One of the most affordable holiday gifts is music; whether it is a full album or a single song, music makes a perfect stocking stuffer. This year there are several new Christmas albums to choose from but the ones at the top of my "must have" list are What A Wonderful World by LeAnn Rimes and A Traditional Christmas by Joe Nichols. Both of them contain classic Christmas songs but each sung in their own unique way.
Joe Nichols - A Traditional Christmas: No new artist in Nashville is more qualified to sing traditional Christmas songs than the incomparable, handsome, heir apparent to traditional country legends than Joe Nichols. His amazing baritone voice adds warmth to everything he sings. He kicks off the album with a really pleasing rendition of "Let It Snow" and later on the album he sings a version of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" that I'm sure would please even Bing Crosby.
Nichols adds a little oomph to several traditionally slow classics by picking up the tempo and even manages to get your toes tappin' on his version of a song that is nearly always sung as a slow ballad; "I'll Be Home for Christmas."
On "White Christmas" the harmonica is awesome and the perfect accompaniment to his lively vocals. (Take a bow, Mr. Hoke; you earned it -- here and on the soprano sax.)
Kudos to Brent Rowan for the masterful arrangements and for recognizing that Nichols soothing voice would be the perfect new vehicle to deliver old classics. The album is exceptional from beginning to end and the instrumentals on this album are in perfect harmony with Nichols remarkable voice on every song.
A Traditional Christmas should be at the top of your Christmas list -- to give and to get.
LeAnn Rimes - What A Wonderful World: LeAnn Rimes puts a new spin on some old standards and introduces some new songs that definitely have the potential to become standards. Rimes co-wrote on three of the songs on this album but regardless of the songs, her voice glides over the lyrics like an Olympic champion on perfect ice.
"A Different Kind of Christmas," one of the three songs on this album co-written by Rimes, is a touching observation on the reality of the world as it is on this holiday season. 9/11 changed the world forever and the lyrics of this song communicate a somewhat melancholy perspective that reflects the raised awareness we have all experienced since that fateful day. However, despite the heaviness of the topic on this particular song, Rimes voice leaves you feeling peaceful and optimistic.
The title song, "What a Wonderful World," is one of my all-time favorite songs and Rimes' version is one of the most beautiful I've ever heard. This is definitely a song that easily bridges the seasons and speaks to your heart no matter what time of year it is and the same thing can be said for this album.
There are a lot of wonderful Christmas albums available by country music artists. You can find many of them online and, for all you last minute shoppers, check those bins at your favorite music or discount store because you never know what treasures linger there. Two years ago as I was standing in a very long line at the super Wal-Mart, I used the time to browse through a bin of CDs that had been placed near the check-out and I found Country Christmas Hits. It has twenty (yep, 20!) Christmas songs and they are an eclectic mix by various artists (Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Crystal Gayle, Tom T. Hall, Charley Pride and others). Among my favorites on this album are "We Made It Through December" by Merle Haggard -- yeah, yeah, I know, not exactly a Christmas carol but I do love Merle -- and there are two marvelous renditions of "Away in a Manger" on this album too, one by Willie Nelson and the other by Waylon Jennings; now, that is my idea of a great stocking stuffer.
When it comes to fantastic Christmas albums, I have to mention my favorite album from last year; Kenny Chesney's All I Want for Christmas is a Real Good Tan. The title song harkens back to my youth and Chesney's version of "Pretty Paper;" sung with the writer of the song, Willie Nelson, is absolutely splendid. It has proven to be one of my all-time favorite albums. In fact, I don't put this album away with the Christmas decorations; I actually listen to it whenever my spirits need a lift and I won't be putting Nichols and Rimes away either. Good music is always in season.
Real People Reviews