Had not heard from Christian rockers Smalltown Poets since their last album in 2004, so it was a nice surprise to get a notice this week about a new release coming from them, a Christmas album due out November 1st.
Smalltown Poets were a bright light on the Contemporary Christian music scene with their 1997 self-titled debut, and they earned two Best Rock Gospel Grammy awards, seven Dove Award nominations, and a Billboard music video award over the ensuing years.
For their new Christmas-themed release Smalltown Poets Christmas the band retains their edgy alternative rock sound and applies it to a batch of classic carols and a few less familiar tunes. They imbue “O Come O Come Emmanuel” with just the right amount of gothic majesty, add guest vocals from Larkin Poe‘s Rebecca Lovell on “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, and give “In the Bleak Midwinter” a Jars of Clay-esque acoustic rock treatment; other familiar tunes such as “Angels We Have Heard on High” are present via brief mostly instrumental interludes.
The highlights of the album, however, are two nontraditional songs. “In The First Light” is from Christian a capella group GLAD, in Smalltown Poets’ hands it becomes an insistent, harmony-driven retelling of the classic Christmas story from a full biblical perspective. “St. Nick Is Alright” is an alt-pop sounding ditty that’s catchy and captivating while it addresses the Santa vs. Jesus dichotomy of the Christmas holidays: “We hope to awake around the earth to the sign of the gift we don’t deserve.”
Speaking of gifts you don’t deserve, I happen to have three free downloads of Smalltown Poets Christmas to give away–first three responses in the comments to this post get them, just make sure you include your email address so I know where to send them. If you don’t win, you can still stream the album from the band’s Bandcamp page at http://smalltownpoets.bandcamp.com/