Hearing “Winter Wonderland” for the 500th time can get a bit tiresome, but on the whole, the Christmas season brings about what I see as some pretty desirable changes in musical sensibilities. When comparing the Christmas output of country stars to their non-seasonal material, a few reasonably fair generalizations can be made:
- Arrangements tend to be more sparse and acoustically based.
- In the freshly decluttered musical settings, many singers have room to deliver some of their best, most nuanced vocal performances.
- Artists more willingly embrace the subtle humor and whimsy of material like “Frosty the Snowman” and “Christmas Cookies,” which is far removed from the brazenly stupid slap-your-Grandma humor favored during the rest of the year.
Those few thoughts don’t cover everything, but they go a long way toward explaining why I find Christmas albums by the likes of Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, George Strait, and others a lot more enjoyable than their recent regular albums. Sure, there’s also the fact that I just like Christmas songs and would enjoy hearing most anyone perform them, but there’s certainly something to be said for the artistic and production decisions that get made when it comes time to record such material.
In fact, it’s unfortunate that such good musical sense is being confined to the holiday season and squandered on rerecordings of the same old classics. Come December 26, country music will amp its sound back up, adding all sorts of distracting layers. Singers will compete to be heard over their cluttered arrangements. Few will attempt humor, and those who do will usually favor that of the Grandma-slapping fratboy variety, forgetting the subtle charm and wit of a song like “Christmas Cookies.”
The good news? You still have today and tomorrow to soak up all the Christmas music you can stand. Okay, fine, I’ll give you until New Years, but if you’re still listening to Christmas music after that, you’re officially a nut.
Merry Christmas from Country California.