While researching music for the collection,Â Bishopâ€™sÂ research revealed that before it was a Christmas song,Â â€œI Saw Three Shipsâ€Â was likely an old pub song that folks would sing over drinks.
While he thought the songÂ had a great melody, he foundÂ the lyrical content a bit shallow.Â So he wrote a story to accompany the song â€” turning itÂ into a narrative recounting a tale of a harbor town that had lost three ships at sea, only to have them return on Christmas morning.Â Joined by a crowd of talented roots musicians, the new arrangement swells with pride and grandeur and lilts with the trademark triplets of an Irish fiddle tune.
The second song,Â â€œBalulalow,â€Â was originally composed as a hymn in 16th century Scotland, the name itself translates to â€œlullaby.â€
While the song itself is almost 500 years old,Â Bishopâ€™sÂ introduction to it was far more contemporary, with his first introduction coming from a musician by the name ofÂ Gordon Sumner, i.e. Sting. â€œHe actually sang it in a more authentic way,”Â notes Bishop, pointing out that he did some shorthand and re-pronounced some of the lyrics to fit with modern and American pronunciations. â€œAnything that I sing is going to sound mountain-y, just by virtue of my voice. I can make anything sound bluegrass-y.â€
He jokes, but there is nothing immediately â€œbluegrass-yâ€ about his haunting rendition of this traditional hymn.Â â€œThe music is so large,â€Â he says, praising the dramatic string arrangement crafted byÂ Cody McVey, â€œBut the message in it is so sweet and small. It really does evoke the power and the majesty of Christâ€™s birth in that little, lowly manger. You can just see all of heaven lighting up. You can hear that in the music.â€