Release Date: October 23rd 2015
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- For God So Loved
- Go Tell It
- O Come O Come Emmanuel
- Gift Of Grace
- O Come All Ye Faithful
- O Holy Night
- Away In A Manger/Come And Worship
- Silent Night
- All Things Collide
- The First Noel
Releasing their most recent album All You’ve Done earlier this year, husband and wife duo Brad + Rebekah consists of Brad and Rebekah Bichsel, and are both following in the footsteps of other high profile CCM/worship husband/wife duos like SHINEBRIGHT, Love & The Outcome, Jonathan & Emily Martin, FFH, Gungor and the now disbanded Watermark. Each of these duos have, at one point or another, created inspiring music and encouraging worship melodies to God so that we are blessed as listeners and Brad and Rebekah’s flawless and beautiful harmonies together while worshipping Jesus, continues the trend of husband/wife duos creating heavenly music. While you can read my review of the 18 track studio album here, Brad and Rebekah have recently unveiled a Christmas themed album, titled Gift Of Grace. Featuring 10 high octane, energetic and poignant studio recordings about the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Brad, Rebekah and their band have unveiled an album sure to impact the lives of many during the festive and holiday season, when many are searching for meaning and purpose in their lives. Though their songs are simple, it is their heart for Jesus and Holy Spirit anointing of the lyrics that makes this album great, and one of my favourite Christmas albums of 2015, alongside releases from MercyMe and Laura Story. Trust me, this album will also be one of your favourite Christmas albums by the year’s end as well!
In mostly any Christmas tracklist, there are the high profile Christ centred carols, the fun and silly family melodies, as well as the original Christmas tunes written by the artists themselves. Here, Brad and Rebekah choose to sing the worshipful Christmas themed melodies, as well as a few powerful and impacting original melodies, opting to not include the Christmas songs like “Jingle Bells”, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”, which these lyrics, when you dissect them and their meaning to death, could sound a bit more superficial than we may think. Anyway, regardless on your take of these types of melodies, of which Brad and Rebekah chose not to include, this 10 track inspiring and encouraging album is something that I would replay over and over during December and maybe beyond!
“Go Tell It”, a folk/blues/acoustic/country acoustic guitar and banjo prominent version of the underrated carol “Go Tell It On The Mountain”, is the first recognisable song here, and the duo executes the melody perfectly, with infectious joy and passion bubbling over everywhere from both singers. While Brad leads this melody, both of them eloquently remind us that Jesus is born and is our Saviour, so we shouldn’t hold back in proclaiming the Good News. Reminding me of Rend Collective musically, this upbeat praiseworthy melody definitely keeps my toes tapping, and is fun to listen to. “O Come O Come Emmanuel” takes the tempo down a bit, however is just as honest, moving and emotional, with Brad once again leading the song- this one is a piano centred mid-tempo ballad, with a crescendo of drums and orchestral instruments added in for variety. Though nothing can top Third Day’s explosive rock version, this rendition is still inspiring and captivating with the duo declaring ‘…rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel…’. While the electric guitar led worshipful “O Come All Ye Faithful”, musically harkening back to 90’s vocal band Avalon, is another album highlight, as though the song is musically simple, it still is powerful, with Brad passionately reminding us that Jesus is worthy, and that all we can truly do this holiday season is to worship and adore Him for who He is.
“O Holy Night” brings the focus back to worship, as Rebecca ardently and eloquently imparts that Christmas should be a time of praising Jesus because of everything He’s done for us. In the piano focused slow worship ballad, Brad and Rebekah deliver one of my favourite renditions ever of one of my favourite Christmas carols (alongside Danny Gokey’s rendition I heard a few weeks ago!), as this emotional, heartfelt melody invokes feelings of gratitude and thanks to God for giving us hope and salvation in the form of Jesus as a boy born in a manger. Though musically this song si acoustic, with light electronic vocals and synth permeating the track, creating an other-worldly atmosphere, we are reminded to ‘…fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices, O night divine, O night when Christ was born…’, and are presented with a worship experience like no other, and an anthem that is timeless and surely will be timeless in the next 50 years and beyond!
“Silent Night”, “Away In A Manger” and “The First Noel” round up the remaining well known worship themed carols. While “Silent Night” is a piano focuses slow tempo lullaby, brilliantly executing the duo’s flawless vocals and passion against a light piano backdrop; “Away In A Manger” beautifully combines the chorus of “Angels From The Realms Of Glory” to create a new worship experience, and a powerful piano led rendition of a melody that, while not one of my favourite carols ever (those ‘awards’ go to “O Holy Night”, “Angels We Have Heard On High” and “Do You Hear What I Hear”!), is nevertheless still magical and majestic to listen and soak to. “The First Noel” is the album closer and the perfect way to end an album devoted to giving God praise, as Rebekah blows us away with her serene vocals, and complements the strings and piano melody quite nicely as she proclaims ‘…Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, born is the King of Israel…’. Though not as bouncy and energetic as Hillsong Young & Free’s rendition last year, Brad and Rebekah have recorded a musically simple yet poignant and inspiring song that is sure to move any who listen.
With original Christmas songs, my expectations are pretty high, particularly when previous original melodies such as “All Is Well” (Michael W Smith and Carrie Underwood), “The Heart Of Christmas” (Matthew West), “Joy” (1 Girl Nation), “Baby Boy” (for KING & COUNTRY), “Light Of The World” (Lauren Daigle) and “Christmas Card” (Steven Curtis Chapman) all resonating in my spirit and soul many times throughout the past year. Thankfully, these last three songs on Gift Of Grace are just as inspiring and meaningful as any of the aforementioned melodies earlier. The piano inspired opening track “For God So Loved”, reminding me of Love & The Outcome vocally, is a welcoming, honest and vivid account that Jesus’ love is boundless, endless and goes beyond everything we could ever dream of, with the duo ardently singing out that ‘…Emmanuel, our hope has come, Emmanuel, Emmanuel…’, while the CCM radio friendly piano and electric guitar ballad “All Things Collide” may not be everyone’s preference, yet for me still invokes emotions and feelings of gratitude and thankfulness, as the duo remind us that ‘…this is the night when all things collide, heaven and earth become one, shepherds and kings fall down on their knees, to worship the Saviour, the Son of God has come…’.
Yet it is the title track that really highlights Brad and Rebekah’s prowess as songwriters and worshippers. A song that is timeless, in the fact that it’s something we can sing all year round; “Gift Of Grace” has Rebekah placing on her Kari Jobe hat vocally, proclaiming amongst soft piano that Jesus’ grace to us is never-ending, praying an honest prayer- ‘…Jesus, as we come to seek You, bowing down before You, we receive Your grace, Jesus shine Your light upon us, You alone can save us, precious gift of grace…’; something that we all can strive to hope and pray for as we become more and more like Jesus, and closer in relationship to Him as well. All in all, Brad and Rebekah have delivered an explosive, punchy, yet also contemplative and reverent Christmas album that is sure to resonate and impact all who listen!
After listening to their debut album earlier this year, I personally didn’t think that Brad + Rebekah would match or top that effort- I’m just being honest…but boy was I wrong with this Christmas album, which exceeds all of my expectations! Personally, each listen of the album has only propelled Brad and Rebekah to loftier and higher peaks- sky’s the limit for this passionate duo. Sounding similar to All Sons And Daughters, Crowder, I Am They and FFH; Brad and Rebekah should be proud of their efforts. They have succeeded in ushering us into communion and worship with Jesus, yet also reminding us of the significance of Christmas, and the reason for the season when people are so busy, rushing around buying presents. I pray and hope than many more people will be blessed by their songs as well, as we remember why Christmas is so important! Congratulations Brad, Rebekah, on this new album; it’s one of my favourites Christmas albums of 2015! I can’t wait for the new album, whenever it releases!
3 songs to listen to: For God So Loved, Gift Of Grace, O Holy Night
RIYL: Love & the Outcome, Meredith Andrews, All Sons And Daughters, Leeland, I Am They