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The four-time Grammy Award winning Australian Christian duo For KING & COUNTRY has released its first Christmas album, A Drummer Boy Christmas. The work contains a lineup of wonderfully rearranged Christmas classics, and a couple of beautiful brand-new Christmas songs, interspersed with several spoken word tracks with devout messages of peace and hope.
According to an interview with The Christian Beat, A Drummer Boy Christmas was eight years in the making. Joel and Luke Smallbone explained that they first worked on their concept of “Little Drummer Boy” in 2012, but it wasn’t until the hardships of 2020 began that they decided to expand it into a full holiday album. Joel Smallbone said:
“… it’s with great reverence and pride coupled with the hope that Christmas 2020 will be the most redemptive and joy-filled celebration of the greatest hope mankind has ever known — the birth of Jesus Christ — that we present to you A Drummer Boy Christmas.”
Each of the Christmas carols they cover opens up with original melodic lines that flawlessly meld into the classic melodies. The title track, “Little Drummer Boy,” is a fun rework of the original carol, with extensive additions to the drum beats and bombastic vocals that make the song feel bigger than ever before. Carols like “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” “Joy to the World,” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain” feature intricate orchestrations and Gospel choirs that really fill out the sound.
The Smallbones’ reimagining of Christmas carols makes each track so unique that we would need an article about each one to explain all the incredible musical elements they have injected into these holiday standards. All these wonderful reworks of Christmas carols, however, pale in comparison to their two new contributions to the Christmas songbook.
The duo released two brand-new Christmas songs this year: “Heavenly Hosts” and “The Carol of Joseph.” The first, “Heavenly Hosts,”, was written from the perspective of the shepherds, who were the first to hear that the Savior was born. The tune is marked by exceptional vocal work and wonderfully spiritual refrain of “Holy, Holy, Holy,” and when the full chorus erupts into song by the end we immediately added “Heavenly Hosts” to our permanent Christmas playlist.
“The Carol of Joseph” is just as interesting, written in the voice of Joseph as he looks down upon the infant Jesus for the first time. The song takes on themes of fatherhood, belief, and unconditional love, all the while revolving around an ascending piano line that often gives the feeling of spinning. This tumult of self-doubt stills, however, during the choruses, where the singer (speaking in the voice of Joseph) gently affirms, “I believe in you.” The song is tender and charming, with striking harmonies that make it truly memorable.
From start to finish, A Drummer Boy Christmas is an excellent collection of faith-filled Christmas songs. Although this is just their first Christmas album, For KING & COUNTRY hit it out of the park with a work that focuses on the religious aspects of the Christian holiday. This album is sure to stand proudly next to the greatest works of Christmas music for years to come.