There is a time for everything. Sometimes you want festive Holiday music – and lots of it. At times though, the usual Top 20 Christmas playlist is just too much. You find yourself wishing for something low-key and different. Camille Nelson’s new “Acoustic Christmas” might be what you are looking for. It features calming acoustic guitar arrangements of Christmas classics with special guest vocalists. It is a heartfelt, joyous, and well-balanced release that puts a personal touch on any Christmas playlist.
Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Camille Nelson is the youngest of six talented and musically inclined siblings. Her father was a violist, and her mother was an opera singer – both heavily influencing Camille’s pursuit and interest in music and performance. She’s visited more than 70 countries and has lived in South Africa, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy prior to and while pursuing her Master’s degrees at the University of Utah and Utah State University and later her Ph.D. at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. In 2019, she released the album “Sacred Lullabies” on Heartdance Records. In our review, we wrote: “It is impossible not to be moved by the album’s heartwarming and loving atmosphere. It makes you feel safe. When you think of it, that’s a rare quality in music.”
O Come, All Ye Faithful
No one knows for sure who wrote the tune for “O Come, All Ye Faithful” (see Wikipedia), but it is a perfect album opener as it is well suited for the guitar. Nelson’s take on the carol is gentle and restrained. It has such emotional qualities (it is a triumphant carol, after all), so it is easy to be carried away and play too fast or too hard – but Nelson knows what she is doing, delivering a solid performance.
No wonder “Joy to the World” is perhaps the most-published Christmas hymn of all. Nelson’s version is gorgeous, with a soft echo that gives a tremendous sense of space. It makes me want to quote the lyrics: “Repeat the sounding joy!” Yes, indeed; find the replay button, I say! It is a superb performance.
Little Drummer Boy
Nelson has found a winning formula combining instrumental and vocal tracks without losing focus on the instrumental part, as heard on her previous album. Having only instrumental pieces on an album gives it less appeal (many people need a voice to “guide them”, that is why many doesn’t like classical music). In this matter, I believe “Acoustic Christmas” may serve as a “watch and learn” for other artists too.
Yahosh Bonner’s vocal on “Little Drummer Boy” is exceptional. I also like the percussion, which is uncredited – something that leads me to believe it is just “drumming” on the guitar, using it as a percussion instrument. The Irish “Wexford Carol” is a delightful “bridge” between two tremendous vocal songs. Its meditative sound makes us breathe and relax. It is important that too.
One of the finest songs on the album is “Still, Still, Still”. Kora sings fantastic, wonderfully backed by Kimberly Knighton, Britney Holman, and Cardin Mckinney. We already knew that Nelson could play lullabies, and “Still, Still, Still” is no exception.
Once in Royal David’s City
“Once in Royal David’s City” has a celebratory and happy feel before Britney Holman and Kimberly Knighton sing Philip Paul Bliss’ Gospel classic “More Holiness Give Me”. It is breathtakingly beautiful.
The ending of the album brings no surprises, but that is not necessary either at this stage. The version of the Polish carol “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly” might actually be the best instrumental piece here. Marj Desius’ very tender vocal on “O Holy Night” may be a bit thin for many people’s taste – but it is very much in tune with the album’s overall feel. For all Camille Nelson fans, the instrumental “Silent Night” is a true gift that can be enjoyed again and again. Bravo!
In conclusion: Christmas 2020 is a different kind of Christmas, no doubt about that. Due to social distancing, it might be impossible to celebrate with family and friends. Many have also lost a loved one to Covid19. But we have to make the best out of it. I believe music is a key factor and that Camille Nelson has something unique to offer in “Acoustic Christmas”. Its mix of instrumental pieces and songs is both inspiring and thought-provoking – something that is quite rare in the Holiday music genre, which is usually more festive and upbeat. “Acoustic Christmas” is a near-perfect release that will last well into the new year. If I only got this CD for Christmas, I would be very happy indeed.
For more information and music samples, visit: camillenelson.com