Prime Cuts: Mary Don't You Know, I Don't Want Christmas to End, That Spirit of Christmas
Overall Grade: 4/5
Zach Williams knows how defy expectations in a good way. While most festive records thrive on exploiting the sentimentality of the season by endowing songs with bells and strings, Williams' debut Christmas album rocks on in a good southern style. Re-calling the classic records of The Gregg Allman Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Travis Tritt, I Don't Want Christmas to End isn't your typical Christmas muzak. Produced by Jonathan Smith, these 10 tracks were recorded at the legendary FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The locale where Aretha Franklin and Little Richard made their classic 60s albums.
"Christmas Time is Here" starts the album off on a high note. Despite the piano introduction, the southern funk kicks in as soon as Williams starts singing. He then delivers a Elvis-styled reading of "White Christmas." Mark Lowry's evergreen "Mary Did You Know" has often been interpreted as a sappy sentimental ballad. Williams brings some Gospel-soul into this Christmas classic accelerating the pace of the song into a rocker. Whether or not the backings are well-suited to a song about a teenage Mary wondering who her baby is, Williams' take does sound kickingly good.
The album also features three originals: the best of which is the bluesy title track "I Don't Want Christmas to End." If "That Spirit of Christmas" were to be released in the 90s, it would have been coveted by country rockers such as Travis Tritt or Hank Williams Jr.. Williams goes all out rocking on "Merry Christmas Baby." Not often associated with Christmas music, the wailing guitars and the propulsive drums make "Merry Christmas Baby" a standout.
Though most of the songs work, but some of the songs such as "Go Tell It on the Mountain" and "Run Run Rudolph" tend to suffer from an over cluttering of brassy sounds. Nevertheless, I Don't Want Christmas to End is not your average seasonal offering. It's gutsy, innovative, different, and it makes Jesus rocks... in a good way.