Brad Paisley Christmas
Eleven out of twelve months of the year, I do not like country music. But Country Christmas is incredible, and the absolute best album is “Brad Paisley Christmas.” The eponymous artist heads up an album full of kitsch and deviations from the normal holiday catalogue, boasting funny songs like “Penguin, James Penguin” and “Kung Pao Buckarooo Holiday.” Paisley also ratchets up sentimentality in “Born on Christmas Day,” where he duets with a recording of himself from his first TV appearance as a teenager. It’s ridiculously cute, which works well with the album’s laid back, relaxed vibe. Even to fans generally opposed to country music, this album is well worth a listen.
The Best of Stevie Wonder: The Christmas Collection
This album is a delicate mix of classics and distinct Christmas songs, with Wonder’s own musical and vocal talent shining through on each track. The arrangements are crisp, polished, and exceedingly well-written. Wonder’s less common features on the album, such as “Bedtime for Toys” or “One Little Christmas Tree,” are full of lovely, sentimental lyrics. My personal favorite is “Everyone’s A Kid At Christmas,” which is an excellent and fun song. Lighthearted and unique, Stevie Wonder’s album is a personal mainstay and, no kidding, a Christmas album you can cry to.
The Best of the Statler Brothers: The Christmas Collection
The Statler Brothers are four men with a wildly different take on Christmas music, and indeed on music in general. They are nearly impossible to define, with influences in gospel, country, and even a little bit of Johnny Cash-style folksy rock, as well as the unmistakable vocals of a barbershop quartet. The group has impressive range, which makes for goosebump-inducing harmonies and an impression of originality even when covering Christmas classics. This album benefits greatly from their vocal talent and the hard-hitting emotional songs that round out the tracklist. “Something You Can’t Buy” depicts the return of a World War II soldier in time for Christmas, while my favorite song on the album, “The Carols Those Kids Used to Sing,” is the story of a few kids who go around on Christmas and sing for the elderly, disabled, or lonely. For those seeking hope and happiness, the Statler Brothers’ Christmas album fits perfectly.
Elvis’ Christmas Album
C’mon. It’s Elvis. Enough said, right? Harkening back to his roots in gospel, Elvis kills on this short and sweet compilation. Songs range from soft and ballad-like to insanely fast and soaked in Christmas mirth. Elvis covers mostly Christmas canon, but his unique voice makes the album stand out as something that absolutely cannot be missed.
A Very She and Him Christmas
Full disclosure: I love Zooey Deschansel. So I might have some bias. But honestly, this is an incredible collection of Christmas songs. She and Him is comprised of Deschansel and Matthew Ward playing an indie, acoustic-type style which supports their wonderful vocal talents, which are on full display in this album. Equally compelling are the harmonies sung by Ward, whose raspy backing of Deschansel’s high, clear voice provides substance when her vocals lack body (which happens rarely enough). My personal favorite song on the album is “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” a unique rendition that reverses the traditional gender roles in the duet, utilizing Deschansel to cover the traditionally male role. The song choice is predominantly classic, but the duo puts a refreshing twist on their otherwise commonplace lineup. Their album is must-not-miss material this Christmas season.