Friday, November 4, 2016

Found Wandering: Christmas Music Perfection

My biggest “oops” of the 2015 season was my failure to cover the excellent album “On a Christmas Night” by Found Wandering. This was a major oversight on my part, as Found Wandering had submitted a digital version of their album to me, and it got lost in the shuffle along the way, only to be discovered way too late in the season to do a meaningful review. So, to make things right, I want to devote this blog post to Found Wandering, their beyond-excellent 2015 release “On a Christmas Night”, and also their previous Christmas album “Christmas in Country Village”. I hope that this post, even though it is a season overdue,  renews attention to these records and exposes a new audience to the music of Found Wandering.

Found Wandering is a trio – Sarah Comstock (vocals, mandolin), Colin Comstock (guitar, banjo, ukulele), and Jake L’Armand (violin, guitar, mandolin) hailing from Pennsylvania. There are many words than can be used to describe their sound – roots, Americana, folk, blues, a little soul in there. Lively, harmonious, moving, serene, spiritual, uplifting – all of these also apply to their music.

What an experience it is for a Christmas music lover to queue up “On a Christmas Night” and hear the first few bars of “Angels We Have Heard On High”. If you didn’t know better you’d swear that Sarah Comstock is one of those angels you are hearing. Sarah’s voice is heavenly. It’s a perfect fit for the arrangements, instrumentation, and style. It’s strong yet subtle, confident yet without a hint of diva.

The album progresses through “I Saw Three Ships”, “Sweet Little Baby Boy”, and a rousing version of “Christ was Born on Christmas Morn”. Then we get to “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming”, one of the finest recordings I’ve heard of this centuries-old song, with Sarah’s vocals complementing wonderfully controlled instrumental tension and release. “Sing We Noel” follows, one of my personal favorites on the album, with its moderated and varied tempos, and a subdued lyrical melody.

“On a Christmas Night” contains 11 songs, each and every one a joy to hear. What could be better than a front to back excellent album? Well, how about one of the best album covers I’ve ever seen? I absolutely love the cover art. The simple, serene, Christmas countryside at night. It’s beautiful, and it perfectly fits the music of Found Wandering.

So, I loved this album. Loved it so much that I had to go and buy Found Wandering’s previous Christmas release, 2011’s “Christmas in Country Village”. Fourteen songs grace this album, leaning towards the traditional and the spiritual after kicking off with an up-tempo, energetic “Go Tell It On the Mountain”, complete with barnyard backing “musicians” to kick off the song.

A wonderfully understated and serene “O Holy Night” follows. It’s traditional, yet their own. Jake’s violin adds a layer of beauty that one rarely hears in other recordings. This is the ultimate Midnight Mass version, quietly concluding the service and sending you home silently in the gentle snow of the early morn.

The album continues with “What Child Is This”, “The Wexford Carol”, “Carol of the Bells”, a believe-it-or-not uptempo, sprightly version of “In the Bleak Midwinter”, and others, ending with “Amen”, a 39 second conclusion to an amazing record.

Sarah, Colin, and Jake are outstanding musicians. All three show their instrumental talent throughout their albums, complementing and highlighting each other, and blending together as a seasoned band. These two albums are among the best Christmas records that I have, conveying the true feeling and spirit of Christmas through the listening experience. And, they seem to get better every time I play them, as I hear new nuances in their performances. They are among the best Christmas music albums, not only of their release years of 2011 and 2015, but of any year. There are many wonderful Christmas albums by thousands of artists out there in the world of Christmas music. Found Wandering's contributions to the genre are as close to perfect Christmas music as you'll ever find.

"On a Christmas Night" Amazon link

"Christmas in Country Village" Amazon link

Found Wandering website

Found Wandering on Facebook

Found Wandering on Soundcloud

Found Wandering on Bandcamp

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