For the first time since 1998, all of the original members of Smalltown Poets have been able to record together in the studio. All five members traveled to Atlanta, Georgia to work on “Christmas Time Again”, which released in 2014.
“Through the miracles of modern technology and recording, we have been able to still create music as a band, even though the five of us all live in different cities across the country,” states Michael Johnston, lead vocalist. “This opportunity to all come back together to record has been an amazing experience. It felt a lot like coming home.”
Despite the Georgia heat and humidity, the Christmas spirit was alive and well in the studio, as recording the album truly was a reunion for the band. “Almost immediately, we fell back into place musically. From picking out songs to arrangements to performance, it seems as if we never stopped touring and living in the same areas,” explains Danny Stephens, keyboardist for the band.
After the success of the bands debut Christmas project, “Smalltown Poets Christmas” in 2011, a second holiday album was a welcomed concept. Filled with traditional holiday carols, favorite songs, and a few originals, this project is a refreshing addition to any Christmas music catalog.
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Smalltown Poets Christmas: The Sequel| Posted November 07, 2014
Getting a band to release a full-length Christmas record? Rare.
It being a true artistic achievement worth annual replay? Even rarer.
Getting them to do it twice? Practically unheard of (unless you're a solo artist who's been in the biz for decades, like Smitty... priceless if you can pull it off).
Yet Smalltown Poets have done just that. They stormed back from a hiatus in 2011 with a full-length Christmas offering and now just three years later have offered up another--a Christmas album sequel--Christmas Time Again--and it's overflowing with Christmas goodies.
Traditional meets the modern! "The Wassail Song" goes rock. There's a nice Latin choir intro track and then--BAM! It hits you with a "didn't see that coming" riff. "Merrily On High" gets a catchy, modern sheen. What a classic chorus! It's a lot like "Angels We Have Heard On High," only the "Gloria" is even longer.
The crowning jewel? "Patapan"! What's a patapan? It's a sound of a drum. (The old fashioned kind, not those new high tech things rock bands play around with in packed arenas.) There's a Christmas song named after that? Yes. You might've even heard it popularized instrumentally by Mannheim Steamroller. But a modern pop band covering it? They must be crazy--or brilliant? Because this song is an album highlight that is surprisingly amazing. Opening with an unassuming pop/rock melody, the traditional verses are peppy and danceable. But really, it's the new chorus/bridge that really stands out. The Poets have turned a quirky little renaissance-sounding carol into a moving and soaring worship song. Can you say "wow" to that? I am. Other common carols get Poeticized and would've fit on the first album as well.
Shiny New Toys!
The title track, "Christmas Time Again," is an emotional and moving original ballad about coming home that just resonates on all levels. There's lots of good Christmassy imagery that balances the secular and the sacred aspects into one nice familial package. This is a good Christmas dinner tune for sure and succeeds in reaching for classic status.
The A Capella Invasion!
An a capella cumulative song? What in the name of Hermey the Elf is a cumulative song? Think "12 Days of Christmas," only different. "Children, Go Where I Send Thee" is a traditional African carol with such a structure. After the near-a capella "His Delight" the last go-round, this one feels appropriate. And the band knows not to stretch it too far and cuts the verses at an appropriate place before things get tedious. Let's hear it for trying new things and them working.
Other stocking stuffers!
There's a "Christmas Lullaby," which is a nice little addition. Like last time, there are some interludes: the aforementioned intro, a children-lead "Sing We Now Of Christmas," and a mostly instrumental sendoff of "Auld Lang Syne." There are lots of good presents to unwrap from this release for sure.
Smalltown Poets have done it again. Their first Christmas release was one of the best-kept secrets of Christian Christmas music of the past few years. If they'd stopped there, we'd still have been lucky. But they went and crowdfunded a second outing. And on top of that, bucking the trends of sequels not living up to their predecessors; this sequel actually can stand on its own legs. Which one is better is a matter of preference, but really, what does it matter? This record is an enjoyable listen from start to finish and that's uncommon for Christmas releases.
Smalltown Poets has an uncanny ability to blend all the ingredients necessary for a memorable Christmas release and Christmas Time Again exemplifies that perfectly. Don't you dare miss this one. Together with the first release, it solidifies Smalltown Poets as one of the strongest forces to be reckoned with in the Christmas Music rodeo.
Songs to Download Now:
"Christmas Time Again" & "Patapan"