EHSS will release a 7-song project called White Christmas on the 1st of November (hear here). It includes four brand-new cuts and three live cuts, all with new member Ian Owens. For fun, they picked “___ Christmas” songs for all the new cuts: “Holly Jolly Christmas,” “Tennessee Christmas,” “Blue Christmas,” and “White Christmas.” The live recordings are “Glory to God in the Highest,” “Who Do You Think?” and “Come Make a Place.” All three live recordings feature a live band, giving us a fascinating taste of what a full live project might sound like if they ever got around to putting another one together (by the way, anybody else agree that Stand By Me Live is pretty much the best they’ve ever done, still?)
So, some quick thoughts after listening to clips:
1. I’ve never been a fan of “Holly Jolly Christmas,” but I might be able to live with a quartet version.
2. It was a brilliant idea to give Wayne Haun his very own feature on “Tennessee Christmas.” He’s been singing it at their concerts, and this studio version sounds wonderful from the brief clip. I believe we can expect to see Wayne do even more vocal work as part of the group in the future, though I think he’ll insist on keeping it occasional and low-key.
3. Speaking of stuff they’ve done in concert, Ernie’s Elvis impression on “Blue Christmas” has worked so well live that it makes sense to put it on an album. Ernie sounds like he’s thoroughly enjoying himself.
4. Their version of “White Christmas” doesn’t do much to set it apart from other slow, jazzy “White Christmases.” I’m looking for fresh snow. Not purple snow (that would be hip-hop or something), just fresh.
5. They’ve taken to singing verse 2 of “Glory to God” with members trading off lines. Sometimes it’s Devin and Doug (with Doug landing on a high note), but this time it’s Ian and Devin with Devin doing the high note. From what I heard in the clip, Devin nails it. But I don’t think it’ll topple the old version.
6. Ian’s voice works really well with “Who Do You Think?” That was originally done in Tim Duncan’s upper register, where he always sounded a bit thin. Ian’s fuller, more expansive tones are just a better fit for the song.
7. “Come Make a Place” is a little simpler and more stripped-down live than in the studio, and Doug’s voice is allowed to shine even more.
And there you have my quick, mini-review. I’m not sure I’ll have much to add if I decide to get the project. But it’s sounding pretty good to me. Though if you take away the two tracks I consider rather filler-ish, that leaves only five tracks worth checking out. So if it’s worth the ten bucks, or ten bucks plus shipping to you, check it out.