december 2011

Brad Paisley
Arista Nashville
Released: 2006

Dreamy strings and jazzy guitar on a romantic version of "I'll Be Home for Christmas"; spitfire, speed-picked guitar on a revved-up tribute to Buck Owens's classic "Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy"; a honky tonk treatment of "Away In a Manger" complete with moaning pedal steel and crying twin fiddles—on his first Christmas album, Brad Paisley energizes the old canon in interesting ways, and comes up with a real winner of a Yuletide celebration. Paisley's husky tenor sounds exactly right for these tunes, whether he's being reverent (viz., on a rustic, dobro-enriched take on "Silent Night") or frolicsome, as he demonstrates so effectively on his gently swinging original tale of "Santa's secret spy" who goes by the moniker, "Penguin, James Penguin." Paisley contributes two other worthy originals as well: the string-laden country ballad, "364 Days to Go," an engaging, laconic holiday love letter addressing the season's healing spirit; and "Born On Christmas Day," a uncommonly literate memo to the baby Jesus written and performed by 13-year-old Brad on "Jamboree U.S.A." in a flawlessly fingerpicked performance featured here with the grownup Brad's soothing vocal spliced in for a couple of verses on its own before returning to duet with his younger self at the end. And for good measure, Paisley assembles the Kung Pao Buckaroos—otherwise known as Little Jimmy Dickens, George Jones and Bill Anderson—to wind up the disc on a comedic note when they discover that in a PC world almost every Christmas tune they want to sing contains a reference offensive to one special interest group or another, such as those who demand "Christ" be taken out of Christmas. Having great fun with this conceit, the venerable Buckaroos make a point in the process, but also make sure that they, and listeners, exit laughing. —David McGee

A Brad Paisley Christmas is available from sellers at

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, 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