Release Date: December 9th 2014
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
Various Artists– Family Christmas: Songs by Jamie Grace & Morgan Harper Nichols – EP (Amazon mp3/iTunes)
- Born Tonight (Jamie Grace)
- Sweet Little Jesus Boy (Jamie Grace)
- Go Tell It On The Mountain (Morgan Harper Nichols)
- The Prodigal Christmas (Morgan Harper Nichols)
- I’ll Be Home For Christmas (Harper Still)
Finding out you have a disease at a young age is pretty hard, but with a bubbly personality and a fresh take on CCM music, you could never guess that Jamie Grace has struggled with Tourette’s Syndrome from a very young age. She is always positive, jovial, and happy in her outlook with life from her posts on social media and her videos, and as a role model, she’s perfect for young teenage girls to look up to, so that God is glorified, and this optimistic outlook is in every note and phrase of her inspiring and encouraging songs.
Found as an artist by TobyMac and signed to his label Gotee Records in 2011, Jamie took the world quickly by storm with the hit song “Hold Me” off her debut album and has since gone from strength to strength in the coming years after her debut. After many Dove award nominations (and a win) as well as a Grammy nomination, 2014 brought a new album called Ready To Fly, containing many of Jamie’s best songs to date, in my opinion, and this month, she and her sister Morgan Harper Nichols unveiled a 5 song EP called Family Christmas. Though short, Jamie and Morgan both impart to us well known and original holiday themed and Christ centred songs, and Jamie should be very proud of herself! The execution of these songs are delivered perfectly, as I listen to one of the most underrated Christmas EP’s over the past few years! Family Christmas is an album that should stand out over the past few years in terms of Christmas releases, as one of the most musically diverse and daring EP’s of the past few year! Well done Jamie and Morgan for an explosive and powerful 20 minute Christmas journey!
There are two original songs amongst the five and both are sung to perfection as Jamie and Morgan have big hearts for Jesus. “Born Tonight”, penned and sung by Jamie, sings about how Jesus was born on Christmas Day, but not in a palace or anywhere glamourous but instead in a manger in a stable. With a worshipful chorus imploring us to ‘…feast your eyes on the Holy One, the fight for freedom has begun, sons and daughters you must rise, the King is born tonight…’, we are met with an earnest prayer of thanks and gratitude from Jamie to Jesus, thanking Him for being born and saving us all. Though some people at the time expected a literal king to save them instead of a spiritual and metaphorical King which was who Jesus is; Jamie’s earnest and honest original song fills me with hope and appreciation for who Jesus is, as I praise my Saviour and bask in His holiness, even if He did come to earth in a manger rather than a palace. The other original song “The Prodigal Christmas” is sung by Morgan, and led by inspiring electric guitar and ethereal vocals and an impressive gospel choir, and is played in a gospel/soul genre. With a story attached to the song, in which the persona longs to be connected to friends and family during the holidays but doesn’t know if they would be welcome after all of the ‘bad’ things they’ve done, asking ‘…Lord I wanna know if the door is still open, would you let me know if the light is still on, I just wanna know if I’ll be home for Christmas, there’s so much more than a song…’; Morgan assures us that just like the prodigal son, we can turn back to Jesus anytime, and that thought and notion is more than freeing and is revolutionary!
The underrated piano acoustic led track “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” (of which the only version I’ve heard was from Rebecca St James), led by Jamie Grace, is where we are met with a prayer of gratitude and humbleness as Jamie vulnerably and honestly thanks Jesus for being born in a manger even though we ‘…didn’t know you’d come to save us, to take our sins away, our eyes were blind we could not see, we didn’t know who you were…’; while Morgan Harper Nichols’ rendition of “Go Tell It On The Mountain” probably matches NEEDTOBREATHE’s version, and that’s saying something! Filled with heart, an array of instruments, a superb voice, and stepping out into the genre of soul, country and pop at the same time (inclusive of an all-new bridge that makes me think of gospel artists like Israel Houghton and Mary Mary); Morgan breathes new life into an already favourite carol of mine- this will surely be on my iTunes playlist even when it isn’t Christmastime! The final carol, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”, sung by both sisters, under the moniker Harper Still. Led by powerful acoustic guitars and emphatic keys, the song has both Jamie and Morgan eloquently singing a laid back mid tempo ballad- this song is vastly different to Chris August’s recent upbeat pop tune but it’s a good king of different, as this version also sounds like it could be featured in a mainstream Christmas movie like Chris’s. In fact, I think the presence of the banjo and minimal instruments, not to mention the lack of drums, enhances this song greatly. There’s plenty of heart and soul here, and it sounds like both sisters are having a lot of fun here. Well done Jamie and Morgan for including a ‘mainstream’ song that I can dwell upon about the true nature of Christmas!
With One Song At A Time garnering many accolades, as has Ready The Fly, the release of Family Christmas this month is sure to gain more praise and applause for Jamie, as well as her sister. While Jamie Grace still maintains that youthful personality, and lyrics that are more relatable to young girls; there’s a sense of maturity and understanding of the world well beyond her 21 years, and it’s this fact that will make future albums more appealing to listen to. With Jamie wearing her heart and love for Jesus firmly on her sleeve, Family Christmas is a must to buy for those who are fans of TobyMac, Britt Nicole, Group 1 Crew and Mandisa; and will undoubtedly be a Christmas album/EP highlight in the near future, with Jamie and Morgan’s infusion of many genres while keeping the focus on the God who created all musical genres! Well done Jamie for a worthy follow-up to One Song At A Time and Ready To Fly
3 songs to listen to: Born Tonight, Go Tell It On The Mountain, I’ll Be Home For Christmas
RIYL: TobyMac, Finding Favour, Ryan Stevenson, The Katinas, Capital Kings