10 new Christmas albums to brighten your holiday: Amy Grant, R. Kelly, Jennifer Nettles and more


BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene

Every year, we wonder the same thing — whose version of “Jingle Bells” could possibly still make us care about the song? Answer: Lauren Daigle.

It’s challenging to balance tradition with individuality in holiday collections, but many artists, from Kacey Musgraves to Jennifer Nettles to R. Kelly, have managed to surprise with interesting arrangements, instant seal-of-approval guests and solid original songs.

As we sleigh ride through another holiday season, here are some potential additions to the playlist.

Amy Grant, “Tennessee Christmas”: In 1983, a 23-year-old Grant released her first Christmas album, and the memorable centerpiece was the sweeping melody and inherent melancholy of the song “Tennessee Christmas.” Now, nearly 20 years after her last all-new holiday release, the timeless contemporary Christian music legend has re-recorded the song in her still-sweet but huskier voice for this collection of 13 tracks. A mix of classics (a shuffling “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with husband Vince Gill, “White Christmas”) and instantly endearing new songs (“To Be Together,” “December”), the album stays true to Grant’s innate ability to fuse pensiveness and tenderness, especially on “Melancholy Christmas.” Her mandate when recording, she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently, was to craft a record “that feels like it’s being written and played for an audience of one.” That intimacy is apparent throughout. A+

Frankie Valli, “‘Tis the Seasons”: While this is Valli’s first solo holiday album, the winking title suggests that the pulse still beats for the Four Seasons (also, groupmate Bob Gaudio produced the 13-song record, so clearly friendship reigns). At 82, Valli’s eyebrow-raising upper register has, naturally, dipped a bit, but his vocals on a sauntering “Winter Wonderland” and “The Christmas Song” are deliberate and emotive. Jeff Beck lends his distinctive guitar playing to “Merry Christmas, Baby,” but Valli’s voice isn’t suited to this faux-bluesy crawl. Crank up his sprightly “Jingle Bell Rock” and the busily arranged “Joy to the World/Do You Hear What I Hear?” instead. B+

Also new this year:

Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, “Christmas Together”: It’s apparent that the affable country couple is having a blast on big band swinger “I’m Beginning to See the Light” and “Marshmallow World,” while Yearwood nails a sensually coy version of “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”

Pentatonix, “A Pentatonix Christmas”: Considering the massive success of 2014’s “That’s Christmas to Me,” a sequel was inevitable. “A Pentatonix Christmas” finds the a capella group joining with elder statesmen the Manhattan Transfer for “White Christmas” and, less appealingly, tackling Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and Kanye West’s “Coldest Winter.”

Chris Young, “It Must Be Christmas”: A few originals dot this 10-song collection, which gives the country singer the chance to ably share the mic with Alan Jackson (“There’s a New Kid in Town”), Boyz II Men (“Silent Night”) and Brad Paisley (“The First Noel”).

Rascal Flatts, “The Greatest Gift of All”: Hard to believe this stalwart country trio hasn’t released a holiday album before this year. The band offers a few interesting nuggets, such as adding their kids’ voices to “Silent Night” and covering 4Him’s “A Strange Way to Save the World.”

Follow the AJC Music Scene on Facebook and Twitter.


Reader Comments


Next Up in Atlanta Music Scene

Listen: 53 Days Until Super Bowl 53
Listen: 53 Days Until Super Bowl 53

Listen now or open in iTunes or Google Play: There are just 53 days until Super Bowl 53 kicks off at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium. And in just a few weeks, we’ll learn which teams will take the field in the new stadium. AJC music reporter and avid football fan Melissa Ruggieri chats about concerts from artists such as Ludacris...
MLS Cup featuring Atlanta United’s win draws best TV ratings since 1997
MLS Cup featuring Atlanta United’s win draws best TV ratings since 1997

The MLS Cup victory by the Atlanta United over Portland on Saturday night drew the biggest TV audience in at least 20 years, according to Nielsen Media Research. The game aired on Fox nationally and brought in 1.56 million overnight viewers. That’s nearly double from the number who watched a year earlier and the most since at least 1997, the...
Some vegetables easily tolerate cold weather
Some vegetables easily tolerate cold weather

Q: My cabbage and lettuce crops are looking great even though we have had colder than normal weather. What range can they stand before being frozen out? Robert Hobgood, Cartersville A: It is tough to predict how cold temperatures will affect vegetables. Much depends on how the plants were preconditioned. For example, if broccoli has been...
How to use winter white for a bright, minimalist look
How to use winter white for a bright, minimalist look

White has long been viewed as a formal color, typically reserved for seldom-used living and sitting rooms. These days, those looking for a light, bright and minimalist look are choosing winter white. Unlike stark, bright white, winter white has cream and taupe properties that can serve as the ideal foundation color for a neutral color palette. If you...
Garden Detective: Why do cucumbers turn orange?
Garden Detective: Why do cucumbers turn orange?

Dear Jessica: Last year around this time we had pumpkins out and left them for the squirrels to eat. The seeds were left to grow. We started our cucumbers from seeds in the house in April, and once they sprouted we planted them where the pumpkins had been. In time, we started to get “cucumkins.” I didn’t see any pumpkins or cucumbers...
More Stories