Alan Jackson has a lot to be thankful for this year, including friends and family. But farther down the list are his recent wins at the CMA Awards and two albums in the Top 10 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart.
Drive is the triple-platinum album that led to the five CMA wins. The other best selling album — the recently released Let It Be Christmas — is Jackson’s second collection of holiday music. He’ll provide live performances of several holiday classics when Alan Jackson: Let It Be Christmas premieres Friday (Nov. 29) at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CMT.
Let It Be Christmas was produced by Jackson’s longtime collaborator, Keith Stegall. Jackson wrote the album’s title track but the remaining 10 songs are all-time favorites including “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town,” “The Christmas Song,” “Silent Night,” “Jingle Bells,” “White Christmas,” “Silver Bells” and “Away in a Manger.”
Let It Be Christmas leans heavily toward tradition, but that wasn’t the case throughout Jackson’s 1993 release, Honky Tonk Christmas, where the final two tracks were “Santa’s Gonna Come in a Pickup Truck” and “Please, Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas).” Jackson admits that the classics are always in style, although he adds that one family member lobbied for him to record the familiar songs.
“When we listen to Christmas songs, we put on the ones that you grew up with,” Jackson said recently. “The classic recordings from Gene Autry to Nat King Cole and all the guys … . I love that sound, first of all, of Bing Crosby and everybody. But mainly my mama kept wearing me out for the last 10 years: ‘When you gonna make a traditional Christmas album?’ And so I finally did. Not just for her, but for me — and the songs we like to listen to at Christmas.”
The CMT special, Alan Jackson: Let It Be Christmas, was taped in October at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville. The show also features special appearances by wife Denise, their three daughters and Nashville’s Belmont University Choir.
Describing the special, Jackson said, “It’s me singing and we taped it just like the album, with the big band and full orchestra and choral groups and choirs. It’s pretty cool, actually. I got to use my family. My two youngest girls did a little dance thing with some of the girls from their school. The Santa Claus song is really neat. And then my oldest daughter read the Christmas story from the Bible.
“It’s a pretty special special,” Jackson adds, joking, “Yeah, I even danced.”
Alan Jackson: Let It Be Christmas premieres Friday (Nov. 29) at 8 p.m. The special will also be telecast Saturday (Nov. 30) at 12 a.m. and 6 p.m., and Sunday (Dec. 1) at 12 p.m. (All times are Eastern/Pacific.)
More on Alan Jackson’s Christmas Special.