Music Review by Luchae Williams
I love Christmas music. I love that it evokes feelings of joy, celebration and togetherness but mostly I love that it gets people singing about Jesus. So you can imagine my delight in finding out that Kim Walker-Smith, Jesus Culture worship leader and vocal powerhouse, recently recorded and released her first Christmas album!
When Christmas Comes, Walker-Smiths 3rd solo offering, is a timeless collection of 17 Christmas classics. The album, produced by the highly esteemed Jeremy Edwardson, debuted at #1 on the iTunes Holiday charts and has already become a Top 14 best seller.
I found it really interesting and poignant that the Christian songbird and her husband, Skyler Smith, are expecting their second child on Christmas Day. She shared: “It’s so funny. Being a parent just changes Christmas for you. It makes it even more exciting.”
Walker-Smith explained that this album peers into what Christmas time is like in her family. It is a nostalgic reminder of many childhood Christmas memories mixed with her heart for worship. “I know that at the core of who I am, I am a worship leader,” she shared. “That part of me comes out naturally in these songs celebrating the whole reason for Christmas—Jesus, that He came to change our lives and set us free. The message of the Gospel is the whole theme of Christmas and why we celebrate and what makes it so wonderful.”
The opening track of the album, “Tell me the story”, an original song written by Anthony Skinner, explains her heart behind this album so well. It is a simple but beautiful acoustic track that speaks about the story of Jesus’ birth and serves as an introduction to the rest of the album.
“Silent Night”, one of my favorite Christmas carols, is sung like only Kim Walker-Smith can sing it – with powerful, emotive vocals backed by moving instrumentation. Walker-Smith’s heart is in every single note she sings, which helps to magnify the truth behind each lyric.
“Angels we have heard on high,” sounds as if it’s been “Jesus Cultured” with a melodic piano interlude that sounds vaguely familiar. The verses are really funky — made so by cool percussion arrangements. I think that this may be my favorite version of this carol.
Walker-Smith’s voice really suits her rendition of “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” and the song has a contemporary feel to it. Another classic, “I’ll be home for Christmas” has beautiful violin arrangements, which complement her rich vocals and shows another side to Walker-Smith’s vocal ability.
Being a huge fan of Christmas carols, I was excited to hear her take on “The First Noel” and “Away in the manger” and I can honestly say I was not disappointed. “The First Noel” has an almost tranquil and ethereal sound backed by what sounds like a full orchestra. The piano opening of “Away in the manger” moved me. I love the simple way the song is delivered. And again, the violin arrangements are stunning! It seems that Walker-Smith made sure that there are deep moments of worship on this album.
If you want to hear the remarkable vocal capability of this songstress, then have a listen to “Have yourself a merry little Christmas”. I have never heard her sing like that before! Other Christmas classics like “Rudolph the red nosed reindeer”, “Winter wonderland” and “Let it snow” are given new life while still maintaining their fun sing-along vibe that everyone loves and enjoys. Another classic, “White Christmas”, is delivered in a bluesy, electric guitar setting.
I’ve discovered a new Christmas favorite in “O come, O come, Emmanuel.” Walker-Smith definitely does justice to the potent lyrics. The big instrumental arrangement that backs her up even more so!
“O come all Ye Faithful” and “O Holy night” both Christmas staples, are delivered exquisitely without taking away from the simple beauty of the carols.
The jewel that is “Carol of the bells” has a dramatic taste and is the perfect match for Walker-Smith’s big vocals. It is almost theatrical, again with big instrument arrangements.
Album closer, “The Christmas song”, has been redone so many times before and I have my favorite versions, but I must say I am a fan of Walker-Smiths husky tone on this track.
What sets this Holiday album apart from all the others is the knowing that Kim Walker-Smith is singing with a heart after God’s and the intention to give King Jesus all the glory. I appreciate that she chose to not sit in a “contemporary praise and worship” box but instead, stepped out to sing songs that are fun and traditional while still holding on to the “reason for the season”. Yes we have heard many versions of these age-old Christmas carols, but there is that something special when the singer believes what they are singing! With that said, it is safe to say that I am putting When Christmas Comes on repeat this Christmas.
Merry Christmas to you and your family and may your 2015 be blessed!