Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Music Review: Hark! by Marc Martel

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great collection of mostly lesser-known Christmas songs
Cons: How much longer can Marc keep releasing these EPs?
The Bottom Line:
New Christmas EP
Features mostly rarer songs
Lots of guest talent

Hark!  What’s That I Hear?  New Christmas Music from Marc Martel!

Just about every year, Marc Martel releases a new Christmas EP with some help from his musician friends.  And every year, I buy it.  I’m worried he will soon run out of Christmas songs to cover, but so far he is still going strong, as I’m enjoying this year’s offering – Hark!

Marc is joined by friends on four of the six songs in this collection, and what a great group he’s got here.  The EP opens with a cover of Chris Rice’s song “Welcome to Our World.”  I’ve loved this song for years, but it hasn’t been recorded very often.  It’s nice to get a new version of it, especially one with the great arrangement we get here.  Leigh Nash, formerly of Sixpence None the Richer, joins Marc.  It’s a fun version with a music box rendition of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” to open and strains of the chorus of “Angels We Have Heard on High” between some of the verses.

Marc heads into bluesy territory for the next two tracks “Blue Christmas” and “Zat’ You, Santa Claus?”  He’s joined on these tracks by Joe Bonamassa and Jared James Nichols, respectively.  While they don’t sing, they add some great music to Marc’s vocals.  I am very familiar with “Blue Christmas,” but I was surprised to find I didn’t have that many versions of it in my collection.  I only have one other version of “Zat’ You, Santa Claus?”  It’s a different song, but I’m finding Marc’s version to be fun.

Marc goes very traditional with the next track, “Hark! The Heard Angels Sing.”  The emphasis here is on piano and vocals with strings coming in after the first verse.  After the last two tracks, it seems especially simple, but it is beautiful.  I love this hymn, so I am thrilled to have Marc’s take on it.

We enter pop territory with the next track, “Last Christmas.”  This is another duet, with time with singer Arnel Pineda.  While I know the song isn’t new, it is new to my Christmas music collection.  The melody makes it fun, and I find myself smiling as they sing it.  Not sure I would have sought it out, but I’m glad I have it.

Last up comes the Christmas adjacent song “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”  Marc is channeling his inner crooner here, which fits the song perfectly.

As you can see, there are quite a variety of styles on this project.  I’m not sure many artists could pull it off as effortlessly as Marc does, but it works well with his vocals.  Other than the title track, the songs aren’t the ones that everyone else does (he’s done most of those already), so it adds some nice variety to my Christmas playlists while still being familiar enough to feel like Christmas music right out of the gate.  But this is why I’m wondering how much longer he can keep producing new Christmas EPs.  I’m not sure there are too many more songs out there he hasn’t already covered.

I know we are fast running out of December, but if you are still looking for some new Christmas tunes for this year, I definitely recommend you check out Hark!  I will be enjoying it for many Christmases to come.

EP Length: 21:41
1. Welcome to Our World (with Leigh Nash)
2. Blue Christmas (with Joe Bonamassa)
3. Zat' You, Santa Claus? (with Jared James Nichols)
4. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
5. Last Christmas (with Arnel Pineda)
6. What Are You Doing New Years Eve?

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