Nashville, TN (November 1, 2019)
Internationally acclaimed singer/songwriter/recording artist Jean Watson has released her highly-anticipated new Christmas music album, For Unto Us, on Shadowlands Records.
The 11-song collection of classic carols features fresh arrangements by Watson, production by celebrated contemporary Christian music pioneer Billy Smiley (WhiteHeart) for Northern Shore Productions, and guest collaborations with Christian music legends including Russ Taff, David Meece, Phil Keaggy on acoustic and electric guitars, and Matt Slocum (of Sixpence None The Richer) on cello.
For Unto Us was an unexpected gift to me,” says Watson. “I got to sing some of my favorite Christmas songs with some incredible musicians and guest artists! What a thrill to work with Phil Keaggy and Matt Slocum again, and to meet and work with Russ Taff and David Meece for the first time. I always say each new CD is my favorite, but I am over-the-top ecstatic about this one! Some tracks are mystical and pensive, others are joyful and exuberant, and a few are fun and folksy. Some of this music was recorded at the iconic Sound Kitchen in the Nashville area, while we recorded other songs as an ensemble at The Castle in Franklin, Tennessee. We created the music together as a group, which was a brand new, exciting experience for me. I believe the result is a vibrant, creative Christmas experience that does not sound artificial or contrived.”
The project begins with the beloved carol, “Joy to the World.” Watson embellishes the familiar call to worship with winsome vocal treatments creating an atmosphere of joy, before pulling the listener in close with her pensive, self-penned Christmas hymn, “Unto Us (Emmanuel).”
“I think the centerpiece of the album is ‘Unto Us (Emmanuel).'” Watson muses. “After my first concept meeting with producer Billy Smiley, he encouraged me to write a song to finish the project. I told him if I was to write a song, it would be from the perspective of the shepherds. What would it be like to encounter the presence of God firsthand? Just think of it–the shepherds were invited to come to the manger just as they were–tired, dirty, the lowest of the low. As I drove home from Nashville to Michigan that day, these words came to mind, inviting us to do the same:
Come all you weary ones and seek Him. / In a stable filled with hay, you will find rest. /
You who are broken, kneel beside Him. / There is healing in the holy Baby’s breath.
“Instead of Christmas being just another holiday we celebrate, or a historical event we remember,” Watson continues, “‘Unto Us (Emmanuel)’ challenges us to come to Jesus today, just as we are, and receive His healing, powerful love.”
Watson embarks on the winsome, but perhaps less familiar “The Cherry Tree Carol,” which dates back at least to the 15th century, before blending her yearning vocals with the unmistakable voice of Grammy and Dove Award winner Russ Taff on the beloved carol, “What Child is This.” A celebrated violinist who plays with the Kalamazoo, Michigan, Symphony Orchestra, Watson offers a stirring instrumental tour de force on the “Carol of the Bells/God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” medley. She puts a haunting, Celtic spin on “The Little Drummer Boy,” and allows a contemplative, yet playful sense to permeate the worshipful hymn, “In the Bleak Midwinter.”
Watson allows the weighty lyrics of the ancient “Wexford Carol” to take centerstage, then skips lithely through the charming French Christmas carol, “Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella.” She is joined by Dove Award winning Christian Music Hall of Famer David Meece on his classic Christmas song, “One Small Child,” before closing the album with a Ruff Taff duet on what is perhaps the most beloved family Christmas carol of all time, “Silent Night.”