A Campfire Tales Christmas
Stateside, the Christmas album has a long and varied history, stretching right back to the Godfather of Christmas, Bing Crosby (Are you sure? - Ed.). Here in the UK, the same twenty or so songs are wheeled out every year (Jonah Lewie, The Pogues with Kirsty McColl, Greg Lake) but over recent years the Christmas album has become a bit of a thing in the US. As such, we’ve a small selection of new albums that you could replace Now That’s What I Call Christmas 15 with this year for a change.
Taking the compilation theme and running with it is An Americana Christmas, which takes a smattering of old songs by old artists and mixes them with a dash of new artists covering ... old songs. And it’s mainly successful. Well, when you've got Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan doing their thing, what's not to like? Of the new breed, Valerie June successfully brings her self-styled “organic moonshine roots” vibe to ‘Winter Wonderland’; purveyor of country rockabilly Nikki Lane sprinkles festive cheer (and some stock jingle bells) on original track ‘Falalalove Ya’, and Old 97’s dance their country socks off on ‘Here It Is Christmas Time’. With plenty of new and unfamiliar tunes this could be a record to pull out of the cupboard on 1st December next year too.
For a country music artist, releasing a Christmas album is like getting a star on Hollywood Boulevard, and joining the not-so-exclusive-club this year is Darius Rucker. Being one of country music’s big guns doesn’t seem to have stopped Rucker from turning into somewhat of a crooner on Home For The Holidays, his deep baritone bringing a Dean Martin feel to a stocking full of Christmas standards. Ten-a-penny Christmas staples like ‘Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow’, the ubiquitous ‘White Christmas’ and ‘Winter Wonderland’ are all pleasant enough, and there’s a great version of the less-familiar-to-us-Brits ‘You’re A Mean One, Mr Grinch’ to brighten things up a little. There’s nothing really new here but it’ll be nice on Christmas Eve whilst you’re drinking a warming dram and playing snakes & ladders, or watching The Chase celebrity special.
More country goodness comes from Sara Evans who is jumping on the sleigh ride with At Christmas. This simply titled collection is sweet and as chock full of the usual as Mr Rucker’s effort, with a near constant jingle of sleigh bells. The only original is the perky title track; everything else takes a leisurely approach: the slow and beautifully sung ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’, ‘Silent Night’, etc, and the odd party starter like ‘Run Rudolph Run’. She also has a stab at got the dreadful ‘The Twelve Days Of Christmas’; you’ll never want to hear the song again. Undoubtedly this is all lovely stuff, if a little redundant. Like Rucker's record, there’s nothing new on At Christmas and there has to come a time when someone says 'Enough already!'
Unless they’re like Our Family Christmas, the fantastic debut album from The Henningsens. Yes, this Christmas record is their first full length after an aborted attempt at a release in the summer of 2013. It might just be your new favourite on the stereo this Christmas. By mixing their instincts to write mainstream country-pop (they co-wrote a number of The Band Perry’s tracks) with a playful, slightly off the wall attitude they’ve created something new and fresh. Whether it’s taking traditional songs, mixing them together, and adding a spoonful of drama on ‘Carol Of The Bells (Medley)’, or the spoken word ‘The Christmas Story’; the original, string plucking ‘Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, Baby Jesus’ or a country-fied ‘White Christmas’, the family trio have sprinkled some genuine stardust on these ten tracks. Do the right thing for your family: buy Our Family Christmas today and brighten up your holiday season.