I haven’t yet listened to Scotty McCreery’s new Christmas CD. But, a fellow blogger has. And Kim Alexander was kind enough allow me to share her review with all of you. I hope you will all visit her blog, Country According to Kim, read some of her other articles, and post a comment or two. You can also follow her on Twitter @countrymusicATK. Now, here’s Kim’s review.
First things first, I’m wishing everyone who celebrates a happy Hanukkah! Perhaps that’s a strange way to kick off a review of a Christmas album, but it wouldn’t have felt right not to include it. And really, when you really think and learn about what each holiday is about you see that in a way the first Hanukkah is one of the things that made Christmas possible. So once again, happy Hanukkah to all who celebrate.
Now, if you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen me challenge Scotty McCreery fans to make this my most viewed post of all time. The last time I wrote about Scotty was when I reviewed "Water Tower Town" back in April and it was my most viewed post for a few weeks and then got knocked into second place by my review of Small Town Family Dream by Josh Abbott Band. For most of this year, my "Water Tower Town" was my second most viewed post with 303 page views, only recently being kicked to third by my review of "Pontoon" by Little Big Town. My review of Small Town Family Dream has 571 page views. If there’s any fan group who can surpass that, I really believe it’s the McCreerians. So that’s my challenge to you. To make this my most viewed post to date.
Those of you who have read my album reviews know this, but the way I do album reviews is to give my overall opinion and then look at each song individually after the cut. Which means that album review posts can get pretty long. Just a warning. Of course, if you were to break it down and only read a bit at a time it would help with the page views. Just pointing that out.
This album came out back in October, but I never listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving. Hence why there hasn’t been a review until now. So what do I think? I think that releasing Christmas albums can be a little risky. The majority of these songs are so well known and loved already. They’ve been recorded by who knows how many artists over the years. There’s a need to know when to stay close to the original and when you can take these songs in a different direction. This is where I feel Christmas albums are most likely to go wrong. And then if you’re going to include originals, well, they better be good and they better be sincere. No one appreciates a phony Christmas song. Scotty is still a pretty new artist and some might argue that it was too soon for him to release a Christmas album. I feel like there’s a bunch of ways this album could’ve gone wrong. But you know what?
It didn’t. Quite the opposite in fact. I think that this is a great album from start to finish. Great collection of songs, each one placed right where they belong. Christmas with Scotty McCreery features two original songs and I loved them both. The production is basically perfect; I’ve listened to it a lot by now and there’s really nothing for me to nitpick on that front. I have to give all the musicians a lot of credit because I absolutely love the playing on this! There’s really some beautiful playing on this album. Not to mention it’s full of strong solos and a solid energy. As far as Scotty himself? Vocally, I’d say he’s grown since his first album. What impressed me the most, however, wasn’t so much the vocals themselves as the delivery. I really enjoyed the way he sang these songs. He sang them with so much sincerity and even warmth, which might be an odd word to use but is one that kept coming to mind as I listened. I put this in my albums that get better with each listen category and it’s one I’d strongly recommend.
Now, to talk a little bit about each song separately.
"Let It Snow" here’s a very pleasant groove in this that I really like. Very nice fiddle and piano playing on here. I don’t have much else to say about it really. It was a great song to kick things off.
"The First Noel" I love the way they chose to build this song, starting off pretty gently and slowly building as it went. Lovely arrangement. It’s very peaceful. They didn’t stray too far, musically, on this and that was the perfect choice.
"Jingle Bells" And what do we have here but a departure. I wasn’t expecting this song to be the way it is at all. This song may have been the one with the most potential to go wrong because it’s so different. It was perhaps the biggest risk and boy, did they pull it off. I really like this version! Wonderful playing. I think the solos on here might be my favorites. Such a strong delivery by Scotty as well.
"Holly Jolly Christmas" The energy in this song is pretty fantastic. This one’s so much fun to listen to and from the sound of it, fun to perform and sing, too.
Winter Wonderland" Another one that stays close to the original and again I think that was the right choice. This one nicely chugs along and just felt so wintery to me. I can’t explain it. But I liked it.
Christmas in Heaven" You know, I love all kinds of songs. Party songs and love songs; lighthearted songs and dark songs like "Whiskey Lullaby". But my absolute favorite songs are the ones that seem to speak directly to the heart; the ones that strike a deep, emotional chord that most songs never strike. This is one of those songs. I’ve lost several people and even pets in my life that I especially miss at this time of year, as most of us have. There’s no doubt in my mind that heaven is a real place. The first time I heard it was when I watched Scotty’s Christmas special on GAC and it made me cry. I’ve listened to it a lot since then and it never fails to tear me up. The concept of this song is so beautiful and the lyrics are so lovely. This is the first of the two originals and perhaps the shining moment of the entire album. It’s songs like this that made me fall in love with music in the first place. Beautiful.
"Mary, Did You Know" Easily one of my favorite Christmas songs. Some seriously good songwriting on this and I love that they included it. And I really love what they did with it. The music is such a perfect accompaniment to the words. The strings they added are quite wonderful. Definitely one of Scotty’s best vocals on the album.
Christmas Comin’ Round Again" The second of the two originals. This is probably one of the countriest Christmas songs I’ve ever heard. Speaking mainly about the words. I love the message of the song and really, I just love the song itself. It makes me happy.
"O Holy Night" Another of my favorite Christmas songs and what I’d consider to be a real singer’s song. I was a little surprised to see this on here for some reason and I couldn’t help but wonder if Scotty could pull it off. Especially when it starts getting higher and specifically when it gets to that big "oh night divine". You gotta go big or go home when you shoot for that one and I was pleasantly surprised with how he pulled it off. This is a good version; I won’t lie and said it’s the best, but it’s very enjoyable. He did very good.
“The Christmas Song" This version has a bit of a jazzy kind of feel to it, not really what I expected. I came across a review that argued that this song is too old for him and I definitely do not agree. I like Scotty’s version quite a bit. Great tone in his voice on this; it’s present on every song, but it stood out to me more on this.
“Santa Claus is Back in Town" So this seems to be an album of which I had a lot of expectations and basically all of them were proven wrong. Color me impressed. I would never have expected him to pull this song off as well as he does. This makes me smile, it truly does. Great way to close things off.
As I said before, I would strongly recommend this album. Scotty, Mark Bright, the musicians and everyone involved should be very proud of themselves. This is such a strong album and it’s genuinely become one of my favorite Christmas albums. And you know what? I think I might just be a McCreerian. Because in addition to creating a great Christmas album, he has me really looking forward to what he does in the future.
So yeah. You have your assignment: making this my most viewed post so far. The number to beat is 571, barring any new views on that review. Which I don’t really see happening since it’s been at that number for quite a while, but you never know. I know you all can do this. I have faith. Thank you so much for reading, especially if you made it all the way through! I really appreciate people taking the time to do that. I know it’s a lot! So once again, thank you. Here’s wishing everyone reading a very safe and happy holiday season.
Thanks for sharing your review, Kim. We always enjoy putting up CD and show reviews by country music fans!
Back with more soon!