The full Irish treatment gives these polished carols and new hymns extra edge
Time: 12 tracks / 52 mins
Always good for a major production, the Gettys maintain their standards on this Christmas release, and being about to become parents must have helped them to sense the inside of the story.
Their last CD was Awaken the Dawn, which used the length of the album to compile a whole liturgical-service-worth of songs. It showed their depth of thought, their way with a good tune and their passion to create quality work.
Although the new tunes are a little muted this time around, the same comments could be made for Joy...
The artistry with which they tell stories – a personal trait - shows their depth of thought. For example, “Joy has Dawned” is a reworked co-write with regular song-mate Stuart Townend from their project based around the apostles creed. But lyrics like these Kendrick-esque ones below show that it is worth repeating the song is in a Christmas setting:
“Hands that set each star in place, shaped the Earth in darkness
Cling now to a mother’s breast, vulnerable and helpless.”
The follow-up song retreads some of these thoughts in its first verse, but uses an extended meditation about pathways for the second, beginning “Jesus, joy of highest heaven learning to take his first steps...”
As hymn writers, their concern is for good congregational songs that encourage and teach, so there is a lot of basic doctrine in these lyrics. The artistry is mainly left to the sound and production.
It is not just the usual polish that impresses, but more the attention to fill-in detail. You can almost see them listening back and thinking, “Ah, that needs a touch of Spanish influence here and a smattering of low-in-the-mix rock guitar there – and what about beginning “Magnificat” with a choral arrangement of the Wexford Carol ...”
While they seem to use half of the instruments found on Earth at some point, it is the full panoply of Irish musical style that dominates, especially in the carols. From fiery folk fiddles and accompanying accordion, to Clannad-esque vocal layers via the obligatory Uilleann pipes and Riverdance orchestration, this is unashamedly Celtic. Neither is it ordinary songs played on these instruments, but it is changes of chord in the places that only the Irish do that gives it such a bounce.
Although joy is the theme, Kristyn’s voice is better suited to ballads than to rocking carols and there is some contrasting muted wonder to give it rise and fall. But overall, the collection has a real kick to it, especially the four big carols. “God Rest Ye Merry” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” both get entwined with traditional reels; “Joy to the World” gets a new one, while “What Child is This?” has a Basque carol and a heavier backing to make it another of the set’s highlights.
This one impresses with its oomph at the start, while the quieter bits grow with each listen, making this an ideal disc to have playing through December.