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border crossings

David Phelps
Gaither Music Group

For his joyous holiday celebration, David Phelps pulls out all the stops. This is not to suggest a lack of reverence on the artist’s part but rather an overflowing spirit that needs not only a full band but also an orchestra and choir as well to support his expressive, emotional tenor in its dynamic explorations of Yuletide fare both new and traditional. You get the idea early on, in the second tune, “Tonight,” by Gloria and Benjamin Gaither, which opens with a lone, church piano but quickly transforms into pulsating, driving arena rock, fueled by electric guitar and pounding drums ahead of Phelps’s entering to sing exuberantly of the natural wonders accompanying the Savior’s birth night. If “Tonight” is all muscle, “Don’t Save It All For Christmas,” written in part by Celine Dion and also making full use of the band and orchestra, is replete with softer textures designed to emphasize the message of living the Christmas spirit every day of the year, to which Phelps responds with some soft, upper range lyrical caresses before turning on the burners again. And you can bet he summons all the resources at his command on the closing gospel house wrecker, “Let The Glory Come Down.” With the strings working at a fever pitch, the band flat kicking out the jams and the choir shouting its responsive support, Phelps rides herd over it all, moaning, crying, soaring into the stratosphere, driving the number to an explosive finale that launches the audience, which assembled in Phelps’s refurbished barn for this concert, into a transportive frenzy.

A sampling of David Phelps’s Christmas concert captured on Christmas With David Phelps, on CD and DVD, filmed in the artist’s own refurbished barn.

Not to mislead the reader: Phelps has long since proven himself a sensitive balladeer, as he demonstrates again on a soothing rendition of “The Christmas Song/I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” a lean, striking performance in which his warm reading is framed in a spare, evocative arrangement for piano and trumpet; and his presence, if not his voice, is evident in his own tender devotional, “Angel Lullaby,” sung by the choir in close harmony to open the album on a thoughtful note, and later in his multi-part vocal arrangement for a low-key a cappella rendering of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” He even gets a bit low down and bluesy (even shows off a little country “bubble” in his voice) on a honky tonk-tinged treatment of “Blue Christmas,” complete with a falsetto cry on his part, tasty acoustic and electric guitar punctuations, a touch of saloon piano and a discreet use of strings. Working with a lot of energy, an abundance of heart, and a wide-screen perspective on the season, Phelps makes his Christmas concert a gift built to keep on giving.—David McGee

David Phelps’s Christmas With David Phelps is available as a CD and DVD at

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (
Website Design: Kieran McGee (
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024