Christmas is a great time of year for music lovers, especially country fans. There’s something for everyone: duets, hymns, old standards and new originals. Here are 15 contemporary country songs to add to your Christmas playlist.
15. “Gold and Green”, Sugarland
Sugarland’s Christmas album of the same name is unique because it features five original songs written by Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush. It wasn’t received well by critics, but since most every other contemporary Christmas album is nothing but covers, Sugarland gets points for trying. This song incorporates “The First Noel” into its stringed ode to Christmastime decorations.
14. “Candy Cane Christmas”, Darius Rucker
You’ve never heard Darius Rucker like this before. His signature Hootie baritone is nowhere to be seen for this original song from his 2014 Home for the Holidays album. Here, Rucker almost sounds like Sinatra as he croons about various seasonal traditions.
13. “All I Want for Christmas Is You”, Lady Antebellum
Mariah Carey’s classic is consistently covered, but no artist has successfully performed the original without losing some of their own sound in the process. This is not so with Lady A’s slowed-down version, which features Hillary Scott alone on the verses as Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood join her on the chorus.
12. “Santa Baby”, Kellie Pickler
Add this one to the list of covers that are both unique and respectful to the original. Pickler is at her sultry best in this video, nailing the vocal tone of Eartha Kitt’s original and playfully winking at the camera as she checks off every item on her list.
11. “Dear Santa”, Tim McGraw
Christmas is a sad time of year for some people, especially if you’ve just gone through a breakup. Tim McGraw taps into that sentiment in this song that was never included on an album but has since become a fan favorite. The song is sung from the point of view of a man who wished he would’ve done better by his girlfriend.
10. “Run Run Rudolph”, Luke Bryan
This song has been re-recorded hundreds of times since Chuck Berry performed the original version in 1958, but Luke Bryan’s 2008 rendition of the red-nosed reindeer anthem is the second-highest-charting version since the original. It reached No. 42 on the U.S.Hot Country songs chart in 2008.
9. “Blue Christmas”, Martina McBride feat. Elvis Presley
Some great video wizardry allowed the music video for this standard to be edited so that it looks like McBride is joining The King on stage. McBride included this song on the third re-issue of her White Christmas album, titled The Classic Christmas Album. If Presley were alive today, he would probably approve of this duet.
8. “Last Christmas”, Taylor Swift
If there were any Christmas song that you could guarantee T-Swift would cover, it’s gotta be this one. Swift’s cover of the 80s Wham! classic about jilted lovers was released in 2007, just as she was beginning her rise to the top of the charts. It’s fitting that the most popular song from her Christmas EP reflected the subject matter on her other albums.
7. “All I Want for Christmas Is a Real Good Tan”, Kenny Chesney
Chesney’s Christmas album came out right after No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem, and those two combined with When the Sun Goes Down cemented his reputation as country’s resident beach bum. That energy is channeled into this original song from the album of the same name, as Chesney wishes for an island getaway where he can “sing ‘Silent Night’ with the palm trees a-blowing.”
6. “Grateful For Christmas”— Hayes Carll
Carll doesn’t have a Christmas album out, at least, not yet. This tale of a family’s trip home to Waco, or Houston, or wherever they’re celebrating this year, was included on KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories). The song is more of a spoken word piece about what a typical family gathering is like in the Carll household: burnt food, great company, card games and thankfulness all around. It’s a heartwarming original.
5. “Just Me and These Ponies (For Christmas This Year)”, Corb Lund
Another song about the depressing side of December, Corb Lund’s take on the holidays is a story about a lonely rancher who probably won’t be getting any holiday visitors, but goes to the trouble of putting up decorations and wrapping presents just in case. There probably hasn’t been a Christmas song this sad since “Blue Christmas”.
4. “Jingle Bell Rock”, Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert
Personal issues aside, it’s always good when you get to hear Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert sing together. Their voices complement each other perfectly on this short and fast cover, which appears on Shelton’s Cheers, it’s Christmas. album.
3. “O Holy Night”, Carrie Underwood
Carrie Underwood looks and sounds nothing short of divine in her passionate cover of this hymn. This version was taken from her 2009 special Carrie Underwood: An All-Star Holiday Special.
2. “Born on Christmas Day”, Brad Paisley feat. Brad Paisley
Brad Paisley is famous for his songwriting chops, but that talent was present long before he got famous. Paisley wrote “Born on Christmas Day” when he was 13 years old. The first verse of this version is Paisley the 13-year-old, performing live. Paisley the adult joins in on the second verse, and the two versions of himself duet the rest of the song.
The best part isn’t the technological marvel that allowed Paisley to sing along with his past self; it’s that Paisley wrote such a compelling Christmas tune when he wasn’t even done with puberty.
1. “The Christmas Song”, Jamey Johnson
A part of the only original album of music Johnson has released since The Guitar Song, this new version of an old standard sounds like a slow Texas waltz with some harmonica thrown in. The entire rest of his The Christmas Song album is solid Christmas gold, too. It even has a few originals, like “South Alabam Christmas,” co-written with Bill Anderson.