December 25, 2011
Sam’s Pick: John Berry
If this list has shown anything, it’s that I’m partial to a good reworking of a Christmas standard – something that stands out from the hundreds of other versions.
But for “O Holy Night,” there is nothing like Berry’s simple, traditional, note-perfect version. It’s a particular favorite among golden-voiced singers like Josh Groban and Andrea Bocelli, but Berry’s is the gold standard.
Leeann’s Pick: Martina McBride
This song is meant to be powerfully sung, even belted. Who better to fulfill this requirement than Martina McBride? On my favorite Christmas song, McBride doesn’t disappoint.
Jonathan Keefe: John Berry
I have to second Sam’s mention of John Berry’s rendition of this song. Among the religious-themed Christmas standards, “O Holy Night” is far away my favorite, thanks to its flawless construction and evocative melody. The problem with the song, though, is that melody and the dramatic crescendo in the refrain both make it real, real easy to oversing. Right, Celine?
Berry, who is absolutely one of the most gifted and underrated singers in country music’s rich history of gifted and underrated singers, takes a far more low-key approach to the song, letting the purity and warmth of his vocal tone and the soulfulness of his slow vibrato convey a real sense of reverence for the song’s message and narrative.
On a song that’s too often undone by bombastic performances and arrangements, Berry’s approach is a gift that keeps on giving.
Kevin Coyne: Carrie Underwood
For the same reason Berry and McBride are mentioned above. For me, Carrie Underwood has the most powerful voice out there, able to alternate between subtlety and raw power with ease.
It seems only fitting that a talent on loan from God should sing about the birth of His son so beautifully.