It has come time for the final in my series of new Christmas albums, and of course I have saved the best to last (not particularly helpful for those wanting to buy them for the Christmas season but this one is worth the wait and will certainly be a keeper for next year). Jody McBrayer has hit the right note for me this Christmas with his 2016 release ‘Christmastime’.
Some people can just sing anything and Jody McBrayer is one of those guys. Having come to fame as a founding member of long-time Contemporary Christmas Music pop group Avalon and now a member of southern gospel flavoured Cana’s Voice, McBrayer has shown that he’s got the range to do it all. Now, with Christmastime, the smooth voiced tenor puts his voice to work over a set of classic jazz-flavoured arrangements that are not only timeless but prove to be the perfect template for McBrayer’s vocal artistry.
The record builds from a sparse musical palette that lets McBrayer’s vocals stand front and centre where they belong. Ripples of smooth, sultry piano provide emotive colour while brushed drums and sweet plucks of guitar and bass provide another layer of sound and setting the foundation for these eleven great tracks.
Given that overall concept, the album interestingly kicks off with the most radio ready of the tracks, the inspirational pop-flavoured “Imagine This Christmas,” which showcases a lyric of hope alongside a smooth groove that lets McBrayer showcase his range. From there, the artist does a complete 180, rendering the piano and string-driven “Candlelight Carol” with beautiful simplicity that tugs on the heartstrings. His tone crystal clear as he sings the beautiful lyric. A bit of a shuffling drumbeat and bright piano, with mellifluous solo breaks, lends traditional favourite “O Come All Ye Faithful” an upbeat energy while the artist’s daughter joins him for a heart-warming rendition of “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep (with Silent Night).”
“What Child Is This?” adds some minor tonality and an ‘after-hours’ jazz club vibe as the piano and drum accompaniment contrasting with McBrayer’s soulful voice perfectly, a theme that follows through on another of the record’s chief highlights as he takes on “Ave Maria/O Holy Night.” Here, McBrayer shows restraint, letting the time-honoured lyrics and melody speak and it’s simply beautiful while his inclusion of the 16th century French carol in 3/8 timing, “Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella” gets some added life from the jazzy addition of Vince Guaraldi’s “Thanksgiving Theme.”
George Michael’s “Last Christmas” gets stripped down and revamped as a jazz standard and is playful and smooth, showcasing some amazing piano work, as McBrayer’s follows that up with a faithful treatment of another Guaraldi favourite, “Christmas Time is Here.” A cappella group Voctave joins the artist for a stirring rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” the voices melding and blending magically, with a special quotation of ‘When you wish upon a star’ for the 3rd verse. Things come to a close way too soon on this album for my liking with the gently rendered benediction of “God Bless Us Everyone.”
On Christmastime, Jody McBrayer continues to show what a dynamic talent he is. Whether he’s belting out high energy pop jams, harmonising with southern gospel melodies, or crooning out jazz-tinged standards, the artist is always on point. And with Christmastime, the artist’s talent takes listeners on a journey right into the holidays, leaving them feeling warm, toasty, and satisfied (but wanting so hear so much more).
To purchase this album: Australian iTunes
For more of Jody McBrayer: http://jodymcbrayer.com/
Much of the review was adapted from: http://soul-audio.com/