Nashville has always taken the lead when it comes to holiday music.
The city’s artists have given us such standards as “Holly Jolly Christmas,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” “Mary Did You Know,” “Blue Christmas,” “Reindeer Boogie,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “Tennessee Christmas,” “Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy,” “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “Pretty Paper,” “Kentucky Homemade Christmas,” “Santa Claus Is Watching You” and “Christmas Time’s A-Comin.’”
Today’s stack of platters includes Yule offerings from some of Nashville’s biggest country stars. But it is the city’s CCM community that comes away with top honors.
TobyMac wins the Disc of the Day. Hannah Kerr earns the DisCovery Award.
JENNIFER HANSON/Under The Tree
Writers: J. Hanson; Producers: Jennifer Hanson/Nick Brophy; Publishers: none listed; JH (track)
– The track sounds like crystalline falling snow. Her winsome vocal exudes warmth and sincerity. The super melodic song is a jewel. This lady’s holiday four-song EP is essential.
TWIN KENNEDY/Cold Weather
Writers: Carli Kennedy/Julie Kennedy; Producers: Dustin Olyan/Twin Kennedy; Publishers: Twin Kennedy; Factor (Canada)
– These sisters from British Columbia accompany themselves on fiddle and guitar, which forms the basis of their gentle acoustic sound. They also harmonize beautifully on this ultra-romantic song. Very pretty. The album is called A Twin Kennedy Christmas.
TOBYMAC/Bring On The Holidays
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publishers: none listed; Capitol/Forefront
– Naturally, Nashville’s CCM world embraces this season enthusiastically. This veteran of the genre kicks off his Light of Christmas CD with this jaunty pop rocker. The pulsing production is as irresistible as his tenor vocal. Highly recommended.
NORA COLLINS/Christmas Kiss
Writers: Collins/Arthur; Producer: Tony Harrell; Publishers: none listed; MV2 (track)
– This pert soprano’s six-song holiday offering is titled It Must Be Christmas. Its single is a slow, sweetly romantic ballad about waking up to a special smooch on Christmas morning. Languid and lulling.
REBA McENTIRE, KELLY CLARKSON & TRISHA YEARWOOD/Silent Night
Writers: Franz Xaber Gruber/Joseph Mohr/John Freeman Young; Producer: Greg Kurstin, Publisher: PD; Rockin R/Nash Icon
– Leave it to these three stellar vocalists to turn this most familiar of Christmas standards into an enchanting new audio experience. Kelly leads off, followed by Trisha with Reba taking the third verse. Throughout, the three voices echo softly in harmony in the background. Hang on for the trio-harmonized a cappella finale. It will stop you in your tracks. You’ll find it on Reba’s CD My Kind of Christmas, which also contains collaborations with Darius Rucker, Lauren Daigle and Vince & Amy.
BALSAM RANGE/Christmas Lullaby
Writers: Doc Watson; Producer: Balsam Range; Publishers: Hillgreen/Budde, BMI; Mountain Home
-The bluegrass genre’s holiday entry, It’s Christmas Time, comes from this 10-time IBMA awarded band. The group’s trademark, flawless, hearty harmonies and deft picking are paired with The Nashville Recording Orchestra. The mixture of banjo and fiddle with lush, soaring strings is an unexpected delight. Well worth your spins.
BLAKE SHELTON/Christmas Eve
Writers: none listed; Producers: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Warner Bros.
-His heartbroken lead vocal on this downbeat waltz is dandy. He remains such a superb country singer. The track is marred by the presence of a kiddie chorus.
SHANE OWENS/Christmas in Dixie
Writers: none listed; Producers: none listed; Publishers: none listed; AmeriMonte (CDX)
– This honky tonker’s revival of Alabama’s 1983 holiday classic is a welcome reminder of what a cool song it is. Winning and warm.
LUKE BRYAN/O Holy Night
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Capitol (CDX)
– His accent just feels out of place on this loveliest of Christmas melodies. To his credit, he does take the octave-leap finale in stride.
Writers: Hannah Kerr/Andy Gullahorn/Jill Phillips; Producer: Mark Miller; Publishers: Songs of Black River/The Gullahorns, ASCAP; Black River Christian
– This is the title tune of a six-song EP that introduces Black River’s first entry into the CCM field. Her soft, airy delivery gives the lilting ballad extraordinary intimacy and presence, particularly when her co-writers add their lovely, lacy harmony voices. I was hanging on every phrase, mesmerized.