Various albums by Garth Brooks & Trisha Yearwood, Tommy Emmanuel, Loretta Lynn, Kacey Musgraves and Chris Young (Albums)

13 December, 2016 in Music Reviews

Country Christmas

A very country Christmas

This quintet of festive country offerings, packed with notable guest appearances, provide plenty of enjoyable tunes for the holiday season

There’s a noble tradition in country music of established stars releasing holiday records at this time of year. The period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve provides ample inspiration for the reimagining of standards and creation of new material. From the legendary Loretta Lynn to Australian guitar legend Tony Emmanuel and more current artists such as Chris Young, these five records should cover all your listening needs for the festive season.

Guest appearances also abound. James Taylor collaborates with Brooks & Yearwood on What I’m Thankful For. Country icon Alan Jackson lends Young a helping hand on There’s A New Kid In Town and Boyz II Men add their soulful voices to Silent Night. Emmanuel hands over singing duties to Annie Selick for much of his record and she proves a welcome foil to his guitar playing. Musgraves can call upon the likes of Leon Bridges, The Quebe Sisters and Willie Nelson for added sparkle.

Brooks & Yearwood fully commit to their first duets album together, and are perfectly suited to tracks like Baby It’s Cold Outside. Musgraves’ finest moment comes on her new composition A Willie Nice Christmas, featuring Mr Nelson himself and the line: “May we all stay higher than the angel on top of the tree”. Emmanuel approaches his album with a breezy touch, which is particularly suited to the instrumental Christmas Memories / Waltzing Matilda. Chris Young’s croon fits nicely on the traditional songs but is most effective on the country-tinged title track.

Loretta Lynn’s first Christmas album in 50 years is probably the pick of the bunch. Her selection of songs isn’t necessarily that original – Winter Wonderland, Frosty The Snowman and Jingle Bells are all firmly established – but her delivery, and the presence of her supremely accomplished band, make it a memorable affair. The album’s opening title track, the only new material present here, is vintage Lynn with plenty of swing to accompany the festive heartache.

Across the board, some of the sentiments may be outdated and the deliveries overly sickly in places, but that’s exactly what you’d expect from these records. Many of the tracks show up on more than one of the albums and allow you to contrast the differing approaches of each artist. Both Young and Lynn tackle Silent Night with respect whereas Musgraves’ and Brooks & Yearwood each bring their own Latin vibes to Feliz Navidad.

Kacey Musgraves’ and Loretta Lynn’s offerings shade it in terms of authenticity and enjoyability, and are the likeliest to survive until the same time next year. Take nothing away from the others though, there’s plenty of Christmas spirit in the country scene this year.

Verdict: Every one of these albums could happily accompany your holiday season

Christmas Together by Garth Brooks & Trisha Yearwood

Christmas Memories by Tommy Emmanuel

White Christmas Blue by Loretta Lynn

A Very Kacey Christmas by Kacey Musgraves

It Must Be Christmas by Chris Young

Duncan Haskell