Every holiday season, it becomes evident that there are two kinds of people: those that embrace the 24-7 inundation of “Rudolph” and “Jingle Bells” and those that absolutely hate Christmas music. But country music fans are lucky. No matter your stance on holiday music, a country music Christmas record probably has something for you.
Here are 10 essential country music Christmas albums.
For her 2002 Christmas album, Bluegrass and White Snow, Patty Loveless went back to her Kentucky roots. Putting a bluegrass spin on holiday favorites like “Christmas Time’s a Comin” and “Silver Bells,” Loveless made a Christmas standout for everyone from the Kentucky holler to the heart of the city.
From the holly jolly honky tonk of “I Only Want You For Christmas” to the stoic and beautiful “The Angels Cried,” Alan Jackson‘s 1993 album Honky Tonk Christmas is the perfect mix of fun and solemn reflection on the season.
If you’re looking for something beyond “Jingle Bells,” John Prine‘s 1994 album A John Prine Christmas is the Christmas album for you. Filled with one-of-a-kind holiday gems like “Christmas in Prison” and the holiday divorce ditty “All the Best,” Prine’s Christmas album is like no other.
Emmylou Harris‘ ethereal voice is the perfect match for the warmth of Christmas music. Released in 1979, Light of the Stable features Christmas classics and originals, such as the Rodney Crowell-penned “Angel Eyes.”
Willie Nelson‘s Pretty Paper was the Red Headed Stranger’s first Christmas album and remains one of the most memorable country holiday records. The title track, about a lonely street vendor, is one of the most stirring modern Christmas songs ever written.
Leave it to Merle Haggard to write a forlorn song about a struggling family during Christmastime and make it a holiday classic. “If We Make It Through December” bucks the Christmas song tradition by telling a story of poverty and perseverance rather than a carefree, happy-go-lucky tale. The down-home “Santa Claus and Popcorn” and the despairing “Daddy Won’t Be Home Again For Christmas” round out some of the Hag’s best holiday songs.
Dwight Yoakam‘s 1997 album Come On Christmas puts a honky tonk spin on rock n roll Christmas favorites (“Santa Claus is Back in Town”) and two Yoakam originals (the title track and “Santa Can’t Stay.”) When Dwight says “ho ho ho, honey,” no Christmas tune has ever sounded cooler.
Only a legend like George Strait could record a Christmas song with his own name in the title. “Merry Christmas Strait to You” is a greeting card from King George himself while “When It’s Christmas Time in Texas” is a holiday anthem for the Lone Star State.
Is there anything more joyous than a Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers duet? Only an entire album of Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers Christmas songs. Dolly and Kenny’s Once Upon a Christmas, featuring the Tennessee mountain celebration “With Bells On” and the melancholy “Hard Candy Christmas,” is a gift from two country legends.
Kacey Musgraves recruited a stellar cast for her standout album A Very Kacey Christmas. Willie Nelson and Leon Bridges join Musgraves for two original songs (“A Willie Nice Christmas,” “Present Without a Bow”) while the Quebe Sisters add a dose of Texas swing to “Let it Snow” and “Mele Kalikimaka.” Timeless and wholly original, A Very Kacey Christmas is a modern Christmas classic