I know, I know, you’re busy, busy, busy—so I’m here to help with one less task, your Nashville Christmas playlist.
Not to worry, it’s all good this year. With Dolly & Willie, Runaway June, Bryan Ruby and The War & Treaty in the mix, how can you lose?
Reba McEntire wins the Disc of the Day. Landon Parker earns the DISCovery Award.
Happy holidays to one and all.
RUNAWAY JUNE / “Cowboy for Christmas”
Writers: Jennifer Wayne/Natalie Stovall/Paul Sikes/Stevie Woodward; Producer: Paul Sikes; Label: RJ
–Bluesy & finger snapping, this ditty sports flawless trio harmonies and a swinging, full-band arrangement. Sparkling.
DOLLY PARTON & WILLIE NELSON / “Pretty Paper”
Writer: Willie Nelson; Producer: Kent Wells; Label: Warner Records
–Dolly has reissued her 2020 album A Holly Dolly Christmas with the addition of new tunes from her current holiday TV special. This track captures two of country music’s greatest gifts to American culture together on one of the most exquisitely sad songs of the season. Dolly’s plaintive, heart-in-throat delivery is matched by Willie’s laconic, effortlessly great harmony vocal and some of his distinctive guitar plucking. A pair of timeless treasures on a timeless tune.
DEBORAH ALLEN / “Moody Bluesy Christmas”
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Label: BFD
–This straight-up blues tune is served up by Allen’s always reliable soul soprano and some dandy electric guitar noodling. She heats up a winter night.
REBA McENTIRE / “I Needed Christmas”
Writers: Jared Conrad/Trannie Anderson; Producers: Doug Sisemore/Reba McEntire; Label: UMG
–Heart-touchingly lovely. The ballad is about the healing romantic power of the holiday. Reba sings with class and restraint, letting the lyric of renewal shine. Essential listening.
GABBY BARRETT / “Silent Night”
Writer: Public Domain; Producer: Ross Copperman; Label: Warner
–Very sweet. The Pennsylvania youngster sang this with simple, spare accompaniment on the CMA Country Christmas special. Her innocent soprano is perfectly lilting on the classic hymn.
DRAKE WHITE / “Pound Cake”
Writers: Ben Chapman/Drake White; Producer: Jonathan Singleton; Label: DW
–This one’s a blue-eyed soul performance in praise of a sweet treat, with perhaps a touch of double entendre.
LANDON PARKER / “Tennessee Christmas”
Writers: Gary Chapman/Amy Grant; Producer: Blake Chancey; Label: Bad Ass Records
–Parker gives the Amy Grant 1983 chestnut a countrified twang while perfectly arranged piano and strings surround him. He might be a North Carolinian, but he makes this Volunteer State classic sound as authentic as chestnuts roasting on an open fire.
HONEY COUNTY / “Sugar on Snow”
Writers: Danielle Rosner/Stone Aieli; Producer: none listed; Label: HC
–She beckons her ex to Colorado to experience sugar on snow and reawaken their romance. Crispy and poppy, shiny and bright.
BRYAN RUBY / “Christmas With You”
Writers: Bryan Ruby/Kayleigh DeLozier/Kristin Denton/Chad Sellers/David Ross; Producer: Smith Curry; Label: BR
–Highly recommended. Ruby warms up the room with his expressive baritone on this bluesy romantic outing. The cool, new, Yule tune was co-written with MusicRow founder David M. Ross.
THE WAR & TREATY / “O Holy Night”
Writers: Traditional; Producer: none listed; Label: UMG
–The War & Treaty stopped the show of the CMA Country Christmas TV special with their electrifying performance of my favorite carol. The greatest new Nashville act of the year strikes again. Essential listening.
JANELLE ARTHUR & THE ISAACS / “One Night on Earth”
Writers: Janelle Arthur/Helene Cronin/Adam Wheeler; Producers: Janelle Arthur/Adam Wheeler; Label: CDX
–Devout, elegant and stately. Arthur’s sweet soprano leads the way on this ballad while the Opry’s greatest harmony ensemble wafts softly in accompaniment. All is calm, all is bright.
JD SHELBURNE / “Away in a Manger”
Writer: William J. Kirkpatrick; Producer: none listed; Label: JD
–A little percussion, a little twangin’ electric guitar and some stinging steel play along as Shelburne takes this traditional tune out for a hillbilly waltz. Country as grits.