Carolyn Arends has released ten albums and three books. She has won 2 Dove Awards, garnered 3 Juno nominations, and has been named Songwriter of the Year by the West Coast Music Awards. Billboard Magazine has called her “one of the most affecting communicators in any genre”. Carolyn has been a regular columnist for Christianity Today and a college instructor at Pacific Life Bible College and Columbia Bible College. Her debut album I CAN HEAR YOU was a good one! That 1995 release included the songs ‘This is the Stuff’ and ‘Seize the Day’. Her first holiday album was 2004’s CHRISTMAS: AN IRRATIONAL SEASON. Her latest is CHRISTMAS: THE STORY OF STORIES (2014, 2B Records). It contains nine originals, three classics, and a Rich Mullins cover. It was produced by Arends and Roy Salmond, and largely funded via a highly successful Kickstarter campaign.
A light pop song, ‘It Was a Holy Night’, may disturb some traditionalists: “O little town of Bethlehem/I think it is a lie/That you were still or dreamless/On that first Christmas night.../I think He cried the way that babies do/I think His mama might have cried a little too/I bet you Joseph didn’t have a clue what to do/He was new at fatherhood/So I don’t think it was a silent night/I kind of doubt that all was calm that night”. ‘Vacancy’ contains these admissions many will be able to relate to: “Seems like my Christmas cheer is hard to find this year/I think it vanished in the Fall/Strange how a loss or two can eat away at you/Until there’s not much left at all”. Another light pop song, ‘Everything Changes at Christmas’, reflects on the importance of the nativity: “Well, if the shepherds were not wrong/If there was an angel song/If God planned this all along/Everything changes at Christmas/Cause if that was the Savior’s birth/That means God thought we were worth/Whatever it took to bring love down to earth/So everything changes at Christmas”.
‘Christmas Magic’ is a great ballad that includes these heartfelt words: “Come all ye faithful, there’s room at the table/And there is a gift for everyone/Friends, the whole reason we need this season/Is to help us remember, joy can still come/To a world often troubled and tragic/So bring on the old Christmas magic”. ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ is presented in country and bluegrass fashion. It opens with some good news: ”God rest ye merry gentlemen/Let nothing you dismay/Remember Christ our Savior/Was born on Christmas day/To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray/O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy/O tidings of comfort and joy”. ‘The Sound’ encourages us to practise spiritual reflection: “Sometimes on a midnight clear/If we close our eyes we begin to hear/A still, small voice saying ‘Christ is near’/Hush now, listen, that’s the sound of the Kingdom coming.../The Kingdom coming to your town”.
‘It Came Upon the Midnight Clear’ is tender and beautiful and includes these familiar words: “Peace on the earth, goodwill to men/From heaven’s all gracious King!/The world in solemn stillness lay/To hear the angels sing”. ‘You Gotta Get Up’ is a happy, playful cover of a Rich Mullins song. It reminds me of my childhood: “I thought Christmas day would never come/It’s here at last, so mom and dad/The waiting’s finally done/And you gotta get up/You gotta get up (2X)/It’s Christmas morning”. ‘Long Way to Go’ is a catchy original that talks about just how awesome God’s love for us is: “People say that love has limits/People just don’t know/How far the love that came at Christmas is prepared to go/From realms of glory to bales of hay/What a long way to go/From King of Heaven to tiny babe/What a long way to go/Goodness, gracious, glory be/God came down to you and me/From a throne to a manger, to Calvary”.
‘Story of Stories’ is a lovely ballad that tells of God’s perfect response to our sinfulness: “God has a love and the love overcomes/Cause it comes down to live in our skin/Yeah, He makes His home in the flesh and the bones.../He wants His family back/There’s just no stopping His love.../He is the story of stories/He is the mystery of old/He is the glory of glories/All that exists comes down to this newborn baby boy”. ‘What Kind of King’ reminds us Christ did not come in the expected manner for royalty: “To have the ox and lamb/Attend His coronation/What kind of King is this?/To bid the shepherds come/With just their adoration/What kind of King is this?” ‘Dawn on Us’ zeros in on Jesus’ earthly dad: “What was he thinking in the starlight?/Did he have time to think at all?/A carpenter his whole life/Now he was a midwife/And then the shepherds came to call/When Joseph held the newborn baby.../Was it all a blur, all too much/Until at last, the sun came up?” ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ invites us to worship Jesus with all we have: “O come, let us adore Him (3X)/Christ the Lord”.
Carolyn Arends lives in Surrey, British Columbia with her husband Mark and their two kids, Benjamin and Bethany. In the liner notes Carolyn thanks “Pacific Theatre and Blue Mountain Baptist Church, who provoked, inspired and inaugurated so many of these songs”. On this album, Carolyn provides vocals, acoustic guitars, piano, and ukulele. Spencer Capier plays mandolin, mandola, guitar, violin, bouzouki, and sings. Besides being a co-producer, Roy Salmond is responsible for organ, electric guitar, glockenspiel, strum stick, hurdy gurdy, percussion, cello arrangements and more. Other talented folks on this album include: Julian MacDonough, Adam Thomas, Joel Strobbe, and Gayle Salmond.
Carolyn Arends sings with a childlike innocence and a sense of awe and wonder. The multiple originals are well thought out and presented skillfully. Carolyn here has penned many songs that will touch your heart and get you to look at Christmas with new eyes in a new way. This is an instant classic you will not be able to resist! I recommend it to fans of Cheri Keaggy, Sarah McLachlan, and Cindy Morgan. I’m rating CHRISTMAS: THE STORY OF STORIES 95%. For more info visit: www.carolynarends.com.