The beauty of a Jill Phillips release blooms gently with its rich acoustic instrumentation and lyrics that slowly unfold inside your heart. Albums like Writing on the Wall, Nobody’s Got It All Together and 2008’s The Good Things, her latest, feature melodies both insightful and inspiring—a testimony to Phillips’ longevity as an independent artist. writing with husband Andy Gullahorn, the two continue to keep audiences satisfied year after year. when it came to their latest release, however, the musical direction wasn’t so obvious. That’s because Jill’s as-yet-untitled album is a Christmas project, laden with songs already set in a certain musical structure and environment. Not to mention, both Andy and Jill held distinctly different opin- ions concerning their own views of traditional Christmas music. “I think the great thing about us doing this together is that we’re coming from two totally differ- ent places,” says Phillips. “I embrace Christmas music. I love it. when we came home, I always wanted to listen to it. For Andy, it’s about playing Christmas music as little as we possibly can. It’s waiting until Christmas day and then we can play it.” That last line receives a laugh and she clarifies the statement by adding, “He just hates the tradi- tional cheese and really neither of us like that. So we sat down together and compiled a list by listen- ing to as many different projects that we could find to see what we could come up with that might make a good song. We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. The world doesn’t need another Christmas record and we didn’t want to do something just to make it interesting either.” So it’s no surprise that after struggling for a season, the duo ended right back where they began with their musical approach. “we just thought we need to do this record like the other records we’ve done,” explains Phillips. “we wanted to use specific instrumentation—only acoustic instruments like percussion, bouzouki, guitar, mandolin, violin, cello and piano. That’s it. That’s our template to work with so we know what the sound will be like.” with a few originals and other rare hymns in tow, Phillips’ Christmas release is instantly more interesting than the typical holiday fare. Combined with the warm acoustic arrangements, it should instantly become a holiday favorite. The Nashville native sums it up best, “rather than thinking about it as just a holiday or Christmas record, we were trying to take more of a songwriter angle, which is more of where we feel comfortable. we’re trying to choose really meaningful timeless songs with great lyrics and great melodies. I think that is how we wanted to approach our own Christmas record.” — Matt Conner Jill Phillips CCM 45