Release Date: October 25th 2019
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- O Come O Come Emmanuel
- Angels From The Realms Of Glory
- God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
- Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
- We Wait
- Winter Wonderland
- Just Like They Said
- Let Our Gladness Have No End
2020 has been a pretty rough year. By anyone’s standards. You have the bushfires and the floods in early January and February in Australia, as well as the unforgiving pandemic of COVID-19 sweeping through the globe, and still unrelenting and widespread. In May, George Floyd was brutally killed leading to protests and riots all over the world… and these are still ongoing as well. We’re in the middle of July, and for many of us we’re at the end of our rope. It seems like there just one thing after another after another, with no end in sight, and no obvious solution to our pain and our predicament. However as I have said in my first Christmas In July post, sometimes God speaks to us in ways we could never imagine; and if we’re struggling to come to terms with light at the end of the tunnel when all we see is people dying from COVID-19 and other devasting diseases, why don’t we dwell on happier times, such as Christmas when we celebrate Jesus’ birth? We’re going to be in this pandemic for a long while yet, so while we’re in it, why don’t we at least reflect upon the good things in life and the times when we felt on top of the world and the times when we felt like we could do anything? One such album that has resonated with me when I have revisited Christmas music again over the past week is Sara Groves’ album from last year titled Joy Of Every Longing Heart. Now I’m not the most avid fan of Sara, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from Sara’s Christmas album. Because I had never listened to any album start to finish from Sara before, I thought that perhaps this album would be kind of ‘meh’ and only alright. However I do love and appreciate similar sounding artists in terms of vocal and genre like Ellie Holcomb, Nichole Nordeman and Sara Bareilles, and I was already thinking ‘It’s a Christmas album, how bad could it be?’; so I took the plunge. And boy what an album it was… in a good way of course!
First of all, let me tell you that 3 out of the 9 songs are originals. Exactly a third. Now when artists release a holiday themed album with that much of an amount being originals- I’m more than happy. It’s because I love Christmas songs originally penned by the artist- I shows a creativity and a sense of honesty that I really admire. Sara’s originals confirm my line of thinking, as each of the 4 are captivating, powerful, compelling and heartfelt. Acoustic guitar driven mid tempo ballad “We Wait” is sung from the perspective of the whole tribe of Israel prior to Jesus’ birth (in the first birth), as we are presented with a prayer of sorts to Jesus- as the entire nation of Israel was waiting and longing for a King, maybe even a literal king. The perspective of the song switches to all of us now later on in the song, as Sara presents us with each of us waiting for Jesus to fix our problems so that we can feel better. Essentially “We Wait” isn’t a Christmas song, however the message of waiting on Jesus, and Jesus working in His own timing, reminds us that most of the time, we need patience, and that also the things we want or need will take time. If we trust God and His perfect timing, then good things will eventually come to us. The piano prominent “Just Like They Said” is another inspiring original tune, as the track is sung from the perspective of either the shepherds or the wise men, reiterating that Jesus was lying in the manger just like the angels said to them; while the remainder of the originals is the 1 minute instrumental keys and strings led “Tidings”.
With “Tidings” segueing into the reflective, exemplary, exquisite and worshipful “Let Our Gladness Have No End”, an obscure hymn that I has to even look up to determine if it was an original or not (which it wasn’t!), Sara’s remaining Christmas carol representations are equally as impressive as her original body of work. The reworked melody of “O Come O Come Emmanuel” is something to behold, as we witness one of the most inspiring renditions of one of the most underrated carols ever, while the majestic and ethereal “Angels From The Realms Of Glory” is divine and heavenly, as Sara ardently and fervently relays to us one of the simplest worship songs released around Christmas time… however nothing tops Steven Curtis Chapman’s version of “Angels” in my own opinion. The strings and piano are once again on display as Sara effortlessly sings out to us her vibrant and engaging version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, complete with drums and electric guitar; while Sara also covers probably the most out-there carol ever- “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus”, which is a carol I’ve hardly heard, but still an earnest and heartfelt prayer nonetheless, as Sara is praying to Jesus, asking Him to fill our hearts and be with us in our lives. The usually bouncy and poppy “Winter Wonderland” is the last known song from Sara, as she slows down the tempo and brings the piano to the fore, and once again creates magic and a thought provoking melody.
I’m not usually a fan of folk/acoustic and piano only songs, however Sara Groves on her second Christmas album Joy Of Every Longing Heart has created a superb album with almost no flaws. Proabbly the only nit pick would be that the alubm is a tad lullaby-ish, and maybe too short- but these are nit picks and not enough to warrant a boycott. This July you may be stressed because of the ongoing pandemic… but as you bring Christmas back into the spotlight, let Sara breathe new life into your soul with these old classics and new fan favourites. This album is more than enough for me to want to listen to the rest of Sara’s discography, and I’m sure you’ll feel that too! So what are you all waiting for? Take a listen and let us know what you think of Sara’s lyrical and vocal prowess!
3 songs to listen to: Angels From The Realms Of Glory, We Wait, Just Like They Said
RIYL: Sara Bareilles, Norah Jones, Sarah McLachlan, Jenny and Tyler, The Gray Havens