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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Artist: Paul Brandt
Label: Brand-T Records
Length: 10 Tracks/53:06
Released: December 2006
Paul Brandt’s Christmas CD A Gift certainly didn’t start out the way I was expecting. From the opening note Canada’s reigning king of country music is backed by a swinging big band. To be honest with you (and I hate to admit this about a Christmas song) but the opening track “Let It Snow” has been sung and played the same way by numerous artists over the years I had lost interest in it until this album. The horn section consisting of trumpeters Michael Herriott and Henry Christian combine with trombonists Ian McDougall and Neil Nicholson to blow some of the sweetest melodies you will hear.
The truly best present to unwrap from this album however is the title track which appropriately is named “A Gift”. The song is an original tune from Brandt’s pen. Brandt’s emotive vocals and sensitivity as an artist will cause you to pause and whisper a prayer of gratitude.
Fear not country fans there is enough pedal steel guitar, dobro, fiddle and guitar work on this album to give you a good fix. The tune Christmas Convoy featuring new and fun lyrics by Brandt put to Chip Davis’ and Bill Fries music will have you hollerin’ “Christmas Convoy” and wondering who that funny lookin’ guy with the shaggy white beard and “eight anxious reindeer” is “stuck in the snow drift.” Brandt’s rendition of this song is as much fun as “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” but not as irreverent (at least towards grandmas-smile).
Bob Murphy’s excellent Hammond Organ chops for “Go Tell It On The Mountain” provide a good comp to Brandt’s bluesy cover. Brandt combined with drummer/bandleader Dave Pierce to provide us with some beautifully textured arrangements. Throughout most of the song Brandt’s voice is gentle and reverent rising to a crescendo by the end of the tune while Murphy’s grooves are thrust more into the forefront. The horns are once again outstanding.
The thing that jumps right out at you as you listen to A Gift is just how versatile and artist Paul Brandt is. He is not only a country music artist, he is so much more. Brandt is a crooner par excellence and that becomes more apparent as you listen to him reminisce “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” Pianist Steve Rosen’s playing is simple yet beautiful.
“Winter Wonderland” is sung the way it was meant to be with a festive, jolly and adventuresome attitude. Brandt’s boyish country charm infuses every note of this old favorite. The pace is quick and the band is at its swinging best.
“Mary Did You Know” never ceases to send shivers throughout my body as you realize the magnitude of what lay ahead for Mary and Joseph. Brandt’s prayerful vocal “When you kiss the baby you’ve kissed the face of God,” ought to cause you to bow your head humbly before our Lord. Every single word for this wonderful Mark Lowry/Buddy Greene tune is sung sweetly, gently and with reverence.
I have listened to mostly outstanding Christmas albums this year but if I had to vote for best Christmas album of the year Paul Brandt’s A Gift would be my pick! In fact Christmas aside this is simply one of the most outstanding CDs that I have listened to this year.
By Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved
Joe Montague is an internationally
published journalist / photographer. His ministry is dedicated to the memory
of his late son Kent David Montague who went to heaven at the age of 18.
All copyright and distribution rights remain the property of Joe Montague.