Aaron Swain's blog about Southern Gospel Music, News, and other items of interest in the SG world.

CD Review: The Old Paths – Christmas Classics

December 22, 2008 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music, The Old Paths

Rating: 4 stars

Producer: Jeremy Peace
Label: Independent
Website: www.theoldpathsonline.com

1. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – The project begins with an acappella rendition that fits the group’s vocalists well. Nothing really showy about this track; just solid harmonies.

2. Angels We Have Heard On High – An orchestra with bells backs the group on this hymn. The orchestration really adds to the beauty of the song, calling to mind a Christmas cantata in a large church.

3. O Little Town Of Bethlehem – Piano and violins carry up this slow, pretty song. Baritone singer Douglas Roark is featured on the verses, with the rest of the group coming on the chorus. This rendition is pretty straight-forward in delivery.

4. Go Tell It On The Mountain – This version of the song, while keeping the orchestra, opts for a an almost “swing” feel. It’s different from others that I have heard, to be sure. The xylophone is too loud in the mix, with an almost ear-splitting volume that really distracts the listener from the song’s message.

5. Mary Did You Know – Bass vocalist Brandon Berry (now singing with The Stamps) is featured on this classic by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene. This is in the same key as Triumphant Quartet’s version. Barry’s powerful voice fits the song well, and the beautiful violins backing him really add to the power. One of my favorite tracks of the project.

6. Joy To The World – The mix is off in this track, making the singers sound muffled behind the orchestration. At about the :38 mark, the track seems to restart itself, and does the first verse all over again before going to the second verse. These problems are disappointing and could have easily been corrected.

7. The First Noel – Tenor Jeremy Peace gets a solo here. His voice is built for slow songs like this, and he carries the song well. The high “Noel” near the end sounds great as well. This is one of my favorite versions of this song.

8. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! – The baritone is featured again on this secular Christmas tune. This is an OK version, but it’s way too short.

9. Oh Holy Night – Lead singer Tim Rackley gets the feature here. I’m of the opinion that Rackley is one of the best vocalists in the business today, and this song reinforces that opinion. Awesome version of this song.

10. Silent Night – The ear-piercing xylophone is back on this track. The group, once again, provides a rendition that is almost like you would find in the average hymnal.

11. The Christmas Song – The project closes with a piano solo by the group’s former pianist, Matt Clark, who was later replaced by Joe Cox. Clark displays his very capable musicianship throught the project, but it is nice to get to hear him out front.

Final Thoughts: The Old Paths have put out a Christmas project that opts for a sound like four guys singing with a pianist and a church orchestra. This makes for some awesome and powerful arrangements of great Christmas songs. All four vocalists do an outstanding job on each song on which they are featured.

However, the project is not without its faults. Sound issues pop up several times, and many of the songs are all too short, clocking in at well under two minutes. The project is short overall, but it is very enjoyable and would be great to play over the speakers at church at Christmastime as a postlude.

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