Our friends the Garms Family are BACK with yet another homegrown CD! Once again, a review copy was graciously provided for me. After listening to it, I can wholeheartedly recommend that you add it to your Christmas collection.
Let’s start with some stand-outs: The opening track is a crisp little bluegrass skip through “Angels We Have Heard On High.” It starts slower and then picks up speed without warning. I think the effect could have been improved with a small pause between the two sections, but it’s a fun piece anyway. Second comes a big stand-out, the Little Adventurers’ take on “Little Drummer Boy.” The instrumentation is minimal but tasteful—nothing but piano, accordion, and (naturally), Sam’s drums. (Dad plays accordion so smoothly I mistook it for a stringed instrument before reading the liner notes!) As always, the LAs’ uncanny ability to harmonize with each other at such a young age shines brightly on this track.
Third is a classic Mosie Lister song called “At the Right Time.” I was unfamiliar with it before hearing this rendition. It’s a great Christmas tune that more groups should cover!
The completely acapella “Dona Nobis Pacem,” a number for the ladies’ trio, may well be the best track. It’s a surprising, yet effective choice. The blend is very pure. Very short and very sweet. One thing I might have tweaked is that a final “Amen” could have been more effective than repeating the word “pacem” again.
The one track I probably would have left off is the recitation “Jesus and Santa Claus.” Although it’s cute, it distracts from the flow of the music (especially immediately following “Dona Nobis Pacem”). However, it’s nice to know that the Little Adventurers aren’t under any illusions about the reality of Santa Claus.
Also acapella is the whole family’s rendition of “Ring Christmas Bells,” which features some impressive and complex harmonizing. One thing puzzles me a little about the lyrics, namely that they replace the “Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas” with “Riiiiiiiiiiiing, Christmas bells,” which seems to flow less smoothly. Here’s a live performance:
The LAs carry a sweet version of “Away In the Manger” which interweaves both known melodies. Taylor gets a feature on the meditative “What Child Is This.” Her rendition is impressive, but it could have been better with somewhat clearer enunciation. Big brother Ben gets a solo feature on “The First Noel” but sounds most comfortable when providing a warm lower anchor for the family blend on numbers like “Ring Christmas Bells” or the lovely “Silent Night.”
Two other brief numbers are a bluegrassy instrumental version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and a closing acapella refrain of “Go Tell It On the Mountain.” I’m told that this arrangement has since been fleshed out. Hopefully somebody will catch a video of it soon.
The song selection for this album was exceptionally good, and the instrumentation was just right. Vocally, the Garms family may not yet be on the same level as other family groups like the Browns or the Collingsworths, but with three talented little voices still developing, their future is undoubtedly bright. I should give young Jayme Garms a mention here, as she may be, for her age, the most talented member of the family (with the possible exception of Caleb). Her tone is very even and clear, and she has perfect pitch. In general, she sings the high harmony in Little Adventurers trios, but she is also quite capable of solo singing. She is featured on “Silent Night.” And as we know from the last project, she is a budding songwriter as well.
This project is definitely a step up from their debut _Thank You Lord_. To reflect that, I will give it a half-star more than I gave that album, landing at four stars. Merry Christmas you guys! Nice job!