Have you worn out your favorite Christmas albums yet? This is the point in the season for me when the old standards start to feel a bit stale and we’re ready for something fresh, something new. And so I thought I would share a few of our favorites with you in the hope that you might find a new song or two to enjoy.
And while we don’t love every song on this last album, the ones we do love are excellent—perhaps our favorite versions of our favorite Christmas hymns. They’re perfect for epic Christmas kitchen dance parties:
Did you know that the Christmas issue of Wildflowersis available? Also, Wildflowers now offers two different kinds of subscriptions, so whichever one you choose, you’ll find each season’s issue waiting for you in your mailbox. Huzzah!
In other news: I got to take a stab at illustrating for this issue, and it was so much fun, I’m coming back next year as a full-time illustrator!
Remember two weeks ago, when I told you we wouldn’t listen to Christmas music until the first day of Advent?
We made it until the day after Thanksgiving. Here is why:
My very favorite Christmas album is A Charlie Brown Christmas. No matter how many times I hear it played in my home, your home, my parents’ home, Starbucks, and the department store, I still love everything about it. If anything brings back warm, fuzzy Christmas memories for me, it’s that album. If any Christmas song consistently makes me weepy, it’s Vince Guaraldi’s rendition of “What Child is This?” If any CD calms me down when I have more to do than time to do it in, it’s A Charlie Brown Christmas. I play that album more or less on repeat for all of Advent.
My second favorite Christmas album is A Slugs & Bugs Christmas. It’s funny and touching and quirky at once and gets the blend of humor and wonder and just right. The affection for this one in our home is corporate—we all love it equally and, unlike A Charlie Brown Christmas, no one person is making everyone else listen to it all the time against their will.
The only thing better than those two albums would be one that somehow combined the cozy jazz piano of Vince Guaraldi with the clever energy of Slugs & Bugs. Seasoning the whole mix liberally with lyrics pulled straight from Scripture would take this hypothetical album from good to great.
That is exactly the album that Slugs & Bugs just released.
Randall Goodgame is, it turns out, not just a stellar songwriter but also a stellar jazz pianist, and he anchors the whole album with piano pieces that elicit of the warmth and nostalgia of A Charlie Brown Christmas. But the songs are decidedly his, with songs ranging in tone from charming to beautiful. Within the first four songs, I had laughed helplessly once, cried twice, and said “I love this album so much” to Mitch more times than I can count.
“Mary’s Song,” sung by Goodgame’s daughter Livi, is stunning. “Joseph’s Dream” is wonderfully peppy (“I didn’t know he could sing that fast!” said Lydia from the backseat). The rest of the album is good, too, I’m sure, and I’ll have listened to it all before this post goes up*. But I knew within the first song that I wanted to share Sing the Bible: Family Christmas with you, and so here I am, having listened to only seven songs before writing a review.
I’ll send you off with a little foretaste of that first song:
May these songs fill your Advent with light and warmth and joy (and jazz).
I have listened to the whole album now, many times. The entire thing (and especially the last song, but also many others) is a thing of beauty.
What could be better than news that Slugs & Bugs is currently fundraising for the release of their third Sing the Bible album?
Reading that news while eating a donut would be nice. Reading that news while eating a donut and drinking a cup of coffee would be nice, too. But better than both of those is the news that Slugs & Bugs is fundraising for both Sing the Bible Vol. 3 and for a Vince Guaraldi-seasoned Sing the Bible Christmas album!
You can read more about the project (and watch a behind-the-scenes video) here, at The Rabbit Room. And you can support this worthy project here, on Kickstarter. Happy Valentine’s Day to us!
My mom favored folk singers; my dad introduced me to everyone from Louis Armstrong to Michael Jackson to Nirvana. By the time I held my first guitar, I had a wealth of influences to draw on and didn’t have to wonder what made a good song good—I knew what to listen for. That I would write my own songs seemed inevitable.
I want to give my own daughters that same sort of creative foundation, but with one alteration: I want them to know the classics, but I want to introduce them, first, to artists who tuck the gospel into their music, who inscribe on their lyrics and compositions Bach’s inscription, “Soli Deo Gloria.” Glory to God alone.
At home we listen to everything from Billie Holiday to the Black Keys, but in our minivan I have a captive audience, and so I curate our travelling collection in the same way I curate our home library: the songs we hear while buckled up together are the ones whose lyrics will take root in our daughters’ young hearts, the ones that become part of our family’s collective memory. I want them to be good songs, creative songs that nourish our souls. I put a lot of thought into which albums make it into the van, and while not all of the artists in our collection are exclusively (or overtly) Christian, most of them are.
We listen to Liz Vice (her music is one of my favorite discoveries of the past year) and Josh Garrels. We listen to JJ Heller, of course, and 16 Horsepower, an old favorite from before we married. The Gray Havens captured the girls’ imaginations with their story-songs, and the music of Ordinary Time has been with us through all manner of seasons. (It goes without saying that Slugs & Bugs and Songs for Saplings are in heavy rotation, too!)
Not every song on this list has made it into the van yet—some are still waiting on my Amazon wishlist for their moment to come. But they are all good songs, by artists who use their gifts to tell again the story of who God is and what he has done, and to tell it in fresh and creative ways.
“The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.”
Around New Year’s the ground on our side of the state was still muddy and gray, so we went to the mountains in search of snow. On the way there we sang merrily, knowing that our road ended at a cabin in the mountains full of good friends, a woodstove, and steaming mugs of hot cocoa. No matter how long the day or how red our cheeks from the cold, there would at least be good company and hot cocoa.
The road home was less magical: traffic slowed to a crawl for most of the journey (we were not the only ones snow-hunting that weekend), and the trip that took six hours going was a grueling nine-and-a-half hour ordeal coming home. What saved our sanity, in the end, was pineapple pizza, a ball of play foam, a roll of paper towels, and Slugs and Bugs.
We had given the girls Sing the Bible, Vol. 1 and Under Where? for Christmas, and while we savored them on our way to the cabin, we depended upon them on the way home. The antics of Randall Goodgame, Andrew Peterson, Sally Lloyd-Jones and others kept us laughing when little else seemed funny—when the snacks ran low, when the toddler got loud, when the continued presence of seatbelts began to oppress us all—and reminded us to rejoice in the Lord always.
These albums have hardly left our CD player since that trip. I listen to them when I’m in the car alone, delighting in the stellar musicianship (that harmonica in “New Testament Song“!) and brilliant lyrics, and I make sure to queue up a favorite like “The Wagon Song” for the girls when I pick them up from school. Mitch and I can’t resist singing “I Wanna Help” to Phoebe when she thoughtfully dumps all the hardware on the floor for Mitch while he’s trying to assemble her toddler bed. These songs have already become part of the collective, musical culture of our family.
But we’re ready for more. How timely, then, that Slugs and Bugs’ Sing the Bible, Vol. 2 released this month! This album has a different sound from Vol. 1, featuring as it does a gospel choir rather than the African Children’s Choir, but it still offers a glorious mix of songs that appeal to kids and to parents: my husband loves “The Ten Commandments”; my daughters love “Stars.” I can’t listen to “Raisins” without laughing so hard I cry or to “You Forgave Me” without crying because it’s so beautiful (or perhaps because I’m eight months pregnant, but I’m leaning toward “it’s so beautiful”).
Randall Goodgame and his posse clearly delight in what they do, and that delight is infectious. They pull jokes in from other albums and create completely new jokes for this album, while still treating Scripture as something living and active, to be handled with a sense of reverence and awe. I am most grateful for them in the moments when I hear our daughters (even the littlest one) singing Scripture to one another as they play.
But though I could go on at even greater length about how wonderful this new album is in the hope that you’ll go purchase a copy of your own, I get to do something a little different today: I get to give one copy of Slugs and Bugs Sing the Bible, Vol. 2 away to one of you instead! How lovely is that? Details on how to enter the giveaway are below.
How to Enter the Giveaway
Enter your info into the form below and complete as many of the possible options as you like: share, follow, or comment away! On March 17, a winner will be randomly chosen and notified by email (and if you aren’t notified promptly, please allow me a little extra grace: our baby is due that weekend). Best of luck to you!
Hi, I'm Théa! I review classic literature, poetry, nonfiction, fantasy, picture books—children's books luminous with grace and beauty. These are books our family loved and that I think you'll love too. Thanks for stopping by!
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