Prime Cuts: O Come All Ye Faithful, Joy to the World, Away in a Manger
You don't need the latest computer gadget or the trendiest drum sequencing to impress. The artistic pull of nylon over wooden instruments can equally cause decibels of emotions to vibrate in the soul of a careful listener. Kevin Williams' brand new instrumental seasonal album "Acoustic Christmas" is testimonial to this. Taking the adage that less is more to heart, "Acoustic Christmas" flourishes only on a hand full of assorted wooden instruments such as violin, fiddle, mandolin, accordion, snare drums, bass, and guitars. As a result, what you get is a warm, relaxing, and a tad nostalgic offering where Williams indulges us with his creative renditions of 12 Christmas classics (with no originals and no obscure carols).
Williams is known by many as the long-time guitarist with the Gaither Homecoming TV series and Gaither Vocal Band. He co-hosts Bill Gaither's Homecoming Radio show heard on over 2,600 stations and radio outlets internationally. From the Sydney Opera House in Australia, to the prestigious Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, to Carnegie Hall in New York City, Kevin thrills audiences with his unique instrumental style and quick wit.
"Acoustic Christmas," released under the Green Hill imprint, is the follow-up to Williams' 2012 "Acoustic Sunday." While the preceding record finds Williams tackling the classic hymns of the church, this new release finds him offering his instrumental reads of classic Christmas tunes. Never one to be mere session player, Williams brings creativity to "Joy to the World." Donning a Celtic kick with its controlled use of snare drums and soaring violin, Williams transforms this Isaac Watts' hymn into an Irish dance tune that is simply pulverising.
While lesser instrumentalists fall into the perennial of turning "O Come All Ye Faithful" into a dirge. Williams' toe tapping delivery really gives a new definition to this yuletide favorite. Again, Williams has a way of bringing out fresh accents out of old tunes with "Go Tell It on the Mountain." The heavier use of bass draws out an "O Brother Where Art Thou" Southern bluesy drawl out to it that is indeed quite an ear-opener. Then he turns around and offers a sparse, slow and (almost) haunting version of "God Rest Ye Gentlemen" accentuating the "rest" dimension of the hymn.
Though there's nothing too revolutionary of his takes of "Silent Night," "O Holy Night," and "What Child is This," they are still mediative. With "Away in the Manger," Williams almost re-writes the song with lots of liberties taken to augment to its original tune. While it's easy for our attention to drift on an album without singing, Williams deters us from an end with his creative use of instruments and his refreshing and personal pickings. If you are looking for a soft, reflective, and creative instrumental Christmas album, this is it.