December 1, 2011 Volume 25, Number 12
Manitoban's Christmas album reveals true Joy
By Adam Kroeker | ChristianWeek Staff
Photo Courtesy Barbara Joy
WINNIPEG, MBManitoba musician Barbara Joy's new album, A King Has Come, presents a welcome change to the Christmas season's stale cover songs and tired favorites.
A King Has Come is composed of eight original songs, recorded at Winnipeg's Family Life Network Studios. It is Joy's first full-length solo release, and a follow-up to her 2009 self-titled demo. Joy has been active in the Manitoba music scene since her youth, and boasts a background in classical piano and voice training.
Her experience is evident in the album's composition. The piano weaves throughout each song, although it is never forceful or extravagant. Rather, its tones blend together with sleigh bells and chimes, giving the music genuine warmth. And while they may not yet be Christmas classics, tracks like "All Around the World" and "Mary's Song" feature memorable melodies you'll find yourself humming around the house.
Those looking for nostalgic Christmas sentiments will find plenty to enjoy on A King Has Come. The lyrics are full of Currier and Ives imagery: toboggans, popcorn strings and snow angels abound.
Indeed, the album's force lies in its portrayal of the world through childlike eyes. Here, sweethearts are forever young, and Jesus is always a "baby boy." At times, Joy's soft vocal inflection seems to intentionally mimic that of a singing child. The instruments are gentle and restrained, sure to please both toddlers and those who lived through simpler days of Christmas.
Listeners with more grown-up tastes will spot glimpses of imagination that goes beyond gingerbread-cutter clichés. The album's most imaginative moment comes in "Playing for Gold," where Joy turns a story about a young hockey player into a meditation on virtue. By the time the bridge's "Gold, oh, Gold, we'll play for Gold" is sung, the narrator seems to have grown from a little winger into a wise man.
Still, those looking for sophisticated theology or stylish polyphony won't find them on A King Has Come. This is music for the cradle, not the cathedral; the cattle stall, not the choir stall. But there is a taste here of the season's true joy, and the biblical references accompanying each song's lyrics do provide a chance to make this album a soundtrack to this year's reading of the Christmas story.
A King Has Come is available at Hull's Family Bookstore, Tredwell's Music, and McNally Robinson. A digital version can be downloaded from iTunes.
A King Has Come is available at Hull’s Family Bookstore, Tredwell’s Music, and McNally Robinson. A digital version can be downloaded from iTunes.
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