CD Review: Home for Christmas (Mark Trammell Trio)
Home for Christmas was actually released last year, while Eric Phillips was still with the group, but as I did not get it in time to review last year, I decided to hold it over to this Christmas season’s review section.
On first glance, if that first glance is at song titles and soundtrack choices, one might think Home For Christmas offered little new. After all, five of the project’s eight soundtracks (there are two acapella songs) come from Gold City’s 1997 CD Home For the Holidays—and the group (at the time of recording) had a tenor that sounded a lot like Gold City’s Jay Parrack and has a baritone that sounded remarkably like Gold City’s Mark Trammell. But first appearances are often deceiving, and are here.
On the opening track, “O Come All Ye Faithful / Joy to the World,” the group sings “O Come All Ye Faithful” as a trio, then adds their spouses and their bus driver (Walter Bohannon) for “Joy to the World.”
More family is brought in for “White Christmas”; Mark Trammell sings it in a trio with his son Nick (at the time with the Perrys) and Nick’s wife Jessica Brown Trammell (at the time soprano singer for the Browns).
One of the project’s obvious highlights is Mark Trammell’s definitive rendition of “O Holy Night.” He uses Gerald Wolfe’s track, but brings something to the track Greater Vision didn’t—trio harmonies. Wolfe’s original ends with his solo voice going up to the fifth (the high G); Wolfe’s richly satisfying big ending is only improved by Trammell nailing the G, Dustin Sweatman singing the E below, and tenor Eric Phillips completing the chord with a solid high C.
Though many of the tracks draw from Trammell’s Gold City days, there is a nod to his Cathedral Quartet years with the Cathedrals’ acapella arrangement of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”
The other acapella song, “I Know a Name,” closes the project. It has the feel of a hymn; there are hymns with that name by Charles Gabriel and by Haldor Lillenas, but I was unable to ascertain whether this song was one of those two or a third song by the same name. Whatever its provenance, it’s an excellent song with an equally excellent arrangement.
Though Southern Gospel fans will have heard nearly all the songs (and most of the tracks) before, strong vocals carry a project that fans of the Mark Trammell Trio will find a welcome addition to their collections.
Rating: 3.5 stars. ♦ Average song rating: 3.5 stars. ♦ Group members: Eric Phillips, Dustin Sweatman, Mark Trammell. ♦ Produced by: None credited. ♦ Available from: Artist. [EDIT, 11/8/10: The link is broken and has been removed.] Review copy provided. ♦ Song list: O Come All Ye Faithful / Joy to the World; The Christmas Song; God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen; Silver Bells; It Came Upon a Midnight Clear; White Christmas; O Holy Night; Carol of the Bells; Beautiful Star of Bethlehem; I Know a Name.