2010 / Old World Records
Review by Michael Debbage
David Tolk’s education background includes a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Brigham Young University which is in complete contrast with his law degree from University of Utah. This contrasting educational background almost mirrors his music where he can be warm and fluid yet also highly organized in his recording arrangements. As Tolk revisits many of the holidays standards adding his own signature he retains the foundation and original spirit of some of our favorite Christmas carols. Needless to say Christmas is a familiar road trodden by many artists yet Tolk brings a light but imaginative creative touch to allow you to enjoy your Christmas music all over again.
This is not Tolk’s first effort to visit Christmas music. His first effort was over 9 years ago when he released the impressive yet less embellished Holidays. This time around Tolk invited a few friends creating a more ensemble approach, specifically Ryan Tilby on assorted guitars, Aaron Ashton on violin, and Daron Bradford on oboe and English horn. The music is propelled by the Christmas spirit of the past focusing largely on the traditional well known carols with Tolk’s soft straightforward piano performances leading the charge. However, he does not hesitate to make full use of his guests. This is best exemplified on the more upbeat “I Saw Three Ships” featuring the magical mandolin musicianship of Ryan Tilby. This beauty is followed up with the progressive arrangements of “O Come O Come Emmanuel” this time featuring violinist Aaron Ashton. Tolk rolls the dice here and adds a significant makeover to the carol but the dividends on the final result are 3 sevens and a healthy jackpot.
Tolk decides to take the more solemn and reflective approach on “Carol Of The Bells” where he flies solo with his soft yet intricate touches of the keys. It is a very impressive display that is followed up by the harmonic vocal performance of Mackenzie Tolk on the short lesser known hymn “Savior Of The Nations Come” that concludes this impressive holiday collection.
Needless to say, much like Tolk’s 2008 recording Grace where he rearranged many traditional hymns with his own musical signatures, Christmas represents an artist that can also capture our precious Christmas traditions in a new unique colorful wrapping. If you haven’t yet picked a new Christmas recording for the holidays you may want to add this to your shopping list. Tolk has found a wonderful balance of finding something new in yesteryear without destroying its original foundation.
November 25, 2011