I know it's early for Christmas music (I usually try to wait until after dinner on Thanksgiving), but I can't help it. I got the call to play for the Christmas Eve service a couple of weeks ago, so I've already started listening a bit. And once that flood-gate opens, there's no holding it back. I love Christmas music and will listen pretty non-stop for the next few months.
So I was pretty stoked to see that Sara Groves is offering her It Came Upon a Midnight Clear live cd for free on NoiseTrade.com. (By the way, if you're not familiar with Noise Trade, get over there right away and start clicking around. I have found so much amazing music there. It requires a little hunting, but it's almost always worth it.)
Anyway, I really enjoy this album. Sara Groves has a beautiful sound and it is well applied to a number of both classic and new Christmas songs. I will say, if you see the list and expect to hear a lot of songs that you already know, that is not the case. Aside from "Carols" which is an audience sing-along, all of the traditional songs are reworked with new melodies. For the most part, I find the reworks to be very nice, though I admit, I don't love her version of "O Holy Night" but that's probably because I really like that song in about as pure a form as possible. But I absolutely love her chorus on "Angels We Have Heard On High." Really just beautiful.
It's definitely a rough cut, but I like that. You don't always get the full "concert" experience on live albums and this one gives you that. If you're looking for a polished, fully edited Christmas album, this is not it, but if you're looking for something that has a nice acoustic feel, this is definitely one to check out!
You can pick this album up for free here (though the site appreciates it if you're able to leave a tip -- it helps keep the music coming!).