Every year, I search for a great new Christmas album to add to my collection. With more than 12,000 Christmas songs in my collection since I began in the 80’s, I’ve heard everything. Good and bad…and everything in-between. When you find a Christmas album that is simply perfect in every way, it’s a cause for celebration. This year, that perfect album is “Christmas Time” by The Flat River Band – a trio made up of brothers – Andy, Dennijo, and Chad Sitze. Their musical bond has allowed the band to open for Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines, Alison Krauss, Ricky Skaggs, Rhonda Vincent, TG Sheppard, and others.
The brothers have also charted #1 hits on the bluegrass gospel charts as well as have had their songs featured in the 2018 movie “The Least of These — A Christmas Story” featuring Duane Allen (Oak Ridge Boys), Deborah Allen, and Tayla Lynn (Loretta Lynn’s granddaughter).
The Flat River Band mines what is universal in Christmas music and gives it back to us, and we see it and feel it. When we gather at Christmas to celebrate and remember our gains and losses, with love and gratitude, great holiday music becomes more than just a box of perfect notes in a narrow genre.
Listening to this album is a celebration of home, tradition, warmth, goodness, and friends. “Christmas Time” is a beautiful, simple, and stunning album, all at the same time. You’ve probably heard these classic standards before, but the renditions of both instrumental and vocal selections done by The Flat River Band are beyond beautiful.
Standouts for me, include the opening “O Holy Night”, with its resonant strings and ominous percussion. The bluesy, driving groove of “Go Tell on the Mountain”. The lilting guitar lullaby of “Away in a Manger”. The pure voice on “It’s Christmas Time” that is matched by the sprawling piano and insistent beat.
“O Come, All Ye Faithful” is another poignant and beautiful moment, in an album full of them. I also thoroughly enjoyed the 3-part harmonies on “I Heard the Angels Sing (Welcome Home)”, and the upbeat banjos juggling with the brisk tempo of “Jingle Bells”.
“I’m Gonna Get That Santa Clause” delivers another train chugging rhythm, before the gentle flute of “What Child Is This”, brings a cinematic instrumental aura to the proceedings. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman (We Three Kings)” closes the album, reminding us once again that The Flat River Band are masters not only of style, but of substance.
“Christmas Time” is elegant and contemporary, yet rootsy and deeply traditional. This is exquisite music making of the highest caliber. Wonderful arrangements and selections performed with great style, care and passion.
Listeners don’t just get all the hallmarks they come to expect of a Christmas album, but a whole lot more. It just doesn’t get any better than this. Once you hear it, you’ll want to share the special spirit of this incredible music by The Flat River Band.