I have a taste for Christmas albums which can go year-round, so I was delighted to have these three to plonk into the CD player. They are all pretty good in their various ways, with Joey + Rory coming out on top by a narrow margin.
The Skaggs family CD (A Skaggs Family Christmas, Volume Two) is actually stronger than their first volume and includes a full length (26 tunes) DVD of their travelling Christmas show. On the CD itself Ricky sings lead on 4 of the 10 songs; the Whites (Ricky’s wife Sharon, her sister Cheryl and father Buck) sing lead on one , Sharon, solo sings lead on Silent Night while daughter Molly takes lead on two while daughter Molly sings lead on two. The album is rounded out by two instrumentals. As one would expect from Ricky Skaggs it is immaculately played, but it somehow lacks the energy and personality that most Skaggs music exhibits.
Mandy Barnett’s career started when she was 9 and the only question that comes to mind is: why isn’t she a superstar? She has a phenomenal voice and unerring musical taste. That her music is sweet and smooth in the Nashville Sound style to have barred her from chart heights which is a shame. This album (Winter Wonderland) is classics done with classic Nashville Sound musicians and is absolutely faultless. The title track is fabulous as is the string-drenched All I want for Christmas and the bouncy Jingle Bell Rock. Actually, there isn’t a sub-par song on it and it will feature in my Christmas for sure.
My favourite of the three though, is Joey + Rory’s Farmhouse Christmas. The variety of styles and materials from a twangy two-steppin’ version of the Kent Blazey/Garth Brooks I Know What Santa’s getting’ for Christmas to the Jimmy Buffet flavoured Let it Snow (Somewhere Else); Merle Haggard duets on his If We make it through December and the wonderful Bradley Walker (will his second album ever be released?!)
sings with Joey on a beautiful acoustic Away in a Manger. The standout track for me is Stephanie Davis’ gorgeous celebration of a cowboy Christmas which unfurls Joey’s excellent yodel. Yodel, good Christmas song with Dobro backing – what more does anyone need in a Christmas album?