Who are those masked me on the CD cover and why did they steal our traditional Christmas songs? Actually they are wearing winter scarves over their faces and it is the band members from Mercy Me. Last year, the band fronted by lead singer Bart Millard, appeared on the Tonight Show singing their cover of Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” from the album Mercy Me Christmas Sessions. They were so well received by both the studio audience and the producers that they received an invitation to appear on a later show.

“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” has been covered by a plethora of artists over the decades since it first hit the airwaves, but until now it has seldom been done with the same panache as Lee demonstrated. While preserving the attitude of the songstress, Mercy Me has put its own signature vocals and instrumentals to this wonderful Christmas classic. Guitarists Mike Scheuchzer and Barry Graul combine with bass player Nathan Cochran to create a party like atmosphere.

I really like what Mercy Me has done with Vivaldi’s “Gloria”. Although classical musical lovers may shudder at the adaptation, I think they have given this old favorite a rebirth. Robby Schaffer’s drumbeats permeate the band’s rendition  and combine with Millard’s vocal strokes  to bring alive the angels’ visitation to the shepherds.

Mercy Me’s rendition of the Vince Guaraldi and Lee Mendelson tune “Christmas Time is Here” is one of the prettiest songs that you will listen to this holiday season. Often associated with Charlie Brown’s Christmas, Mercy Me’s reworking of the song creates a quietly reflective ambience.

The medley “Winter Wonderland / White Christmas”, send notice that Bart Millard should definitely be ranked with the top crooners of our day. The use of horns in Winter Wonderland gives the song a fresh Dixie Land appeal.

Traditionalists will delight with Mercy Me’s renditions of classics such as “It Came Upon The Midnight Clear”, “Silent Night” and “O Holy Night”.

Bart Millard and Brown Bannister penned the beautiful Joseph’s Lullaby, the final track of the CD. Any father who has watched lovingly over their child sleeping will quietly reminisce with the words, “Go to sleep my son / Baby close your eyes / Soon enough you’ll save the day / But for now dear child of mine / Oh my Jesus sleep tight /.”

Mercy Me’s southern rock flavors bring a playful attitude to some Christmas favorites.

Put this CD on your shopping list early before the shelves are bare!

Copyright © 2006 Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved. This material may not be redistributed without prior written permission from Joe Montague. Joe Montague is an internationally published freelance journalist / photographer.