2009 Christmas Singles Extravaganza!

TreeInstead of bombarding our readers with a million Christmas posts, we thought it would be more efficient to gather a bunch of 2009’s Christmas singles and provide a quick rundown in one post. So, in no particular order, here are my thoughts on this year’s Christmas singles.

Carter Twins, “Let It Snow” (Listen)

This brother duo treats this lightweight classic with an unimaginative contemporary production. It does not bring anything interesting to the table and is, mercifully, an all in all forgettable track.

Carters Chord, “O Come, O Come Emanuel” (Listen), & “Santa Baby” (Listen)

It’s a shame that the most talented act (besides Keith himself, of course) on Toby Keith’s Show Dog label has not gained any traction in the last couple of years. It seems that, so far, the only way Carters Chord will be heard is through digital downloads, as their very good 2008 studio album was only released in digital form. Likewise, they have just released a 2-song Christmas EP that contains a pretty version of “O Come, O Come Emanuel” and a sassy interpretation of “Santa Baby.” Both tracks are well produced with prominent dobro and acoustic guitar in the mixes. “Santa Baby” is less whimsical and more assertive than the original version. “O Come O Come Emanuel” is well sung with beautiful sister harmonies and very few vocal gymnastics.

Darius Rucker, “Candy Cane Christmas” (Listen)

“Candy Cane Christmas” is a nice jazzy Christmas original that invokes warmth by tapping into the sweet feelings of anticipation for the big day. Rucker is a pretty decent crooner, which is what this song calls for. Over all, it’s a nice song, though not especially memorable.

Faith Hill, “Little Drummer Boy” (Listen) & “O Holy Night” (Listen)

Faith Hill has an inarguably top-shelf voice that is capable of various musical styles. So, it is disappointing that her 2008 Christmas album was good, but generally uninspiring as far as creativity or energy goes. As to be expected, she does these classics justice, but nothing more.

Taylor Swift, “Last Christmas” (Listen)

The song and the singer are meant for each other. Bad vocalist sings a bad Christmas song. She’s got better songs on her Christmas EP, particularly “Christmases When You Were Mine.”

Gretchen Wilson, “I Want a Hippopotamous for Christmas” (Listen)

Kudos to Gretchen Wilson for letting loose with the wackiest Christmas list wish ever. It’s fun, it’s infectious and it’s different. Score!

James Lann, “Mr. Grinch” (Listen)

This is just bad. Very bad. If you want a cool version of this song, not counting the untouchable original, seek out Aimee Mann’s funky version that will surely make you smile, unlike this pointless version that will only make you cringe.

Joe Nichols, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” (Listen) , “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” (Listen)

Much like Faith Hill’s Christmas album, Joe Nichol’s album is nice, but does not particularly stand out. As you’ll find with these songs, his voice is wonderful as always, but there’s still a barely perceptible something to be desired. .

Joey + Rory, “It’s Christmas Time” (Listen)

I love this husband-wife duo, as I’m sure is no secret to Country Universe readers at this juncture. This gorgeous Rory Feke original only cements my adoration. It is a sweet slice of life snapshot of Christmastime. I could say more, but what’s the point? Joey + Rory + Christmas = Beautiful Authenticity.

Marty Raybon, “Good Old Fashioned Christmas” (Listen), “One Night in Bethlehem” (Listen)

Marty Raybon is best known for being the lead singer for Shenandoah, one of the best and most popular pop country groups of the nineties. He has since left the group to pursue a quiet solo career that has garnered a couple albums that are more rootsy in nature. “Old Fashioned Christmas” is in line with Raybon’s solo career, inasmuch as it is an up-tempo honky tonk romper. Conversely, the pretty “One Night in Bethlehem” is similar to Raybon’s work with Shenandoah, which employs aggressive piano and other more contemporary elements. Both tracks, which can be found on a digital EP, are solid songs with the latter song being more substantive and, over all, superior.

Sugarland, “Silent Night” (Listen)

Interestingly and happily, many of the songs on Sugarland’s new Christmas album are the most country that we’ve ever heard from them. One of the standout tracks on this very good album is “Silent Night.” Jennifer Nettles’ vocal is flawless and the acoustic instrumentation is truly heavenly. As a nice surprise, Nettle’s beautifully sings the second verse in Spanish, in which she holds a college degree. This is, no doubt, the best Christmas single of 2009.

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24 Comments

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24 Responses to 2009 Christmas Singles Extravaganza!

  1. StephenNo Gravatar

    Agree with this. The J+R combo is best, IMO. Swift’s was a mess and I’m a fan. Faith Hill’s takes on the slower songs are uninspired, but I feel her joy radiating on the more uptempo numbers.

    Also, if I may, care to critique this? :)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MO1tIRineuU

    Carrie Underwood – O Holy Night from her Christmas special last night.

  2. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar

    Swift really does sound terrible. I usually like her phrasing even when her tone isn’t good, but that recording just sounds super rushed.

    Love this post, Leeann! Especially the title!

  3. Me too, me too! This is awesome.

    I’m loving the Sugarland single. Every once and awhile I’m reminded of how incredible Jennifer’s voice is, on its own.

  4. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar

    Some great finds here Leean, great feature!

    I especially like the J+R song, and Gretchen better watch out, those hippos will kill ya! Seriously they are the most dangerous animals in Africa, in spite,( or maybe because of) their vegetarianism….and for this unsolicited factoid, you’re welcome. ;) Great song by GW though, not usually big on novelty songs, but this is a good one.

  5. Nice Collection.I like this one Taylor Swift, “Last Christmas”.
    Happy Christmas & Happy New Year
    You may Like This
    http://knol.google.com/k/christmas#

  6. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    Dan, I just totally wanted to use the word “extravaganza”! It makes me think of how Phoebe said it on Friends. Do you remember it, Tara? That’s how I said it when I told Bill what I was going to title the post.:)

    I don’t have time now, but I will come back and talk about Carrie’s version of “O Holy Night”, Stephen.

  7. BobNo Gravatar

    My wife and I have 57 Christmas cds and I think she may have ordered some more in the last week. The most famous Christmas songs are from the 1940′s: “The Christmas Song” (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire), “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”, “White Christmas” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. Last year I did a check on Christmas songs written since 1980. Part of the reason was because I think songs like John Berry’s “My Heart is Bethlehem” written by Michael Peterson and Trisha Yearwood’s “It Wasn’t His Child” by Skip Ewing are great songs that are hardly ever covered by anyone else and should be. Granted, it would to tough to match the Berry and Yearwood versions. I found quite a few other really good songs since 1980. This might be something for you guys to explore since your collections are probably very different from mine. It would provide a broader picture of modern Christmas songs. The best Christmas album last year IMO was not country – loved Straight No Chaser’s “Holiday Spirits”.

  8. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    Bob,
    I have a feature in the works that explores modern country Christmas albums. I have a zillion christmas albums, not limited to country.

  9. TomNo Gravatar

    …simply beautiful, leeann.

  10. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    Thank you, Tom.

    And Steve, thanks so much for that little factoid. Guess I’m gonna scratch that one off my list then.:) Our cute little house probably wouldn’t have been able to hold it anyway.

  11. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar

    You’re welcome Leeann, let the African wildlife be GW’s problem, not yours, lol.

    Looking foward to your Chistmas album feature too! :)

  12. Tara SeetharamNo Gravatar

    Oh, I remember Leeann! Another thing we have in common? :)

  13. MichaelNo Gravatar

    Haha! Thanks for the factoid, Steve. :)

    Leeann, I’m looking forward to the Christmas albums feature.

    “Last Christmas” is one of my favorite guilty pleasures, but I haven’t heard the Taylor Swift cover yet. I was curious at first, but I don’t think I’ll be seeking it out anymore.

  14. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    Michael,
    It’s linked here, if your curiosity knows no bounds.

  15. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar

    Michael says:
    December 9, 2009 at 11:52 am
    Haha! Thanks for the factoid, Steve. :)

    Your welcome.

    It’s a little know fact, but if you go near any big rivers in Africa, your survival may depend on it. Hippos kill more people than any other African animal, including lions, leopards, pythons, poisonous snakes and elephants.

    I know it’s off topic, but if Gretchen Wilson didn’t bring it up first, neither would I. ;)

  16. StephenNo Gravatar

    Thanks Leeann.

    As for my favorite cut this year (I’ll exclude Underwood), I’d have to go with Andrea Bocelli featuring Reba on “Blue Christmas.” The harmonies work so well. Reba has a brilliant voice and it contrasts so remarkably with Bocelli – just a great, great listen.

  17. NicolasNo Gravatar

    You should’ve mentioned Dolly Parton’s new Xmas single, and Sara Evan’s has a new 4-song Xmas EP out recently =)

  18. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    Perhaps another installment of the Extravaganza is in order.

  19. TomNo Gravatar

    …go for it leeann!

  20. There’s a Gloriana version of “Silent Night” too…
    Also some new stuff from Trace Adkins on the Now CD along with the “Go tell It On The Mountain” single from Little Big Town.

    Also, Skip Ewing’s “It Wasn’t His Child” and “Christmas Carol” are very, very good Christmas songs…

  21. love your reviews although we were just having fun with the new single. Something wacky was what were were trying to accomplish. We would love to have you review our new album. say hi sometime :)

  22. love your reviews although we were just having fun with the new christmas song not really a single. Something wacky was what were were trying to accomplish. We would love to have you review our new album. say hi sometime :)

  23. LindaNo Gravatar

    Joey + Rory’s song is gorgeous. The melody is cute and the lyrics completely held my attention.

    Carter Chord’s songs are decently good. Harmonies are beautiful and I love the country-ness of the accompaniment in “Santa Baby.”

  24. Soul Miners DaughterNo Gravatar

    LOVE Sugarland’s “Silent Night” and JenNet’s spanish verses are nothing short of brilliant.

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