Anne Wilson – The Manger

Capitol Christian Music Group

Release Date: October 28th 2022

Reviewed by: Joshua Andre

Anne Wilson– The Manger (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. I Still Believe In Christmas
  2. The Manger (feat. Josh Turner)
  3. O Holy Night
  4. Mary, Did You Know
  5. Just Because It’s Christmas
  6. Kentucky Fried Christmas

If you’re listening to an artist for the first time, trying to figure out their sound and what they’re all about; do you go in with high, low or no expectations? Well, I guess you’d say it depends on whether the artist you’re listening to for the first time, actually is a new artist or is a veteran- and then they’d have a reputation; and you will have a higher expectation than with a completely new artist. Regardless, Anne Wilson (one of the latest signees to Capitol Christian Music Group), is sure to have a bright future. Though I did have some expectations of this young woman of God (considering that she has signed to one of CCM’s most reputable record labels); it is her storytelling, her effervescent optimism, her steadfast faith, and her immense love for Jesus that has won me over as a fan! With Anne singing in public in front of a crowd for the first time at her brother’s funeral- and her garnering a record label deal that way when the video went viral (way back in 2017); Anne’s unwavering faith in Jesus is the backbone of her debut album My Jesus. I myself reviewed her debut single (of the same name!) here; while Jon unveiled his thoughts on Anne’s debut album, with album standouts like the title track, “Sunday Sermons”, “Devil”, “Something About That Name”, “Hey Girl”, “God Thing” and “Mamas” (with Hillary Scott of Lady A). Through these songs, Anne’s joy and overflowing hope is sure to win even the most hardened of sceptics, and even as Anne wears us all down by her joyous demeanour, let us remember that we are watching a star in the making- and someone we all want to root for! We also voiced our opinions this year about Anne’s live EP– a live project in Nashville, not with a crowd but live in a studio, where we were met with a vibrant, emotive, personal and honest batch of songs, where Anne delivers some of her most well-known songs, and a cover of Little Big Town’s “Boondocks”. We also divulged our thoughts about Anne’s latest EP Hey Girl; and now that you’ve read these reviews, heard Anne’s songs, seen her extremely encouraging testimony… you’re a fan now, right? Well, if you’re still unsure, then Anne’s new Christmas EP The Manger is something that could, should and hopefully will engage you thoroughly and comfort you immensely- especially throughout this holiday season and the first since COVID-19 where there has been any hint of normalcy. Comprising of 6 songs (4 of them originally penned), The Manger provides us hope, joy, fun and immersion in the festive, holiday spirit; as we worship God because He just is, even in the midst of trials and suffering.

‘I Still Believe In Christmas’ is a song of the hope we have in Our precious Lord and Savior, Jesus. It can be hard to cling to hope in the middle of the world we are in right now, but we have to choose to still believe in the miracle of Christmas. I pray this song leads you closer to Jesus and fills you with His love and comfort during this holiday season. ‘Kentucky Fried Christmas’ captures my Kentucky heart. Growing up in Kentucky, Christmas was always the most beautiful time of the year filled with so much joy and lots of KFC. I hope you love this song as much as I do!

The stable tells a story of the distance You will go. My new Christmas EP ‘The Manger’ is out now!! It features one of my favorite original songs so far, which happens to be the title track and includes the amazing Josh Turner. I’m going into this Christmas season even more thankful and sure of Jesus’ love for us than ever.

There’s something just so special about the night that Jesus was born. He came to earth in such a humble and lowly way and His love was on display for all of us to see. I’m so grateful for this project and I hope these songs bless you this Holiday season.

As short as Anne’s EP is (because 6 songs are over before you know it!); this release is nonetheless comforting, resonating, hopeful, inspiring, and engaging- as Anne lifts up Jesus’ name and presents us with the true reason for the season. “I Still Believe In Jesus” is a powerful, moving ballad, where Anne confidently and assuredly proclaims that she believes in the true message of Christmas and of Jesus, and that ‘…for God so loved this broken world, He sent His only son, to a carpenter and a teenage girl to show us all His love, He left His home in heaven to make heaven my home, my Emmanuel is with me and I’ll never be alone, down here my heart can’t find much to believe in, but I still believe in Christmas…’; and for me is the heartbeat of the album, and my personal highlight as well. For a Christmas release to say off the bat the true meaning of Christmas… well, it’s pretty bold and kudos for Anne for not watering down and wavering in her faith. “Kentucky Fried Christmas”, a fun, joyful and engaging country/bluegrass melody, presents the very many unique holiday traditions Anne and her family have during Christmas in her hometown of Kentucky, while the contemplative and reflective ballad “Just Because It’s Christmas”, another original, is a heartbreaking acoustic guitar led melody that speaks about how we as people are allowed to feel hurt, pain and heartache around Christmas time, and everything doesn’t actually have to be perfect. As Anne powerfully relays that we can bring our pain to Jesus and let Him take control of our lives, that ‘…bring your wounded heart to the manger, fall down at the feet of the king, when thrills of hope don’t find you, He loves you just the same, you don’t have to be ok just because it’s Christmas…’, we are encouraged to be honest and vulnerable especially during the holidays and this time of celebrating Jesus’ birth.

The title track, a powerful and poignant melody with Josh Turner on guest vocals, is the final original song from Anne on this EP, and is a profound, majestic, inspiring, and honest melody whereby both Anne and Josh convey the simple yet effective and biblical truth that Jesus Christ came to this earth as a baby in a manger to save us all from our sins. This song may be cliché for lack of a better word, as Anne and Josh effortlessly and effervescently declare out ‘…from the highest of the high to the lowest of the low, that stable tells a story of the distance You will go, for the lonely and the lost, there’s no sinner too far gone to find a Savior lyin’ in the manger…’; but, boy does “The Manger” hit all of the right notes… and then some! “O Holy Night”, one of my favourite carols ever, is covered here beautifully and near-flawlessly by Anne, while to round out the EP, Anne sings her powerful and eloquent rendition of “Mary Did You Know?”, a track that is solid… but still isn’t as profound as renditions from Pentatonix and Peter Hollens!

I look back at where I was a year ago and I’m undone by God’s faithfulness. This year has been such a season of change for me. Every new experience takes me by storm and I wrestle with how to adapt to it. I don’t know about y’all but for me, change is very difficult. I’m prone to stay where it’s comfortable and familiar.

I’ve learned so much about how to work through seasons of change and cling to the One who stays the same.

I love how The Lord is consistent and steady and never changing. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He’s taught me that no matter what season I have to walk through, He is always there. The same. HE is my comfort and my Rock. He is The One who stays right by me when all else shifts. His JOY is MY strength.

Thank You Lord for this year of change. Thank You that You never leave me. Thank You Lord that everything I could ever want or need is in YOU and YOU alone. You’re so faithful My Jesus!!!

Honestly, my songs just come from my journals. Sitting down at my brother’s grave is one of my favorite places to find inspiration for a song. Some people might find that unusual, but it’s where I go for inspiration for songs. At his grave, just spending time with him and the Lord. It’s really that and my journals. Writing down life experiences and what the Lord is teaching me. It’s all of those things. For the most part, people would find that unusual, sitting at a grave and finding inspiration there.

I really love Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash. Those are the two artists, growing up, that were really important for me and have been really incredible influences – music-wise and lyrical-wise. They’re just really incredible artists that I have always looked up to. I grew up listening to Christian music, but I also grew up on country music, so a lot of my songs have country influences. I like to pull from old lyrics by Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton and love to learn from them.

Is there anything more to say about Anne Wilson and her burgeoning impact in the CCM industry? With Anne having already made her stage debut at the Grand Ole Opry in September last year, and her debut album recently being nominated for a Grammy Award; I don’t think I’ve been this excited for a the upcoming career of a CCM artist since We The Kingdom and their songs! So drop everything and hear about this young star in the making. Seriously! Go do it. Right now! No other excuses needed! Alright, so what do you think? Well done Anne, I seriously cannot wait to hear what God has in store for you next! Maybe a hymns album or a full-on country album (marketed to the mainstream!) … that’d be cool!

3 songs to listen to: I Still Believe In Christmas, The Manger, Kentucky Fried Christmas

Score: 5/5

RIYL: We The Kingdom, Chris Tomlin,. Matt Redman, Matthew West, Tenth Avenue North, Crowder

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