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Peace on Earth
Artist: Casting Crowns
Label: Beach Street Records
Time: 10 tracks/39:54
I own the self-titled Casting Crowns disc. We sing a few of their tunes at the Contemporary Worship service at my church. So I am mildly familiar with them, though not a die-hard (like some band mates & my oldest brother). I appreciate lyricist/singer Mark Hall’s abilities to sometimes (not always) stretch beyond typical worship lyrics. The band has a pleasant, distinctive sound that isn’t innovative or different, but is well-crafted & suits their songs well. As I looked at the details of their new Christmas project, Peace on Earth, I was immediately worried. Nine Christmas standards & one reworked song (more on that later) did not excite me. I wanted innovative wordplay. But I am a sucker for a well-done, familiar Christmas carol. Would Casting Crowns deliver?
“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” kicks off the album with flair and creativity. Wow! The bar has been raised. I am now intrigued, nay excited, about the rest of this disc. The next several songs are nothing special, well done but filler honestly. I have been brought back down to Earth.
Now, about that reworked song: Mark Hall originally wrote “While You Were Sleeping” as a Christmas song. Lyrics were changed, and the song made it onto Lifesong as a regular song. However, the song fits perfectly on this disc with the original lyrics. Hall delivers a fine vocal performance over the warm piano line that drives the song.
How many Christmas albums from Christian artists does not include “Silent Night?” Casting Crowns deliver a calm, downbeat version that allows for small instrumental flourishes to stand out while in the background. The female vocals take the forefront on a cover of Amy Grant’s “God is With Us,” another highlight. “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” benefits from Hall’s best vocals of the album along with a lush String arrangement under the delicate piano playing. An instrumental (!) version of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” closes the disc. Quiet and peaceful, this version helps to set a contemplative mood that encourages the listener to ponder the majesty of the Christmas Story. The song then breaks into a frantic violin line before calming at the end. I think the arrangements throughout the project help to focus the listener on the lyrics, even on the instrumental.
Overall, the disc is for quiet, reflective Christmas moments. The band pleasantly surprised me with a disc full of classics that will fit in nicely with past sounds of the season. Peace on Earth is a must for Casting Crown fans and/or fans of Christmas music in general, like me.
By Jonathan Nelson