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A 2015 Christmas Music Playlist With A Nashville Twist
by TJ Anderson
I know, I know, it’s easy to get Christmas music-ed out by, oh, Halloween these days. But if you’re having a Christmas party or having family over on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day, it feels a little odd to soundtrack it with anything but, doesn’t it?
Still, if you’re bored enough of the old chestnuts to really need something new, here’s a little help: New Christmas music that came out this year, all with a Nashville slant.
Christmas Music of 2015, with Nashville flavor
LeAnn Rimes, Today Is Christmas
A longtime (though former) Nashvillian and child country star-turned-grown-up country star, LeAnn Rimes deals up a mix of fresh takes on well-loved songs and a few originals (the title track and “I Still Believe in Santa Claus”). It’s more pop than country overall (she teamed up with Gavin DeGraw and Aloe Blacc on some tracks), but as Christmas sets go, it’s a good blend of upbeat and tender yuletide sentiments (her version of “Christmas Time is Here,” above, is a standout).
Kenny Rogers, Once Again It’s Christmas
The title of Kenny Rogers’ new Christmas album might seem a little here-we-go-again at first, but it’s more a warm re-embrace of a particularly big time in the country icon’s year — he’s been doing a holiday Christmas & Hits tour every year for decades, and he and fans look forward to it in a big way. This record’s extra special, since it's a) his first Christmas set in almost 20 years and b) coinciding with his farewell from touring. With a crop of Christmas standards and guest spots from a bunch of names known well in Nashville — from Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles to bluegrass star Alison Krauss — Once Again once again (and kinda for the last time) shows that Rogers has more than just looking like Santa to offer when it comes to making seasons bright.
Rhonda Vincent, This Christmas
Beloved bluegrass voice Rhonda Vincent pulled together her second holiday album, and this one’s as star-stocked as they come — along with four original tracks (the title track, above, is one of them) and a bunch of the best-loved songs of the season, she invited an all-star crew that includes Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, the Oak Ridge Boys and many others to record a very Nashville take on “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”
Danny Gokey, Christmas Is Here
Most folks around the country likely know Danny Gokey’s name from his time on American Idol. Folks in Nashville may know him for something far more impressive: Sophia’s Heart, the non-profit organization he founded to help lift neighbors out of homelessness. That’s serious Christmas-spirit stuff, so it’s no surprise to see that he’s pulled together a full set of yuletide originals/holiday favorites (like “White Christmas” and “It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”). There’s nothing particularly unexpected in his takes, but his soulful, powerful voice (and the requisite jingle bell or three) is front and center.
Marc Broussard, Magnolias & Mistletoe
Soul voice Marc Broussard is a Louisiana guy through and through, but he’s co-written and recorded a ton of music here, so he’s fair game. His new Christmas album, Magnolias & Mistletoe, is for low-key holiday times: stripped down and pretty, led by piano and his impossibly powerful, limber voice.
Matthew And Gunnar Nelson, This Christmas
The brothers Nelson — of After the Rain fame — came to Nashville a long while ago, but the new This Christmas is their first foray into Nashville’s most famous musical export. Some of it’s of a more pop/pop-country bent — like the title track above, featuring Alyssa Bonagura. Some of it — particularly the tracks featuring Molly Cherryholmes' exceptional fiddle playing — is emphatically country, emphatically Christmassy stuff.
India.Arie & Joe Sample, Christmas With Friends
Another sort of adopted Nashvillian: R&B voice India.Arie has made a bunch of music here too (her longtime producer and songwriting partner Shannon Sanders is a Nashvillian), even if Atlanta’s more due the local-done-good bragging rights. For her first-ever Christmas album, she teamed up with revered jazz pianist and composer Joe Sample on a bunch of tracks, and between his playing and her voice, the results are warm as a fireside snuggle after a day stuck in a good old-fashioned Nashville ice storm. Sample passed away in 2014, and these songs are a tribute to his gift as much as Arie’s. She’s closing her tour in support of the album here in Nashville, too, with a show at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center on Monday, December 21. Tickets are available here.
Hope a few of these make your egg nog-chugging playlists — or at least remind you that here in Nashville, we excel at making all three kinds of music: country, western, and Jingle Bell Rock.
Have any new Nashville-related suggestions I should give a spin? Let me know!
TJ Anderson is a Nashville Realtor with Benchmark Realty who's helped countless clients both buy a home and sell a home in Nashville, Tennessee. He blogs about Nashville regularly, from Nashville-area....
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