By David Garrison If you are looking for a Christmas album that breaks from the norm of contemporary Christmas music, then journey back to the Middle Ages with Kemper Crabb’s latest project, Downe in Yon Forrest. The album draws from the rich history of Christian worship and Christmas carols, many from the 1500’s . Kemper is not only an Episcopalian priest; he is also a bard and minstrel for our times.
Creativity:: 10 Reaching back into the deep history of Christian music and lore, Kemper has created a tonally beautiful album that is quite unique among music today. He draws not only from medieval styles of music, but also uses German, Latin, and Gaelic languages on the project, too.
Original Songs:: 8 As far as I can tell, none of the songs are original creations. But that doesn’t seem to be the purpose of this album either; therefore, Kemper gets extra points for making a Renaissance-style Christmas album—that is original!
Classic Covers:: 10 The covers of the classics on this recording are fantastic and quite unique. He has covered not only some of the traditional Christmas songs, such as “What Child is This?”, “Veni, Veni, Emmanuel (O Come, O Come Emmanuel)”, and “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence”, but he has also re-introduced some of the lesser-known carols such as “Taladh Chriosda (The Christ Child Lullaby)”.
Musical Score:: 10 The music is rich and full, conveying a strong sense of flow and movement and has a deep texture to it. Listening to the album with eyes closed, one can almost imagine being back in the Middle Ages preparing to celebrate the Christ Mass. It begs to be played alongside a roaring fire on a cold evening.
Overall Holly Jolliness:: 8 While a fantastic album, it tends to lean in a more mellow direction. I am not sure I would score it very highly as a “holly jolly” one. That being said, I found myself exploring new and different aspects of Christ’s advent as a result of the carols chosen and how they were presented.
Total = 46. Not only is this album part of Santa’s personal collection, he’ll be dropping it off all over the world on Christmas Eve. But just in case you made the naughty list, better pick up a copy of Downe in Yon Forrest (or a DVD of Kemper Crabb’s live performance on PBS). Five hundred years old and people still wear to hear it, this is one album that you’ll not tire of hearing, season after season and year after year.
To read our review guide lines, go here.