DISClaimer: For King & Country Offers A “Stop-You-In-Your-Tracks Masterpiece”

You just can’t beat Music City when it comes to Christmas records.

This community has given us such holiday standards as “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” “Holly Jolly Christmas,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “Mary Did You Know,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” “Tennessee Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer,” “Blue Christmas,” “Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy,” “Christmas Time’s A-Comin,’” “Santa Claus Is Watching You,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “If We Make It Through December,” “Christmas In Dixie” and “Pretty Paper.”

This year, Nashville’s non-country artists are leading the way. We have a dandy DisCovery Award winner in Nickie Conley, as well as an undisputed Disc of the Day winner in For King & Country.

KEB’ MO’/Christmas Is Annoying
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Concord
– Nashville’s resident blues superstar has issued his debut holiday collection, Moonlight Mistletoe and You. Long noted for his wry sense of humor, he includes this smile-worthy, bah-humbug ditty on the set. Who can’t relate to maxed-out credit cards and the stress of the season?

NICKIE CONLEY/100 Christmas Kisses
Writers: none listed; Producer: Roger Ryan; Publisher: none listed; AfterTouch
– This Music City resident was Donna Summer’s longtime backup vocalist, and Nickie has also harmonized behind Sara Evans, CeCe Winans, Third Day, Gloria Gaynor, Kirk Whalum, Patti LaBelle and The Zac Brown Band, among others. Her holiday album is titled A Time for Hope and includes this bopping lament for a missing lover. Her soulful voice rides confidently atop a snappy rhythm track right up to the key-change, doo-wop, octave-leaping finale.

CHRIS TOMLIN/Christmas Day
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Capitol CMG/BMI; Sparrow
– This Grammy-winning CCM star has a holiday EP to accompany his Christmas tour. It includes this single featuring We the Kingdom. It’s an echoey, soaring, pop celebration of the Reason for the Season. By the way, Chris recently became the first Christian artist to surpass one billion streams of his music.

TAYLOR SWIFT/Christmas Tree Farm
Writer: Taylor Swift; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Republic
– The video features Taylor as a tot frolicking in Pennsylvania snow at Christmastime. It also includes footage of her unwrapping her first guitar. And, yes, her family did own a Christmas tree farm. Catchy and bopping.

STRASSER & COMBS/Appalachian Rhapsody
Writers: Strasser/Combs; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; AC
– Nate Strasser and Matt Combs have a Nashville project called Americana Carols. It’s mainly instrumental versions of holiday standards, but does include this original orchestral epic that shimmers with wintery wonder. Singer Briana Tyson drops by for “O Holy Night” and “Go Tell It On the Mountain.”

FOR KING & COUNTRY/Little Drummer Boy
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Curb
– This is a stop-you-in-your-tracks masterpiece. Easily the sensation of this holiday season, the performance electrified viewers of the CMA’s Christmas TV special. The band rocks this standard righteously. If you haven’t heard it, stop what you’re doing right now and check it out. It will stir your blood and make you want to shout, “Hallelujah.” ABC will rebroadcast the CMA special on Christmas eve.

Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Warner Chappell/BMI; Gaither Music
– The album is titled A Jazzy Little Christmas. This quartet has a harmony blend to die for, and shows that off splendidly on this minor-key, romantic ballad track from it.

ORIGINAL CAST/The Circle of Love
Writers: Dolly Parton; Producer: none listed; Publishers: none listed; Red Tail
-This one comes to us from the theater world. Earlier this month, Dolly premiered a new musical called A Smokey Mountain Christmas Carol, which continues to play in Boston. This song of hers originally appeared on Jennifer Nettles’ Christmas album, and is now a standout on the cast recording. It’s a waltz-time rendition of the Biblical Christmas story that warms the cockles of your heart.

Writers: none listed; Producer: Scott Billington; Publisher: none listed; Rounder
– The whole McCrary clan joins in on this rousing, hand-clapping hymn, as does the legendary Shirley Caesar. These Nashville treasures have titled their holiday CD A Very McCrary Christmas, and it will set you free. Unconditionally guaranteed to please.

BOUDLEAUX BRYANT/No Place Like Home On Christmas
Writers: Boudleaux Bryant; Producer: Bryant; Publisher: none listed; Bryant
– As part of the celebration of the centennial of this songwriter’s birth, the estate has issued a clutch of holiday-themed demos by the Bryants. This sweet, simple tune is just Boudleaux with his guitar in his living room. It’s loaded with heart. Previously recorded by Jimmy Dickens and Bill Anderson, it sounds best in the songwriter’s own voice.


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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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