Rend Collective: ‘Campfire Christmas Volume 1’ Album Review

Courtesy of rendcollective.com
Courtesy of rendcollective.com

Rend Collective (formerly known as Rend Collective Experiment) have added an Irish spring to your Christmas step this festive season with the album Campfire Christmas Volume 1. It’s a thigh slapper and foot tapper!

For a long time, the only Irish-based music any of us played during the Christmas season was the Pogues’ legendary immigrant song “Fairytale of New York,” from the album, If I Should Fall From Grace with God.  That one is a bitter song of drunkenness and sorrow, so it’s great to hear an album full of upbeat Christmas tunes with the fun and lilting melodies that we expect from the Irish.

Rend Collective set up the album perfectly with the song, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” in a campfire style. This sets up the whole premise of the album theme, Campfire, which gives the message of all coming together around one common focus. It’s about community, family, and sharing.

Rend Collective expresses the joy of Christmas with fun arrangements. “Ding Dong Merrily on High” is a great example of this, with the vocals repeating “Ding Dong / Ding Dong” before launching into a great Irish jig-infused version of the song. It would be loved in any Irish pub around the world.

Rend have always been known for quirky arrangements with the traditional Irish sounds that they do so well. “Joy To the World (You Are My Joy)” starts off with a vocal arrangement that even vocal groups the calibre of Pentatonix or Take 6 would be proud of, before breaking into what can only be described as an Irish Christmas party celebration. Is this what Christmas albums are missing these days? Are they missing joy?

There are certainly moments for advent reflections with “O Come All Ye Faithful,” and a stunningly haunting version of “O Holy Night (O Night Divine),” followed by the traditional hymn, “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.”  These quiet moments bring a personal touch to great Christmas albums. It’s a chance to feel the magic of the season.

Rend bring fun to the party with “Merry Christmas Everyone,” singing, “We’re going to have a party tonight.”  This track would have fit perfectly in the middle of a Bruce Springsteen and The Seegar Sessions Band Christmas edition album. It’s a bluegrass sound that is purely there for its fun factor and you can’t help but tap along to the beat.

The album closes with a track called “For All That You’ve Done” to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne.” At the end of another busy year, I think it’s fitting to sit back and think, “How on earth did I get through this one?” and relax in the knowledge that you indeed have made it to the end of another year.

Rend understand the meaning of Christmas. They understand its serious nature and also its need for celebration. Rend understand the need to bring people together in times like the Christmas session, because it’s personal and it touches lives. Their great tunes only infuse those feelings. Every year, there are hundreds of Christmas albums released, but only a handful of them have a heart that beats as strongly as this one.

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