 13 of the 16 songs from the CD. (Unfortunately, Mr. Heat Miser didn’t make it!) I’ve got mine ordered so I will get to see the program shortly.

  47. Ron wrote:


  48. KC wrote:

    Check this out:


    Specifically the review of this song:

    7. “Glory to God in the Highest” – Ernie Haase & Signature Sound
    I’m a sucker for southern gospel quartets. I know it’s not the most popular genre, but there’s something about the simple twangy harmonies and the combination and blending of four good southern voices that get me every time. EH & SS is one of the hottest gospel groups in the business, and their version of this song is unbeatable. Ernie sang the same song when he was with the Cathedrals (disputably the greatest southern gospel quartet of all time), but with his new cast of young, fresh voices behind him, there is no contest. Ladies, if you like deep voices there is a great bass solo in the second verse. Eat your hearts out.

  49. natesings wrote:

    #48- too bad it was Old Friends Ernie previously recorded it with and not The Cathedrals.

  50. Tyler wrote:

    Yes, there were several cuts on the first EHSS project that were Christmas music at its finest. Such as, “Glory To God In The Highest,” “Light,” and “Who Do You Think.”

    I really don’t like Christmas music all that well, but 4-part SG harmony with fresh, tight arrangements make it so much better.

  51. HW wrote:

    Speaking of Ernie Haase & SSQ, they were nominated for a Grammy award last night for “Dream On.”

  52. Aaron Swain wrote:

    #50: I really liked EHSS’s first Christmas project as well. I particularly enjoyed their arrangement of “Who Do You Think” that the Statler Brothers did on their “New Testament” album. It sounded very fresh and modern. “Tonight” and “Glory To God In The Highest” were standouts on there as well.

    Haven’t had the chance to hear their new Christmas stuff. I’ve gotten mixed reviews, so I’m interested in what it sounds like.

  53. Jake wrote:

    $52 — Aaron — just go get it! Either/or the CD or the Video. The video is the program as it was aired on TV, and has 13 of the 16 songs from the album, plus an interview in 5 segments as an “extra.”

  54. Scott Fowler wrote:

    My personal favorite performance of mine over the past 23 years I have been doing this is the afore-mentioned song by Chris Rice, Welcome To Our World from the Legacy Five CD, “We Need A Little Christmas.” I am getting old and I expect that will go down as one of my best over-all performances on a recording.

  55. matthew wrote:

    The best SG Christmas CD I’ve got is a double CD, one side Cathedrals, the other Gold City. The first SSQ Christmas is alright, especially “come make a place”….some of it is fluff though.
    I don’t have L5’s Christmas CD yet.

    To Scott Fowler: You’re not that old are you?? I had to think that Frank Seamans last night is coming soon…any chance of a live internet feed again???

  56. mattpaasch wrote:

    I agree with Scott, and L5’s album has quickly became one of my favorites this year!

    I bought the soundtrack album for my quartet and we’ve already staged “Christmas With A Capital ‘C’” last week and had a great response… I think it’s my favorite Christmas song right now!

  57. Faith wrote:

    I think Straight No Chaser has some fun Christmas songs…oh, wait, they are not SG, so is that allowed on here? ;)

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