I Heard It Was Christmas Day is guitarist-composer Tom Caufield’s seventh release, as well as his first Christmas album. Comprised of nine guitar-led compositions, the album includes eight of Tom’s favorite Christmas standards (six sacred and two secular), plus one original composition. Although performed on a steel string guitar, one might easily mistake it for nylon in many parts, since Tom cuts the highest frequencies out when he records to create a sound that is rounded, velvety and overall haunting.

“Joy to the World” opens with acoustic guitar which is joined by gently hovering angelic voices about half-way through. Uplifting yet serene, it sets the pace for the rest of the album. “Hark on High” follows next, a combination of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and the chorus of “Angels We Have Heard on High”, where melodic and flowing guitar is accentuated by delicate bells. A gentle acoustic rhythm guides “Carol of the Drum”, which is a rendition of “Little Drummer Boy”, offering a laid-back sensibility that evokes images of the countryside. It precedes what is possibly my favorite composition on the album, “What Child Is This?”, an old Christmas carol that is set to the tune of the traditional English folk song “Greensleeves”. It’s a piece I’ve always particularly loved that has been covered by numerous recording artists, yet typically difficult to personalize. However, Tom simply nails it to perfection, adding his own signature sound in this rendition with an outstanding guitar arrangement. A Mediterranean flair characterizes the piece, transporting me to an old European city that evokes a Christmas of centuries past. “I Heard It Was Christmas Day” is the album’s only original composition, nestled perfectly in-between the others. Moving along at a moderate pace, a cozy and down-to-earth feel permeates this piece, as the soft sound of accompanying sleigh bells lend a cheery tone throughout. Another longtime favorite carol that Tom has beautifully rendered is “Silent Night”, the longest piece on the album clocking in at nearly eight and a half minutes. Ethereal tones and soft sleigh bells underpin a supple guitar melody, which is later joined by a slow rhythm, truly evoking a sense of ‘heavenly peace’. Likewise, Tom adds his own twist to “God Rest You”, a rendition of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, imbuing it with an old-world mystique. Tom has also included a lovely rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” where he applies a variation to the chorus, conveying the warmth of a fireplace on a cold winter’s night. “Auld Lang Syne” closes out the album, where Tom’s guitar is joined by airy bells and a slow backing rhythm, perfectly capturing the bittersweet nostalgia of this long-cherished New Year’s theme song.

I Heard It Was Christmas Day is easily one of the best Christmas albums I’ve heard, boasting impeccably elegant and creative interpretations of timeless compositions. I am simply enamored with both the fluidity and enveloping quality of Tom’s guitar-playing style, which at times is exotic and gypsy-like, and at others, more Americana-flavored. Furthermore, the album is presented with a beautiful artwork design that depicts a 17th century painting by Valentin de Boulogne called “Christ and the Adulteress”, which Tom selected to convey the timeless, universal message of compassion and forgiveness. I not only enthusiastically recommend this album to those who love Christmas music, but to anyone who enjoys some of the best that guitar instrumental music has to offer! ~Candice Michelle

Links & Purchase: iTunes, CDBaby, Tom Caufield

Comments

December 10, 2016 @12:05 pm
I reviewed this album too and it looks like we are in agreement. I sometimes read other people's reviews after the fact. I am always worried that I will accidentally use someone else's phrasing. I enjoyed this very much. Merry Christmas, R J
R J

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