Release Date: November 22nd 2019
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Let Us Adore
- Glory To God (feat. Potter’s House Choir)
- The Reason (feat. William McDowell)
- Making Room (Prelude)
- Making Room
- Making Room / Let Every Heart (Spontaneous)
- Hope Awakes (feat. Steffany Gretzinger)
- A Merry Merry Christmas (feat. Ava Brockman, James Gross, Carson David Binion & Kids Choir)
- I Pray On Christmas (feat. Daniel Johnson)
- Silent Night (feat. MDSN)
- Christmas Carol Medley [Hark The Herald Angels Sing, The First Noel, Angels We Have Heard On High, Away In A Manger, O Come All Ye Faithful, Joy To The World] (feat. Daniel Johnson, Jeremiah Woods, Taylor Poole, Trinity Anderson & Tina Baker)
- God With Us (feat. Potter’s House Choir)
- God With Us / Immanuel (feat. Steffany Gretzinger) (Spontanous)
In this time of uncertainty and global uneasiness and restlessness because of COVID-19 and the tension in the U.S. because of the election; a lot of us are looking for answers. Answers to the tough questions, and answers in several places. Is it coincidental that Christmas is just around the corner and we’re still trying to figure out our purpose and the meaning of life? While we’re all trying to make ends meet and just get by this Christmas, why don’t we cast our minds back to last year- in the spirit of this ongoing Christmas In July blog series– and examine one of the more underrated ‘Christmas’ albums of 2019? I say this in inverted commas, because David & Nicole Binion’s worship focused Christmas album Dwell: Christmas, isn’t really a Christmas album per se… as there’s one carol (Silent Night), one Christmas medley, and a whole bunch of originals. However their heart for worshipping Jesus and giving Him the glory is in the right place, even though this album doesn’t fully hit me like others from other Christmas albums from years gone by, such as Christmas albums from Pentatonix, Michael W. Smith, Blake Shelton, Josh Groban, Train and Matthew West to name a few. If you’re fans of Jesus Culture, Hillsong Worship or Elevation Worship- then you’ll love Dwell: Christmas. If you’re not a fan though… then this album may be a bit foreign to you. Check it out though and let me know what you think.
So here’s a full disclaimer. I haven’t heard a single worship song or album from David & Nicole Binion. That’s right, I went into this album quite blind and not knowing what to expect. I decided to take a punt based on what songs I knew from MDSN (their daughter who’s an artist on Integrity Music)- and my initial thoughts is that this album is indeed worshipful, but hardly Christmas-y. It’s an album for those lovers of worship bands, and not much else- so if you want a bit more musical variety here, or something sounding a bit more musically experimental; then this album isn’t for you. Also, listeners wanting your staples, inclusive of carols like O Holy Night, What Child Is This, Little Drummer Boy and We Three Kings, or holiday songs like Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Sleigh Ride, Deck The Halls, Jingle Bells, 12 Days Of Christmas, Winter Wonderland, White Christmas, I’ll Be Home For Christmas and Let It Snow; will be severely disappointed here. “Silent Night” has been overplayed to death here and though this version is solid, with MDSN pouring her heart out here and singing to perfection; the overall atmosphere of this rendition is nothing new, and doesn’t ‘wow’ me to the point of saying that it’s a track worthy to be repeated again and again. The Christmas Carol Medley sounds quite painful, with seemingly little to no effort done to make this medley unique or stand out, and though we hear bits and pieces of carols like Hark The Herald Angels Sing, The First Noel, Angels We Have Heard On High, Away In A Manger, O Come All Ye Faithful and Joy To The World… they’re so disjointed that it’s not funny.
Well, how about the original songs, you say? Well I’d say they’re ok without being groundbreaking. Opener “Let Us Adore” is an updated version of “O Come All Ye Faithful” (original lyrics sung to the tune of the carol!) as the track sounds like a 90’s Hillsong worship tune (which isn’t bad, but sure is cringeworthy, and too lyrically simple!); while “Glory To God” has an orchestral/gospel feel with the introduction of strings and synth, however still feels somewhat forced, and not that enjoyable to listen to- I’m not sure what it is about these songs. “The Reason”, with William McDowell, is one of the shining lights on this track list in my own opinion, as the slower paced and reflective piano duet with Nicole, encourages us to turn to Jesus this Christmas- the only reason why we sing praises and why we worship; however the Hillosng-esque “Making Room” drags on for too long- a whopping 14 minutes in length, even though the intentions of the song are admirable, as we declare that we will make room for Jesus in our hearts no matter what. This song isn’t a Christmas song (save for a few Christmas references in the first verse), and though the track is earnest, I feel as if the hymn “I Have Decided” drives home the point of intentionally standing for Jesus a whole lot more.
The piano and strings led “Hope Awakes”, featuring the pristine and powerful guest vocals of Steffany Gretzinger, is one of my favourite tracks on the album, as Steffany sings in perfect harmony with Nicole, and passionately reiterates that hope was born that day that Jesus was born. That fact alone is a reason to celebrate and rejoice; while David and Nicole bring out all the stops on “A Merry Merry Christmas”, their attempt at a ‘mainstream’ pop song (complete with a gospel choir), with inventive verses and a catchy, infectious rap, however with a lacklustre chorus that leaves me wanting. “I Pray On Christmas”, with a gospel atmosphere and a groovy danceable beat, is a track that’s loosely inspired by Christmas- and seems to be a ‘Christmas’ song just for the sake of it (but is still beautiful and inspiring to listen to!), while the album closer is “God With Us”, a 12 minute hopeful and stirring ballad- whereby both David and Nicole earnestly deliver the album’s crowning achievement- they definitely save the best for last as the husband and wife duo passionately cry out that Jesus is ‘…Wonderful, Counsellor, never changing, never-ending, beautiful, glorious, everlasting, ever-living God…’, a declaration that we all can proclaim and a song that we all can sing even at all times of the year!
Dwell: Christmas is a mixed bag to tell you the truth. There are a few heartfelt and some powerful melodies, while others aren’t as engaging. Overall though, this isn’t an album to listen to if you want light background Christmas music, nor if you want to hear your favourite carols. I feel as if David and Nicole Binion’s project will only resonate if you are in the headspace of worshipping Jesus during Christmas, maybe for some songs for your church on Sundays mornings in December. Other than that- I reckon give this album a miss. That’s not to say it isn’t bad. It’s just that the niche market is too narrow I reckon. One person out of 10 will love this album. For that reason though, I’d say that the duo have made a solid album. In time, we’ll all come to appreciate this for what it is- a Christmas themed worship album… but until then I’d say rewrap this one up and gift it to someone else!
3 songs to listen to: The Reason, Hope Awakes, God With Us
RIYL: Israel Houghton, Jesus Culture, Michael W. Smith, Matt Redman, Paul Baloche, Delirious?