There’s been a head-spinning array of new Christmas music offerings this year, so here’s a quick roundup of some of the more notable releases.
An East Nashville Christmas
A generous 18-track collection to raise funding and awareness for the National Health Care for the Homeless Council. Feeling like a real community effort, it offers wonderful, affecting performances by a whole range of East Nashville notables, including Chris Scruggs, Kenny Vaughan, BR5-49, and Sam Bush. Details and song samples on the spiffy project website.
Brooklyn’s favorite honky tonk swing band has done a fine job of translating its popular holiday singalong show – now a live tradition four years running – to the studio, offering a recording characterized by playful, family-style interplay that’s genuinely enjoyable. You might even find yourself singing along.
If you’re looking for just another Christmas album, look elsewhere. Instead, the 2012 IBMA Songwriter of the Year nominee offers an ambitious acoustic song cycle exploring The Nativity story from a variety of vantage points: Joseph, Mary, Mary’s cousin, the innkeeper who turns them away, even the Star of Bethlehem itself. Ulisse’s fresh retelling is further enlivened by the fine picking of bluegrass studs Andy Leftwich, Viktor Krauss, Rob Ickes, Byron House, John Mock, and Keith Sewell (who also produces).
Brennen Leigh and Noel McKay’s In the Bleak Midwinter
Homespun recording of ten traditional Christmas carols available as CD or MP3 directly from Leigh on Facebook. How homespun? The couple even drew their own artwork and lovingly hand-crafted their own CD packaging. It’s being offered on a “pay what you’d like” basis. I recommend paying lots.
In hindsight, it makes sense that an album that allows “American Idol” winner Scotty McCreery to simply sing some good songs he likes – not track down new songs to define a marketable identity, not try to crack the radio nut, but just sing – should be a winner. Now if he could just figure out a way to translate this same passion to an album of all-original, non-seasonal fare…
Includes tracks with Miranda Lambert, Pistol Annies, Reba, Kelly Clarkson, Michael Bublé, Xenia, Blake’s mom, and something (someone?) called Trypta-Phunk. Probably good.
Lady Antebellum’s On This Winter’s Night
If you like Lady Antebellum, you might like it.
Unfortunately titled. My Kind of Country’s Occasional Hope calls it not quite as good as Kershaw’s previous holiday effort, but “still quite an enjoyable Christmas album with a jovial party atmosphere.”
Giddy up, oom pah pah oom pah pah ho ho. Haven’t heard it.
Charlie Daniels Band’s Hallelujah It’s Christmas Time Again
Available exclusively in Buffets Inc. restaurants – within California, that means exclusively at Hometown Buffet locations – possibly a tricky one to track down. Profits go to the Armed Services YMCA® (ASYMCA) for Operation Outdoors, a camp program that assists the children of military personnel during deployment.
Finally, a few cool free things: