2021 HOLIDAY ALBUM GUIDE | Music Reviews | Savannah News, Events, Restaurants, Music
It’s been a particularly prolific year for holiday albums – so much so that I’ll stop the intro here to save space and jump right into the review of the albums themselves.
Kelly Clarkson: “When Christmas Comes Around …” – Clarkson’s second holiday album opens with a real setback – “Merry Christmas Baby” (one of Clarkson’s seven co-writes on the album, not the familiar R&B standard) that disguises thorny emotions in a rich, moving melody that shows why Clarkson’s vocals wowed the judges all those years ago on “American Idol”. The song signals that “When Christmas Comes Around …” is anything but the typical holiday album. Clarkson joked that it was a break-up holiday album (she, of course, recently went through a high-profile divorce), and described songs like “Christmas Isn’t Canceled (Just You). “or the big, more serious ballad” Merry Christmas (to the one I used to know) “- two of the other strong originals on the album. But Clarkson also includes familiar upbeat tracks, such as “Rockin ‘Around The Christmas Tree”, “Santa Baby” and “Jingle Bell Rock”. Whatever the songs, they often come with full orchestration and lots of studio finishing, without sounding overproduced. Now, with two stellar holiday albums under his belt, fans will be ready whenever another Clarkson Christmas album reappears.
Annies pistol: “Hell of a Holiday” – Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley left their mark on the holidays with their distinctive blend of country, rock, soul and even a bit of gospel. Ten of the 13 songs on “Hell of a Holiday” are originals, which in itself gives the album its own musical character. And sure enough, the Pistol Annies bring the nerve and humor that helped define their three excellent non-holiday albums, but there’s also tenderness and emotional depth to songs like “The Only Thing I Wanted” and “Believing”.
Norah Jones: “I Dream of Christmas” – Jones’ first vacation foray is the relaxed effort one would expect. But that doesn’t mean it’s boring. On “White Christmas”, for example, his playful piano parts added sparkle to the song. And while Jones slows down the already ambiguous tempo of “Christmas Don’t Be Late” (yes, the song from Alvin and the Chipmunks), she packs some punch to the song with some pretty daring horn parts. In addition to those familiar tunes, “I Dream of Christmas” features five originals, and they provide some highlights on this warmer winter of a holiday album.
Morgan James: “A Very Magnetic Christmas” – Originals like “I Wanna Know” and “Long As I Got You” stand out, but James also absolutely transforms “Do You Hear What I Hear”, “O Holy Night” and other standards in his signature a bluesy and soul sound with jazzy swing. And oh yeah, she sings the hell out of these songs. This is my pick for the best Christmas 2021 album.
Amanda Shires: “For Christmas” – The talented songwriter / violinist delivers one of the best holiday albums of the year. “For Christmas” encompasses pop, soul, rock and folk with effortlessly original (mostly) melodic tunes and creative subject matter (“Gone For Christmas” and “A Real Tree This Year” being prime examples).
Paul Kelly: “Paul Kelly’s Christmas Train” – The year’s most ambitious holiday album is owned by accomplished songwriter Paul Kelly, who has collected 22 songs from all centuries and countries, some familiar, to others obscure, to create a charming, reverent to irreverent, very diverse and entertaining holiday album.
Other interesting versions:
Josh Turner: “King Size Manger” – Turner keeps the country going, while being very creative with song arrangements on “King Size Manger”. A prime example is “Angels We Have Heard On High”, with its surprisingly propulsive backbeat and dashing guitars.
G. Love: “Coming Back Home For Christmas” – Love brings her unique blend of blues, rap, soul and rock to 10 original holiday songs that create a good mood on this refreshing holiday album.
Golden Whistle Messenger: “O Come All Ye Faithful” – Singer / songwriter MC Taylor has created an inventive, introspective and moving, folk-centric holiday album that features three beautiful original songs, three reimagined standards and covers inspired by songs by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Spiritualized and Woody Guthrie.
Brian Fallon: “Night Divine” – The frontman of Gaslight Anthem is thrifty and largely acoustic as he effectively reshapes a set of well-chosen Christmas religious norms to fit into an intimate setting that feels authentic and emotional.
Brett Eldredge: “Mister. Christmas” – The highlight of Eldredge’s second Christmas album is the title track, an original that starts off slender and turns into a jazzy getaway. It sticks to the big band formula of his debut. holiday offer, 2016’s “Glow,” and with some clever arrangements and his warm baritone, Eldredge could give Michael Buble a run for his money as the main Christmas crooner a la Sinatra.
Steve Wariner: “Feels Like Christmas Time” – The country singer / songwriter’s new holiday album is largely a low-key and highly successful affair, as his version of “Silent Night”, the rustic original “Christmas In Your Arms” and the take instrumental of “It” Came Upon A Midnight Clear “, Wariner only needs his acoustic guitar to make a song sing.
Steve Perry: “The Season” – Perry’s vocals sound a little grainy on “The Season” than it did during his days with Journey, as he sings eight Christmas classics. But it’s the added backing vocals on “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”, the Motown-ish treatment of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” and the playful rework of “Silver Bells” that elevate this album.
New Glory Found: ‘December’s Here’ – The veteran group is putting some cheery hooks into the season with 10 originals that provide a humorous and flirty take on the Christmas holidays. The songs lean more towards the pop side of New Found Glory’s pop-punk sound, but they are very energetic and catchy.
Paul Gilbert: ‘TWAS’ – Guitar and rock music fans will find a lot to love in ‘TWAS’, as Gilbert shows off his considerable playing skills on 11 Christmas standards and two original songs.
Vitamin string quartet: “It Feels Like Christmas” – Looking for a classic with a look to the future? There’s a lot to love about VSQ’s instrumental holiday album, “It Feels Like Christmas”.
Kat Edmonson: “Holiday Swingin ‘(A Kat Edmonson Christmas Vol. 1)” – With these jazzy piano arrangements, Edmonson brings a lot of swing and pizzazz to this collection of holiday standards. That said, her vocal mouse melody might not be for everyone.
Orleans: ‘New Star Shining’ – The band famous for songs like ‘Dance With Me’ and ‘Still The One’ bring their familiar pop brand of folkloric hues and harmony laden in a set of quirky and engaging holiday songs and a few covers .
Us Banjo 3: “A Winter Wonderful” – The string band from Ireland make their way through a mix of holiday standards (they’re OK) and originals (they’re better, with “Christmas In Prison” winning this award. year for the most creative holiday subject).
Tyler Shaw: “A Tyler Shaw Christmas” – The Canadian pop singer’s holiday album features a standout original, “Christmas In Your Eyes” (and a few other enjoyable originals), while also bringing a touch of flair to the standards he chose for this output.
Alejandro Fuentes: “Soulful Christmas” – More pop than soul, it’s a dynamic and enjoyable holiday effort.
You missed the cut:
Here are a few other albums that, while not totally missed, don’t ring the bells: Steve Holy: “A Christmas To Remember”; Brett Young: “Brett Young and Friends Sing Christmas Classics”; Pentatonix: “Evergreen”; Manchester Orchestra: “Christmas Songs Vol. 1. “