Release Date: December 2nd 2014
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Angels We Have Heard On High
- O Come Let Us Adore Him
- Go Tell IT On The Mountain
- O Holy Night
- Joy To The World
- Silent Night
- The First Noel
- O Come O Come Emmanuel
- Little Drummer Boy
- Love Comes Down
Shane And Shane have been around for a while but it is only recently that I have started to listen to their unique and inspiring material and discography. Bring Your Nothing which released in 2013 was the first Shane And Shane album I had ever listened to from start to finish; and since then I have actively followed news and updates from them. Though it’s tough to hear different quality well known Christian bands, with a distinct edge and flavour; maybe the band I’m looking for is right under my nose.
Shane Barnard and Shane Everett make up pop/adult contemporary duo Shane & Shane, who’ve recorded on Inpop Records, and now Fair Trade Services since 2001. The two friends and business partners have the uncanny knack of creating pop and worship music that is slightly different, reminding me of the prowess of folk and acoustic contemporaries Andrew Peterson and Jason Gray, both of whom are some of my favourite artists currently. Following on from the successful Bring Your Nothing which does not disappoint; is the Christmas album A Worship Initiative Christmas and the duo match their heartfelt and poignant previous effort. Though only including 9 carols and a worship cover (I would have hoped the Shanes included an original Christmas tune or two), the execution is delivered perfectly, as I listen to one of the most underrated Christmas albums over the past few years! After a quick listen to the 42 minute exquisite journey, no doubt your soul will be refreshed and renewed.
The ‘original’ song is “Love Came Down”, written by Michael Farren, Seth Mosley and Lauren Daigle. There truly is a Holy Spirit moment as we come into the worship anthem. Opening with a stirring acoustic guitar and keyboard riff with a jazz type atmosphere, we are met with a prayer of adoration, gratitude and thankfulness, as the Shanes lead us in corporate worship, and sing about the saving grace of God that covers all of our sins and makes us whole. In the verses, they both lament about the shameful things done in their life, and declare that they are laid down before Jesus. Yet as the chorus builds, we can join in and proclaim ‘…oh, how sweet amazing grace, wraps me in a warm embrace, oh how I rejoice, I was lost now found, all my praise goes up as Your love comes down…’, as the song delves into the unending love of God and how it cover a multitude of our sins. Singing about the qualities of God, the Shanes are very passionate in the vocals, and I can emphatically say that “Love Comes Down”, a calm, reflective and profound song, gives us quite a bit for us to dwell upon, while also staying true to theology in the Bible, lining up with the heart of the project to glorify God through corporate worship.
While the rest of the songs are well known carols that doesn’t detract from their value or profoundness. Songs like “Angels We Have Heard On High”, “Go Tell It On The Mountain”, “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Joy To The World” aren’t altered that much and their message of hope and inspiration still is very much intact, yet the acoustic nature of these tracks, as well as the exquisite harmonies between the Shanes win me over- I could listen to these guys all day, they’re such good singers! “Angels We Have Heard On High” is an acoustic guitar driven worship ballad as the Shanes remind us that Christ is the Lord, the newborn King, along with a different chorus melodically, as well as an added bridge (is that Phil Wickham as a guest vocal I hear?), while “O Come All Ye Faithful” has light acoustic guitar at the forefront as the duo slow the tempo down, relying on their anointed voices as they sing praises to God.
“Go Tell It On The Mountain” takes the album through the country/bluegrass route, as we are reminded that when we know about Jesus’ birth, we can and should shout it out to everyone we meet and see, and tell it from the mountains of Jesus’ birth and His sovereignty; and “Joy To The World” is a fun ball of energy, similar in celebratory mood to Rend Collective’s version, with the band experimenting with instruments like glockenspiel and strings, also a new bridge that highlights the Shane’s vocal ability and delivery, captivating me once more. Well done Shane for these first few batch of songs that are simply brilliant.
While the first half of the album is pleasing to the ear, the second half just builds on that excitability, turning this album into one of my favourite Christmas albums of 2014! “Silent Night”, one of the most well-known carols, is powerfully played on the piano and beautifully covered here as both Shane’s sing about the night Jesus was born, and that Jesus’ sovereignty, faithfulness and love for us, is enough to bring us all to our knees in prayer and thankfulness as we think about that silent night.
“The First Noel” is a stripped back acoustic guitar ballad that emphatically declares Jesus being Lord, and that He is the King who was born is Israel, with the verses speaking about the shepherds and wise men. Both “O Come O Come Emmanuel” and “Little Drummer Boy” show different sides of the band musically, as Shane and Shane venture out of their musical comfort zone, exploring the jazz/soul/funk genre and pop/electronic dance genre respectively; and each track they ‘knock it out of the park’ so to speak. Almost on par with Third Day’s version of “O Come O Come Emmanuel” and Jars of Clay’s version of “Little Drummer Boy” (and that is no mean feat in and of itself!); the icing on the cake in this explosive and moving album is my favourite Christmas carol ever- “O Holy Night”!
Standing tall at an imposing and whopping 6 minutes (or 5 minutes 59 seconds to be exact); and recorded by many artists over many years and decades, including Rend Collective, Kari Jobe, Phil Wickham, Carrie Underwood, Matthew West, Point Of Grace, Lincoln Brewster, Mandisa, Rachael Lampa and Third Day; the serene reflective worship anthem is as celebratory to Jesus as can be, as we passionately and ardently declare God’s goodness and sovereignty. Arguably the most well-known traditional Christmas carol, the fact that the track has been covered so many times may make us all groan every time we come across a new cover of the track.
We may groan and say ‘Why this song? Why “O Holy Night” which has been covered a gazillion times?’. But for me, every version is different, and every version has its place, and the same applies for Shane and Shane’s moving version. As we hear version after version, and each artist belting out the lyrics with fervour and passion, especially the haunting and chilling words of the chorus ‘…fall on your knees, oh hear the angel voices, o night divine, o night when Christ was born…’, I am amazed at the power of the song to transcend years. No matter how many Christmases I have had the pleasure of experiencing, this song tops the list every time in enjoyability, most because of the ability to worship in this track. If you are not convinced by this song, I encourage you to listen again, who knows, you might find your new favourite Christmas carol of the year! Well done Shane and Shane for reminding me why I love Jesus and Christmas and why I sing to Him this holiday season, especially when you guys include a lesser known verse in the song that I have never heard before!
Recording a Christmas album can be tough, as we are met with various renditions of old songs that are praised as well as heavily criticised and scrutinised, yet Shane & Shane make it all look easy! They have recorded a compelling and encouraging album that needs to be heard. If you want some worship music this Christmas, this album is for you- this album is one of the most underrated this holiday season! If people haven’t heard of Barnard and Everett before, they will listen to a pleasant surprise, and will certainly know them now! Well done guys for your gem of an album; I eagerly anticipate your next one!
4 songs to listen to: O Holy Night, Love Comes Down, Little Drummer Boy, Silent Night
RIYL: Phil Wickham, Jimmy Needham, Michael W Smith, Chris Tomlin