Review Rating: Must Listen! [4.7 / 5]
Christmas is quickly approaching and thankfully, Tenth Avenue North has a yuletide playlist ready to go. The beloved band of five presents ten tracks from a hundred years of Christmas music, representing ten decades of styles, sounds, and motifs. From celebrating the Savior's birth to enjoying the comfort of friends and family, there's a wide variety of music to enjoy. Decade The Halls is a fun-filled collection, wrapping together a musical legacy with unique and engaging sounds, fantastic guest vocalists, and an energy quite fitting for the season.
Listeners get a 20's throwback with the radio-style intro "Good King Wenceslas," prime for a big brass opener across the upbeat adaptation of "O Come All Ye Faithful." It's at a faster pace than the traditional carol, but that only boosts the energy. Lead vocalist Mike Donehey leads the upbeat celebration with enthusiasm, throwing in impromptu commands to the rest of his brass and drum centered band to give the sense of a live, street side performance. The result is a fantastic take on a beloved classic, starting out the collection on a high note.
50's rock-and-roll sounds, reminiscent of many famous artists of the time, come to life for the original track "The First Christmas." Mike's vocals mesh perfectly with guest vocalist Zach Williams, bringing the song to life amidst the piano notes, guitar, drums, and highlighting saxophone. Its lyrics peel away the layers of Christmas over the years to focus on the day Christ was born - the quiet, calm, almost overlooked birth in a stable that gives room for today's festivities. It's an upbeat, swinging track that adds another beloved dynamic to the album.
Radio stations often play the band's take on "Deck The Halls," a welcome return guaranteed to catch the attention of Tenth Avenue's fans. Equally as fun is the innocently sweet and amusingly self-aware "Mistletoe," also dubbed "The Christmas Sweater Song." Taking on an early 2000's sound, jingle bells combine with electric guitar - the riffs across the chorus and bridge are a welcome change of pace for such an occasion. The song's lyrics (over)dramatizes the story of a guy waiting for his girl to come to the Christmas party and share a mistletoe kiss - but it's okay, Mike reminds us that they're married! Granted, there is a certain element of cheesiness, but the way Tenth Avenue North runs with it makes the song so much fun.
The highlight of the album, apart from the fantastic decade-friendly sounds and engaging tracks, are the vocalists. Mike is not alone as many guests join the band for a song. Zach's vocals on "The First Christmas" are certainly a highlight and give the song a fantastic dynamic. Jon McLaughlin joins Mike in an awesome cover of "O Holy Night," beautifully carrying the second verse and the chorus until the song closes. Britt Nicole brings an additional brightness to "We Three Kings," coming in towards the song's opening and accenting the remainder. Sarah Reeves' gentle voice alternates between subtle background verses and the crux of the song for "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." When it comes to "The First Noel," Colton Dixon completely steals the show with fantastic, soulful lyrics that perfectly complement Mike's. All in all, the album has a fantastic vocal presence and drives the Christmas sense of community and fellowship.
Where many Christmas albums play things safe, Tenth Avenue North throws caution to the blizzarding winds and creates a fun and festive collection. The decade concept makes the record fun for all ages, with literally something for everyone. It is clear that Tenth Avenue North did not simply want to drop a few songs for the season - they go the distance across every track in the runtime. The result is a fantastic album soon to become a favorite. Need to spice up your Christmas playlist? Just add Decade The Halls.