I’m always amazed every year how unexpected seasonal albums suddenly pop up from seemingly nowhere as each turn of the calendar gets closer to December, but even as dismal and unsettling as 2020 has been, a short list of new Christmas albums somehow managed to appear and command my seasonal attention: Tori Amos’ Christmastide EP, It’s Christmas All Over from the Goo Goo Dolls, A Holly Dolly Christmas by Dolly Parton and Carrie Underwood’s My Gift. [Click here to read my thoughts on each]
Favorite Sounds of the Season
Yes, my avid music blog subscribers, it’s that time once again; time to trim the tree and hang the stockings with care while listening to Yule time tidings of comfort and joy. This holiday season, three particular releases have not only caught my attention, but have found a permanent place amongst my ever-growing Christmas music collection:
1) Josh Rouse: The Holiday Sounds of Josh Rouse – Longtime favorite singer-songwriter Josh Rouse has gifted us with a full-length Christmas record that will delight the senses and warm the cockles of your holiday hearts. Rouse’s Holiday Sounds is a short, but essential set of nine new seasonal selections that are tailor made for group Christmas gatherings as well as cuddling with your significant other.
The laidback opener “Mediterranean X-Mas” is guaranteed to take away the stress of your hustling and bustling while reminding you to slow down and enjoy the reason for the season. Likewise, the luscious “New York Holiday” embraces echoes of Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack (coincidentally referenced in the closing track), while concurrently sounding fresh, familiar, and classic. Other key tracks include the forlorn, but upbeat “Heartbreak Holiday,” the picturesque “Sleigh Brother Bill” and the gorgeously referential album closer, “Christmas Songs.”
The Holiday Sounds of Josh Rouse’s first pressing includes three acoustic bonus tracks: “Up on the Housetop,” “Let It Snow” and a cover of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” all of which add the perfect touch for a holiday bonfire singalong.
And speaking of Mariah Carey…
2) Mariah Carey: Merry Christmas Deluxe Anniversary Edition – After already owning the original release, plus the red vinyl LP, I’ll admit I initially deliberated if I needed yet another version, but I ultimately took the plunge and I’m glad I did! Loaded with remixes, bonus tracks, live performances from Mariah’s 1994 John the Divine concert, plus a few newly recorded treats, this 2CD expanded edition of Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas has never sounded more joyful.
3) Jim Reeves: Twelve Songs of Christmas – This country classic was produced by the legendary Chet Atkins, and has finally been beautifully remastered by Vic Anesini at Sony’s Battery Studios. Reeves’ Twelve Songs of Christmas is a sentimental journey back to the days of Nashville’s iconic countrypolitan sound. Also, two seasonal bonus tracks: “Snowflake” and “Scarlet Ribbons” have been added to make this the quintessential version of Jim Reeves’ beloved Christmas album.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.
The Mavericks: ‘Hey! Merry Christmas!’
Does the holiday season make you feel as if you’ve morphed into a Grinch-like Scrooge? If so, then take a deep breath and rejoice with the new holiday record, Hey! Merry Christmas! by The Mavericks. Raul Malo and the boys have delivered 10 tracks of seasonal country-rockabilly goodness with a pinch of zydeco that is guaranteed to instantly put you into the Christmas spirit.
Hey! Merry Christmas! features eight original tunes, plus two holiday faves (“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and “Happy Holiday”) that are guaranteed to take away your Bah humbug attitude and have you smiling in no time. The one-two-three punch of the irresistible and energetic “Christmas Time is (Coming ‘Round Again),” “Santa Does” and “I Have Wanted You (for Christmas)” are guaranteed to get you rockin’ around the Christmas tree and turn any occasion into an instant Christmas party. Things calm for a beat on “Christmas for Me (Is You)” and the aforementioned “Happy Holiday,” which allow you to catch your breath and/or have a slow dance with your holiday honey.
The Mavericks’ Hey! Merry Christmas! is the perfect cure for fighting off any symptoms of a pesky blue Christmas, plus it’s available on extra groove-a-licious vinyl too! So, cheer yourself up by taking The Mavericks’ new Yuletide album for a spin or two. I’m willing to bet Santa’s naughty list Yule love it!
Click below to hear the album’s title track:
Kacey Musgraves: ‘A Very Kacey Christmas’
Kacey Musgraves: A Very Kacey Christmas
Kacey Musgraves charmingly fulfills every holiday wish you could possibly dream of with her delightfully satisfying Christmas album. Her inimitable take on holiday favorites mixed with striking originals make this a crucial addition to your holiday music collection. Musgraves is irresistible on “Christmas Don’t Be Late,” “Ribbons and Bows” and “Christmas Makes Me Cry,” while her irresistible version of the quirky “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” is absolute holiday perfection.
Imagine a dash of Cajun spice, a Hawaiian rainbow or two, mix in a touch of Texas swing along with an inspired Willie Nelson duet, and you’ll have Musgraves’ inviting holiday recipe your ears will readily devour. A Very Kacey Christmas should be at the top of every astute, genre-defying music aficionado’s Christmas list.
Sarah McLachlan: ‘Wonderland’
Sarah McLachlan returns with her second proper holiday collection, Wonderland. This seasonal set contains 10 Christmas classics including: “The Christmas Song,” “Silver Bells,” and “O Holy Night,” plus McLachlan’s haunting rendition of the Canadian hymn “Huron Carol.” Produced by McLachlan’s longtime collaborator Pierre Marchand, Wonderland maintains the integrity of McLachlan’s most beloved albums, while concurrently conjuring a yen to envision Christmases of the past, present, and future.
Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood: ‘Christmas Together’
Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood: Christmas Together
Country music’s super couple offer up duets and solo performances on this endearing yuletide collection. The famed duo blend together in perfect unison on “I’m Beginning to See the Light,” “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” and “Marshmallow World.” Brooks shines as he solos on “Ugly Christmas Sweater” and “Merry Christmas Means I Love You,” while Yearwood contributes playful renderings of “The Man with the Bag,” “Santa Baby,” along with a stunning version of “Hard Candy Christmas.” The only downside to this joyful holiday present is that it ends faster than Christmas day. The set’s total running time is a mere Grinch-sized serving of 27 minutes and 57 seconds, but it’s brevity is guaranteed to leave you hankering for second helpings.
Sounds of the Season
Kylie Minogue: Kylie Christmas – After previously teasing us with a few holiday treats in the past, Australian singer, songwriter, and actress Kylie Minogue finally delivers her delightfully eclectic full-length Christmas album. The internationally celebrated pop star’s long-awaited release fulfills its yuletide promise with playful classics and delightfully charming originals. Highlights include the Chris Martin-penned “Every Day’s Like Christmas,” a posthumous duet with Frank Sinatra, a celebratory cover of The Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrapping” (featuring Iggy Pop), as well as a surprisingly gorgeous duet version of Yazoo/Yaz’s “Only You” with James Corden.
The Brian Setzer Orchestra: Rockin’ Rudolph – Brian Setzer and company return with another snazzy jazzy Christmas offering. This latest holiday set (the band’s first in over a decade) once again finds the former Stray Cats vocalist and guitarist in full tilt yuletide mode. Rockin’ Rudolph‘s sprightly big-band bombast and holiday cheer is guaranteed to have your friends rockin’ around the Christmas tree. Noteworthy moments include “Rockabilly Rudolph” alongside the cleverly arranged “Yabba-Dabba Yuletide,” which puts a refreshingly festive holiday twist on the classic Flintstones theme. The BSO’s latest is a welcome addition to the band’s seasonal canon and is surely destined to be a full-fledged swingin’ hit at any Christmas gathering.
Patty Smyth: Come on December – Former lead singer of rock group Scandal (and wife to tennis legend John McEnroe) returns to music after a lengthy 16-year absence with eight tasty seasonal melodic morsels. The songstress, best known for 80s hits “The Warrior” and “Goodbye to You,” gifts us with five traditional favorites alongside three originals, all of which are nicely nestled within a warm acoustic timbre. This short but sweet set is the perfect holiday soundtrack companion for Christmas tree gazing and fireplace cuddling. Completists will also want to seek out Smyth’s delicate but dazzling version of “Silent Night,” which is still available as a digital download at PattySmythAndScandal.com.
Train: Christmas in Tahoe – After seven studio albums and selling 10 million records, Train’s latest effort is the band’s first full-length Christmas recording. The celebratory 15-track set features the band’s three original songs intermingled with a mix of holiday classics and cover tunes including: Chrissie Hynde’s “2000 Miles,” Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas,” Joni Mitchell’s “River,” and John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over).” But don’t waste precious seasonal moments looking in stores for this holiday treat because it is available exclusively at Amazon.