DISClaimer: Christmas Tidings

Brett Eldredge

Brett Eldredge

Seasons greetings, faithful readers.

Here’s our “DisClaimer” column rounding up some of the rest of Nashville’s holiday musical offerings. Today, we hear from representatives from our bluegrass, Christian and Americana communities, as well as some mainstream country stars.

The Disc of the Day is a tie between Brett Eldredge, with a single, and the five-man a cappella group Home Free, with an album.

This week’s DisCovery Award goes to Sammy Hakim.

Brett Eldredge/Mary, Did You Know
Writers: Lee Rufus Greene/Mark Alan Lowry; producer: Ross Copperman; Publisher: Rufus/Word, ASCAP; Warner Bros.
-Eldredge has seldom been as impressive as a vocalist as he is on this stately ballad. This is easily one of the finest performances of the season. Copperman’s delicate, piano-focussed production is flawless.

SAMMY HAKIM/This Christmas Love Me
Writers: Samantha Hakam; Producer: Kevin Gutierrez; Publisher: none listed; BMI; EXT (CDX)
-Indie artist Hakim’s original holiday tune is a sprightly rocker that yearns for a ex lover’s return. Her delivery ranges from a breathy whisper to a sassy wail. Promising.

TEEA GOANS/All I Want For Christmas Is You
Writers: Troy Powers/Andy Stone; Producer: Terry Choate; Publishers: Songs of Peer LTD/Songs of Delta Boy/Good Ole Delta Boy peertunes LTD, ASCAP/SESAC; Crosswind (CDX)
-Still one of our finest young country vocalists, Goans gives this evergreen ballad plenty of bluesy soul. This gal can really sing, folks.

LARRY WEISS/Christmas Without You
Writers: Larry Weiss; Producer: Larry Weiss; Publisher: Rhinestone Cowboy, ASCAP; Cape (CDX)
-For some people, Christmas is a downbeat, sad time of year. The “Rhinestone Cowboy” songwriter offers an aching ballad for the blue and broken hearted.

DARIUS RUCKER/What God Wants For Christmas
Writers: Darius Rucker/Frank Rogers/Monty Criswell; Producer: Frank Rogers; Publishers: Universal/Cadaja/House of Sea Gayle/Sony-ATV Tree/Dixey Bar, ASCAP/BMI; Capitol (track)
-Opry star Rucker’s first Christmas album is Home for the Holidays. It is dominated by standards, including his duet with Sheryl Crow on “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” But there are some new tune contributions, too. This one is a dreamy meditation loaded with orchestral backing. CMT is currently airing its video.

THE ROYS/Bluegrass Kinda Christmas
Writers: Elaine Roy/Lee Roy/Steve Dean; Producer: none listed; Publishers: Wings of a Butterfly/Mandolin Man/Bethar, SESAC/BMI; Rural Rhythm
-The title tune of this bluegrass duo’s holiday CD is a toe tapper with rippling banjo, lively fiddle and Lee Roy’s deft mandolin picking. Innocent sounding.

NASHVILLE CAST/Celebrate Me Home
Writers: Kenny Loggins/Bob James; Producer: Jay DeMarcus; Publishers: none listed; Big Machine (track)
-All of your TV favorites from the Nashville series are gathered together on their Christmas With Nashville album. Sam Palladio, Connie Britton, Hayden Panettiere, Chip Esten (dueting with Vince Gill), Clare Bowen, Jonathan Jackson, the Stella sisters, Will Chase, Aubrey Peeples and Chaley Rose all have turns in the spotlight on holiday standards. The whole cast assembles for this album-closing anthem.

home freeGUY PENROD/A Cradle in Bethlehem
Writers: Alfred Bryan/Larry Stock; Producer: Michael Omartian; Publisher: Sony-ATV, ASCAP; Servant/Gaither
-This star CCM vocalist has one of the strongest 2014 Christmas albums. Its 15 tracks are dominated by standards, both secular and religious. This lesser-known song is taken at a slow, steady pace with an appropriately hushed, devout vocal performance. The orchestrated arrangements are impressive throughout the collection.

FARMER JASON/Christmas on the Farm
Writers: Jason Ringenberg; Producers: Thom Jutz/Peter Cooper; Publishers: Jason Ringenberg/Bug, BMI; Courageous
-This guy has the kiddie Christmas album of the year. He made his reputation leading the cowboy-punk Jason & The Scorchers. But before that he was a farmer, hence his alter-ego as a children’s entertainer. This is the zippy, fun, bluegrass-flavored title tune of his CD, which also includes the merry “Eat Your Fruitcake,” “Santa Drove a John Deere,” “The Animals Song” and “All I Want for Christmas (Is a Punk Rock Skunk),” as well as holiday standards aimed at the younger set.

HOME FREE/Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer
Writers: Randy Brooks; Producers: Home Free/Darren Rust; Publishers: none listed; Columbia (track)
-These guys won on The Sing Off as a country a cappella act. Their Full of Cheer collection kicks off with this hillbilly standard. If anything, it’s even funnier than the original, with each group member sounding more yokel than the last as they take lead-vocal turns. Absolutely essential listening. The rest of the CD is more serious, but as the title promises, there’s enormous good cheer glowing throughout the collection.

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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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