By Brandon Henry Photo Credit Jessica Hackner
Mother Banjo and Ben Cook-Feltz’s EP Christmas Came Early is a soul-healing collection of songs that put you in the spirit of the season. Outshining bigger-budget affairs, the EP strays from the standards and dives deep into the holiday cannon with four songs that span a wide array of genres. From the up-tempo folk-rock opening title track to the traditional American tune “Pageantry and Poetry,” the Irish carol “The Wexford Carol” and the raucous African-American spiritual “Go Where I Send Thee,” Christmas Came Early celebrates love and the hope of a new start.
The opening title track is an original penned by Mother Banjo (Ellen Stanley). It’s a fun, bouncing folk-rock song about being with the one you love at Christmas only to find they’ve left you alone by the tree with the cat and some “crappy mix tapes.” It has a clever tongue and cheek, observational sense of humor that fans of John Prine will appreciate. Ben Cook-Feltz adds his impeccable harmonies and piano accompaniment that soar through the hook and leave you rejoicing in solitude and the hope ahead.
The tenderness and authenticity of the middle tracks are what make Christmas Came Early stand out from the deluge of holiday albums. “Pageantry and Poetry,” and “The Wexford Carol” are delivered with a gorgeous sentimentality that warms your spirit and comforts your heart like a dimly lit church on Christmas eve.
Closing out the record is a version of the African-American spiritual “Go Where I Send Thee.” Mother Banjo and Ben Cook-Feltz make it their own with a fun groove and raucous rhythm, a treatment of the song that can easily stand among the greats like Johnny Cash and Nina Simone who have tread this ground. It’s a rendition that will get you moving and send you off with your spirit high.
Packing more punch than most full-length albums from the genre, Christmas Came Early is just in time for the season. And if there were ever a time for Christmas to come early, this is it.
Mother Banjo and Ben Cook-Feltz will celebrate the release of Christmas Came Early with a show at Icehouse in Minneapolis on Sunday, December 11th at 5 pm.
Purchase Christmas Came Early on iTunes: