Yay! Christmas time is here again!
This year, instead of writing about this year’s crop of Christmas projects individually, I’ve decided to round them up in one post in an effort to make sure I acknowledge all of them. Unless I’ve overlooked one, the only album that will be omitted from this roundup is Shelby Lynne’s Christmas album, which is super good/compelling and funky, so it deserves its own review and it will come as soon as I figure out how to write about it.
Let the fun begin!
Carter’s Chord, Christmas
As Toby Keith’s best discovery so far, Carter’s Chord is a talented sister duo that hasn’t yet gotten the success that they deserve. With only one digitally released studio album that has received criminally little attention, they’ve still managed to deliver a delightful 4-song EP that would be well worth adding to your Christmas collection.
All of the songs are well produced, with very tasteful country arrangements, but the standout track is the warm and bluesy “Snowed In.” Surprisingly, the lead vocal on “Up on the Housetop” could easily be mistaken for a Miranda Lambert performance.
Lady Antebellum, A Merry Little Christmas
Yes, since I typically don’t shop at Target, I made a special trip to purchase this exclusive 6-song EP. It was at least one-third worth the effort. Literally. “Their versions of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”, “Blue Christmas” and “Let it Snow” are given nice, if not unremarkable, country leaning treatments while “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and “On This Winter’s Night” lean more toward R&B. “Silver Bells”, however, suffers from the generic pop production that Lady Antebellum all too often utilizes for their regular music.
Point of Grace, Home for the Holidays
For the last couple of years, Contemporary Christian group, Point of Grace, has attempted to make gains in the country market. They haven’t been successful, but they continue to try with the release of their fourth Christmas album (the third being a collection of their first two), Home for the Holidays. Their smooth harmonies are sweet but vibrant enough to stay out of the syrupy territory. The original “Candy Cane Lane” is laced with fiddle and steel guitar and, incidentally, is one of the stand out tracks on the album, along with the gorgeous “Emanuel.” Standards such as “Silver Bells”, “Little Drummer Boy”, and “Holly Jolly Christmas” are also treated to decidedly country arrangements and ably performed on the whole.
Mandy Barnett, Winter Wonderland
Mandy Barnett’s Cracker Barrel exclusive Christmas album is an unapologetic throwback to the Nashville sound of Yesteryear both in production and notable reverb affects. At this point, it’s unoriginal to compare her voice to Patsy Cline, but the similarity is pretty much irrefutable, so it’s no wonder that Barnett aptly capitalizes on the comparison and we, in turn, continue to make the connection. Ultimately, it’s a pleasant album, but more for background than intrigue.
Jason Michael Carroll, Christmas on the Farm
With Jason Michael Carroll’s chart success being somewhat spotty, it’s easy to forget that he possesses one of the top voices among the current country crop as he slips under the radar much of the time. Therefore, it’s the surprise of the season that his Christmas EP is one of the best Christmas projects of 2010. His talent gorgeously shines through most especially on the gently and beautifully sung arranged “Auld Lang Syne”, but on “Silent Night and “O Little Town of Bethlehem” as well. “Joy to the World” is a rousing back porch pickin’-type affair that is ridiculously infectious. The title track is also upbeat, but is the lone contemporary produced song on the set. It wouldn’t sound like a typical Christmas song if not for the setting, but it’s fun, if not superfluous, nonetheless. If this EP is representative of Jason Michael Carroll at Christmas Time, more please!
…i’ve been waiting for this since labour day weekend. well, better late than never…
seriously, leeann, one of my favourite features in the whole wide country blogs universe. hohoho.
Suzy Bogguss has a new Christmas album, “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”. Her website says it’s now available for download, cds coming soon. Hopefully, the cd will be available when I see her Christmas show at the Loveless Barn in 3 weeks. If you click on the album cover picture you can hear about 30 seconds of each song.
I do love the Barnett album, though I agree with your assessment of it. It’s designed to create a pleasant, familiar ambience – nothing more, nothing less.
Leeann- I am a major fan of christmas music of many genres, the last country effort of christmas music i brought/liked in full was either Faith Hill’s Joy To The World or Mary Chapin Carpenter’s Come Darkness, Come Light.
I didn’t pick up any christmas releases by country artists this year, However, I did pick up Glee‘s Christmas album, and it is VERY good, however, if you aren’t a fan of Glee (or pop music) I suggest you don’t buy it. But I think it’s worth giving a listen, they do some creative renditions of some songs; and k.d. lang does duet on “You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch.”
Will you do a christmas songs list?
I couldn’t agree anymore about Jason Michael Carroll. He is the best. I was glad he finally did a Christmas Album, we have waited for it! He has stated that in 2011 he will be bringing out some new music, so all you JMC fans continue your support and we will all make him more well known to the world,
I’m not sure if I will purchase any Christmas albums released by country artists this year, but I do have to admit that a little–okay, maybe a significant–part of myself wants to indulge in pop sweetness and buy the ‘Glee’ Christmas album.
Geeky (or perhaps ‘gleeky’) as it may sound, I’ve looked at the album once or twice…
Awesome, awesome Leeann. I am behind on my Xmas listening!
Shelby Lynne has a Christmas album out, as well (“Merry Christmas,” I believe is the title). And there’s an exclusive compilation at Starbucks that features a brand new recording by Rosanne Cash of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” among a few other new recordings and the perennial recycled cuts by Frank, Dean, etc.
Travis, I mentioned the Shelby Lynne album in my intro. I plan to give it its own review.
Gah! My inattentiveness embarrasses me yet again!
I love Carter’s Chord and I’ve been meaning to buy their X-Mas EP. Thanks for the reminder! I like Lady A’s, but I’m not over the moon. I do like that they slowed down “All I Want for Christmas is You”. That was unexpected. I figured they’d make it high-energy and poppy. Lastly, I am a bit incredulous about the Point of Grace one, as I bought their last X-Mas album, and really disliked it. Even though they covered “Tender Tennessee X-Mas”, a song I really like. Most of it seemed frenetic, and sort of confusing. You are always spot-on, though, so maybe I’ll have to give them another try.
Thanks for the vote of confidence. I absolutely agree with your assessment of POG’s previous Christmas album. Since I liked the first one, I was disappointed bythat one. Your description is exactly what I thought of it.
My new Suzy Bogguss Christmas album, “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”, arrived in the mail yesterday. (It can also be purchased as a digital download.) Her rendition of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” includes the introduction which I haven’t heard in many years:
(I just got back from a lovely trip
along the Milky Way
I stopped off at the North Pole
to spend a holiday.
I called on dear old Santa Claus
to see what I could see
He took me in his workshop
And told his plans to me, so…)