Friday, November 20, 2015

Music Review: God with Us by Laura Story

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” a couple of the new tracks aren’t bad
Cons: A couple of the new tracks aren’t that great
The Bottom Line:
New tracks? A mixed bag
Traditional carols? Good
Hoping for better

Sadly, Not as Good as I Hoped It Would Be

I have so much Christmas music, that I don’t need any more.  Still, every year, I seem to add a few discs when artists I like release new music.  That’s how I got God with Us, the first Christmas release from Laura Story.  Sadly, it’s not as good as I hoped it would be.

There are two things I look for in a new Christmas disc.  The first is impressive new songs.  Unfortunately, this disc is a mixed bag in that department.  The disc starts out with the upbeat “Love Is Here,” which celebrates Jesus coming to earth.  It’s a great way to kick off the disc because it’s fun.  The other new song I like is “Emmanuel.”  There’s nothing terribly new in the lyrics, but I love many songs that remind us of just what Christmas is all about – as the title of the disc says, God with us.

Unfortunately, the rest of the new tracks aren’t that impressive.  “Just Another Christmas” is a prayer that we won’t get so caught up in the events and demands of the season that we won’t focus on what it really means.  Unfortunately, it’s a mid-tempo song that doesn’t really catch me melodically or lyrically.  “Behold the Lamb of God” is too repetitive for my tastes, and I find myself zoning out.  While I love Psalm 121, “I Lift My Eyes” is way too slow.  Plus, it feels like it should have been on a regular disc, not a Christmas disc.

So that leaves us with the five traditional carols.  “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” is great to have since it’s not a commonly recorded song.  Plus Laura has added a new chorus to it that is wonderful.  Many of the arrangements of the classics are simple, but it really works for them.  “Angels We Have Heard on High” is a perfect example.  The heavy piano and slower than normal pace allow the lyrics to really capture us.  “O Come All Ye Faithful” is heavy on guitar with a more upbeat pace that makes this version fun.  And the disc closes with “Silent Night,” which is beautiful as always.

That just leaves us with “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”  The version Laura offers here is absolutely stunning.  The track is completely a cappella, and Laura is joined by a choir.  It is haunting and will give you goosebumps as you listen to it.

It’s not that God with Us is bad, but it’s also not outstanding.  I’ll mix these tracks in with the rest of my Christmas music digitally, but it won’t be one I pull out and listen to often on its own.

CD Length: 40:48
1. Love is Here
2. Just Another Christmas
3. Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
4. Angels We Have Heard on High
5. O Come All Ye Faithful (with Steven Curtis Chapman)
6. Behold the Lamb of God (with Brandon Heath)
7. O Come, O Come Emmanuel
8. Emmanuel
9. I Lift My Eyes
10. Silent Night

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