David Crowder Band Oh For JoyImagine yourself to be David Crowder.Yes, you can shave and get a haircut if you like.

Oh For Joy
Artist: David Crowder*Band
Label: Six Steps/Sparrow

Imagine yourself to be David Crowder.Yes, you can shave and get a haircut if you like, heh heh. But consider: your Band (or should that be *Band?) has had a good decade or so of expanding the accepted musical breadth of praise & worship/hymnodic song craft throughout a wide swath of  English-speaking Protestant evangelical Christendom, releasing a handful of nifty (some even animated!) music videos, stretching your fan base's expectations with everything from acoustic Americana rootsiness to a mini-album of legitimate electronic club remixes and making your aggregation a fun live act.

Then you say it's time to pack it up. What do want to leave your fans with? How about an EP of public domain Christmas favorites, played pretty straight?

That's what Crowder has done to put wraps on his group's successful run, and though he and his mates give the material the reverence and respect lacking in so many other act's assaying of the same songs, something's at least a mite amiss. Might it be that spirit of unpredictability and good-natured tomfoolery that so endeared his music to many, me included? Quoth Bugs Bunny, "Could be."

The guys start out strong with nigh industrial percussion to accompany "Joy To The World." To this standard they commit what I call the Chris Tomlin trick, that is, interpolating original lyrics into a public domain oldie. Here, DC*B (last time I use the asterik in abbreviating their name if I do abbrev. it again, just to let you know, gang) make that carol a medley with what's essentially this eight-track project's titular ditty, making a sound melodic fit of the two.

Another highlight includes a transformation of "Angels We Have Heard On High" into a blue grass hoedown with guest vocals by Haley Banes, sounding much like Sixpence None The Richer's Leigh Nash. Not a bad thing, that, and it suggests Crowder that may have done well to have interspersed his albums with a few more distaff duets throughout his combo's career. 

That number figures amid the roughly half of Oh For Joy recorded in a concert setting. The height of revere in the hockey rink where their aficionados are gathered is a stirring take on "Silent Night" that rivals the candlelit renditions of it at my church on Christmas Eve services, only by a hundredfold or more.

Following that is a smidgen of Crowder's wry wit, wherein he recalls a conversation  with a friend despairing over the holiday being only one day in a year. Au contraire, our bespectacled, bushy, bearded bandleader assures his glum chum; it is twelve days, culminating in the Epiphany. From there, Crowder and Co. barrel into Trans-Siberian Orchestra's trademark take on "Carol Of The Bells."

That was indeed a surprise, but a borrowed, rather famous prog metal one. When not borrowing from others, however, they are borrowing from themselves some, harkening back to motifs and harmonies of some of their cCm radio hits. Maybe that is as it should be for a Christmas set from a band unique in their niche as Crowder's is, but it misses the air of winkingly ethnomusicological mischief that characterizes their best work.

At least a chuckle can be had from it visually, as the front and back depict the group as cartoonish nutcrackers;the inlay tray finds a squirrel having toppled the sextet, looking to crack a nut on its own.

This is not the disc to which to introduce newbies to Crowder's work.Those already sold on him should find enough of worth here to let him and his guys in the on the holiday with them. Here's only wishing they would have made it a bit more fun.

-Jamie Lee Rake