Kelly McGrath - O Holy Night
Kelly McGrath’s voyage through the world of popular music has thus far established her as one of the pre-eminent singers working today and a fine songwriting talent as well. Her gift for interpretation, however, will now have to be respected thanks to her newest single, a cover of the longtime Christmas standard “O Holy Night”. This performance will likely rank, for many years to come, as one of the more artful holiday releases you’ll hear. McGrath’s accessible yet technically appealing and emotive voice expands the scope of its interpretative powers with this track as the structure of the performance makes it so that her voice is the focal point for listeners. The sparse musical arrangement supporting her is quite by intent – McGrath’s take off point for the song is Jeff Buckley’s famous version of “Hallelujah” and McGrath achieves a similar feel without ever sounding remotely imitative. The performance is, as well, tailored to an ideal length and manages to uplift listeners while, also, affording her audience a glimpse into her heart.
The reverb driven guitar work makes for a great counterpoint to McGrath’s voice. It’s played with the same patience and taste characterizing McGrath’s vocal and has a slightly rough air of gravitas that doubles down on the seriousness of the song’s moment. There’s a little light keyboard color hovering over the track that’s an effective addition. McGrath includes a bit of bass to shore up the absence of a drummer and it’s a shrewd move – it’s easy to admire the skeletal elegance of the arrangement, but it’s a performance likely to waft a little too much if she opted to forgo any sort of rhythm section accompaniment. The truly beautiful thing about the song’s musical arrangement is how McGrath achieves a nearly painterly control over the song’s cumulative effects. It works its magic slowly, inexorably, and you soon find yourself transported elsewhere.
Much of the credit for that transportation, ultimately, resides with McGrath’s vocal performance. She inhabits every line of “O Holy Night” as if the tune were an original and there isn’t a hint of any unproductive levels of respect in how she presents the song. McGrath clearly entered the studio with a clear vision of how she wanted this song to come out because it is underlined in each minute of the track and her singing constitutes a vivid exclamation point on the cut. Kelly McGrath can move in multiple worlds; she’s quite able to entertain a wide cross section of the music listening public with emotive and relatable performances while still maintaining a fierce artistic spirit that illuminates her craft with a vivid radiating light. This is much more than just an entertaining Christmas cut – this is, also, an essential addition to McGrath’s discography.