CD Review: Peace on Earth (Mark Trammell)

This project may well be the best solo Southern Gospel Christmas CD ever released.

Unlike the Mark Trammell Trio’s Home for Christmas project, reviewed last week, Mark Trammell’s recent solo Christmas project features all-new tracks. Legacy Five’s Tim Parton arranged the tracks and probably provided the piano (though uncredited). Reggie & Ladye Love Smith (of Gaither Homecoming fame) provided the background vocals. Milton Smith, who is better than anyone else at making a fake orchestra sound real, provided the orchestrations. Bobby Bradley provided percussion, and David Johnson played everything else.

Southern Gospel music tends to attract vocal freaks of nature. Quartet singers tend to be specialized at harmonizing in a certain vocal range, and this sort of talent—a much-need talent that carries a vocal harmony-driven genre—rarely carries over well to solo work. Most of the Southern Gospel quartet/trio singers who have done solo projects (even the best, like Gerald Wolfe, Christian Davis, and Michael Booth) still sound even better in an ensemble setting. Mark Trammell, who George Younce described as “the best quartet man that I ever worked with,” has the rare talent of excelling equally well as an ensemble singer and as a soloist.

The song selection is as original and varied as an album of Christmas classics can be. Several rarely recorded songs are included: “There’s a Song in the Air,” “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus,” and (at least on a Christmas project) “Tell Me the Story of Jesus.”

The songs that have been frequently recorded are given new life through fresh arrangements. The project’s highlights include Trammell’s authoritative anthemic renditions of “Angels From the Realms of Glory” and “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.”

Lest one think the whole project was heavily orchestrated ballads, “Tell Me the Story of Jesus” and “Go Tell it On the Mountain” have a folk/Appalachian touch. Overall, though, the project has a musical consistency that reveals careful thought and planning.

If someone unfamiliar with the genre asks for a list of the best Southern Gospel recordings, this project should make any short list.

Rating: 5 stars. ♦ Average song rating: 4.5 stars. ♦ Produced by: E.T. Everett. ♦ Available from: Artist. [EDIT, 11/8/10: The link is broken and has been removed.] Review copy provided. ♦ Song list: There’s a Song In the Air Medley (There’s a Song in the Air / Away in a Manger / What Chid is This); I Wonder as I Wander; Go Tell It On the Mountain; Let There Be Peace on Earth;  Angels From the Realms of Glory; O Come, O Come Emmanuel; It Came Upon a Midnight Clear Medley.