On the 10th day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . .

Track Number 10

Remember what I said about my friend Trisha and her magical gift-giving skills?  Well, she struck gold again.

This time it came in the form of delicious beer and 2 CDs.

Sufjan Stevens’ Songs for Christmas albums to be exact.

Please note – I am not a professional anything so this here music critique should be taken with a boulder of salt.  BUT, if you trust me (and who doesn’t? Besides Philip . . . ), you can take me at my word that Mr. Stevens is AWESOME.

In my digging about in the ol’ internet, it appears that this album collection is actually 3 volumes, but the way it was gifted to me, it ends up with 2 collections.  The first concludes with a very unplugged sounding “Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella.” And that, my friends, is what I’m talking about.

The entirety of this first part is made up by and large of traditional Christmas hymns. I like me a good “carol” – you know, the Twelve Days of Christmas and We Wish You a Merry Christmas and all that jazz.  But HYMNS? That’s the kind of song that was made for Christmas.  The reaches-down-and-stirs-your-heart-makes-a-lump-in-your-throat-and-ache-in-your-cheeks-from-joy kind of song.

Mr. Stevens gets that.  He doesn’t try to dress the songs up a la Mariah Carey or Garth Brooks (aaaaaand now you know which generation I belong to . . . ).  The hymns (for the most part . . . ) stay church-pew traditional.  And I like that.  I like the meat.

I also like his use of the banjo.  I blame it on my bygone Appalachian roots that I really feel the groove of some finger picking.  And while I will take the banjo in any form, what you hear on this album is pure beauty.  No twang or Deliverance here, no sir.

His rendition of ‘Lo! How a Rose E’er Blooming is lovely.  And clear enough that you can soak up the lyrics and their richness and be satisfied there.  The kids agree – this is a GREAT song.  “It’s about Jesus!” Philip yelled from the back seat. My favorite verse is the first

Lo! How a rose e’er blooming, from tender stem has sprung! From Jesse’s lineage coming, as those from old have sung. It came a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter, when half spent was the night.

I love the image of a night half spent . . .

Anyway, back to the 10th day.

I had been coveting this album.  Really, really wanting it.  We meant to download it to the ipods before we left for CA, but in the chaos it never happened.  Round about the middle of the night and the middle of Nevada, I was really wishing I had it. Not that I had heard it, but from what others said about it, it sounded good.  So for Trish to magically know that and then get it to me. . .

She was anxious to know what song I would like best.

“Track 10 is my favorite. Tell me what you think!” she texted.

Then track 10 came on and lo! and behold!

I had heard it.  In fact, it is quite possibly my favorite song ever (except for the song Jac wrote for our wedding, but you know what I mean).  I stumbled upon Sufgan’s version when I was searching for a rendition for Chrisa as she headed to China and had been in love ever since.

This song is the one I want at my funeral, justsoyouknow.  Fr. Tyler, I know that the banjo isn’t really appropriate for sacred music and really shouldn’t be in the sanctuary, but do you think an exception could be made? Because hearing this song on banjo with a little piano thrown in for good measure would make any heart glad.

OR.  Better yet, my offspring can sing it a capella like the end of the recording in this collection.  Can’t you imagine it?  We’ll need to get on having more children, of course, so that we can have a healthy measure of both consecrated AND married kids so that I can have plenty of grandchildren and great-grandchildren to fill the choir.  But it’d be worth it!

I dare you to listen to track 10 and NOT like it.  Double dog dare you.  Chances are you’ll agree with Trish and I.

It’s the best.

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Come, thou fount of every blessing,

Tune my heart to sing thy grace.

Strains of mercy, never ceasing,

Call for songs of loudest praise.

Teach me some melodious sonnet,

Sung by flaming tongues above!

Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,

Mount of Thy redeeming love.