december 2009

A Country Christmas
Various Artists
Released: 2004

This pleasant collection of 18 familiar Yuletide carols runs the gamut from big, orchestrated productions (Kenny Rogers' "White Christmas") to spare, acoustic ruminations (Deana Carter's exquisite treatment of "Carol of the Bells"), and stylistically touches most of the bases of contemporary and traditional country styles. On the hard country side, Dwight Yoakam checks in with a fiery rendition of Leiber-Stoller's "Santa Claus Is Back in Town," furthering his reputation as the premier Elvis Presley interpreter around with another sizzling take of a number originally recorded by the King; Del McCoury sends up a keening bluegrass treatment of "Call Collect On Christmas"; Rosanne Cash offers up a reverent, traditional country version of "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," its graceful fiddle lines and gently strummed mandolin parts as evocative and beautiful as Cash's sensitive vocal; the album's title song comes courtesy Alison Krauss, who lends her emotive soprano to a burbling pop-influenced arrangement highlighted by a funky electric guitar line, washes of electric piano chords, thumping drums, a rousing sax solo and a female chorus wailing and cooing in the background. Willie Nelson is here with his timeless holiday tearjerker, "Pretty Paper," Dolly Parton drops in with some kids for a playful and instructive country reading of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," and another veteran, Merle Haggard, is on board with his jaunty, orchestrated rendition of "Jingle Bells." The Judds' harmonizing on "Silver Bells" is immaculate, especially with Wynonna adding an ever-so-slight blues tint to her lead vocal; bluesier still, and a real stunner, is Tanya Tucker's measured, deeply felt reading of "What Child Is This?" Appealing performances from Glen Campbell, SheDaisy, Trace Adkins, Steve Wariner, John Berry, and Toby Keith round out a laudable compilation. —David McGee

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (
Website Design: Kieran McGee (
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024