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This Year's (Last Year's) Christmas Album

I am ashamed to say that it has taken me a whole year to get to Spencer Capier’s superb Christmas album:

Spencer is known to many as a fine instrumentalist backing Carolyn Arends here in Vancouver and out there on the road. He is known to fewer, but appreciatively, as a sharp (and occasionally sharp-tongued) writer on issues of contemporary Christian concern.

On this album, though, he steps up and does his thing–in an appropriately modest, acoustic way–with just the right sort of folk renditions of Christmas favourites.

I say “just the right sort” in that he hits what to me is the sweet spot of musical creativity: ingenuity without cleverness, improvisation without show, ornamentation without prettiness.

He clearly loves the violin, mandolin, and guitars he plays, loves what they can do, and just lets them do it. He has some talented buddies back him up, and every once in a while they all let loose just a little bit (here some zydeco, there some blues), but all the while respecting the melody and, I’m guessing, the words of the original song. Not for these guys the common Christmas album imperialism of wrenching a tune loose from its original lyrical partner and putting it to work for the artist’s own (usually self-serving) purposes. No, these are true interpretations, and lovely ones.

I should have written about this last year. Didn’t. Sorry. So buy some this year to give away and make up for my mistake, won’t you?

I’m going to.


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