Christmas List: New Holiday Songs in 2011

The Band Perry, Ronnie Dunn, Toby Keith, Tim McGraw Offer New Music

It’s beginning to sound a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go. If you’re a country fan who loves holiday music, then you might want to add these new tunes to your wish list.

You can have yourself a Perry little Christmas with The Band Perry, as the sibling trio recorded two new tracks for the season. Their lively take on “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” is included with a Colonial Candle gift package, along with festive new recordings by Reba McEntire (“I’ll Be Home for Christmas”), Martina McBride (“Please Come Home for Christmas”) and many more. In addition, the fast-rising country stars join pop sensation Justin Bieber under the mistletoe for an endearing duet, “Home for Christmas,” featured on his recently-released album, Under the Mistletoe.

If you prefer a more peaceful approach, don’t miss Ronnie Dunn’s rendition of “Silent Night.” It’s included on A Very Country Christmas, available only at Target. Jake Owen, Brad Paisley, Kellie Pickler and Chris Young also offer new recordings to the project. Or you can make the day merry and bright with the holiday version of Toby Keith’s “Red Solo Cup (Holiday Version).”

Tim McGraw’s holiday wish came true when he severed ties with Curb Records, his longtime label home, this month. His first release as a free agent is “Christmas Around the World,” which he released on his own label, StyleSonic. He’ll extend the good cheer into 2012 with new music on the way.

And if you think you’ve heard every possible version of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” you’ve got a special treat waiting in your stocking. Kelly Clarkson’s stirring rendition is now available on iTunes. Put it on, cozy up by the fireplace and you’ll wanna stay for a little while.

Vince Gill, Dolly Parton and Shania Twain have wrapped new duets for the season. Gill harmonizes on contemporary Christian singer Matthew West’s “Leaving Heaven,” Parton decorates pop band Chicago’s “Wonderful Christmas Time,” and Twain teams up with crooner Michael Bublé on “White Christmas,” a track from his Christmas album.

As quiet and subdued as a mountain cabin, the Civil Wars’ “Tracks in the Snow” and “O Come O Come Emmanuel” are available digitally and on white vinyl. Joey & Rory’s A Farmhouse Christmas features a fun tune called “Let It Snow (Somewhere Else)” as well as a charming number written by Garth Brooks and Kent Blazy titled “I Know What Santa Likes.”

Lyle Lovett offers an eyebrow-raising story, “The Girl With the Holiday Smile,” along with two favorite holiday tunes on his EP, Songs for the Season. Nashville singer-songwriter David Mead submits a quirky, bittersweet holiday tune, “The Smile of Rachael Ray.” And it takes less than 30 minutes to listen to it.

Ricky Skaggs gathers his kin for A Skaggs Family Christmas, Volume Two, which offers a gentle version of Gene MacLellan’s “Reunion Song.” Sunny Sweeney is spending the holidays with a Bud (or Miller or Corona) on her new track, “One More Christmas Beer.”

Tanya Tucker makes a surprise seasonal appearance with “Merry Christmas Wherever You Are,” a touching ballad that reminded her of parents with missing children and children who no longer have a parent. A full Christmas album is expected next year. Meanwhile Phil Vassar presents Noel. That project offers “Don’t Feel Like Christmas Without You,” a bittersweet ode to those familiar faces we won’t see around the dinner table this year.

New duo Attwater unwrap a despondent Loretta Lynn chestnut, “It Won’t Seem Like Christmas This Year,” for their holiday EP, Christmas. If that one’s not depressing enough for you, check out Caitlin Rose and Keegan Dewitt’s melancholy tune, “You Never Come Home for Christmas,” which captures the loneliness that comes after a hard breakup, especially right before the holidays. Even the jingle bells in the background sound sad.

If visions of sugarplums are dancing in your head, Craig Campbell (“Family Man”) delivers a pleasant rendition of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas . Sherrié Austin and Shane Stevens tease each other with “Naughty or Nice,” while Sarah Darling sings a sterling “O Holy Night.” Plus, Lisa Matassa bundles up for “The Christmas Song,” Lindi Ortega bestows the beautiful “Christmas Eve With You” and Peyton Rae renders the cute “Christmas Time With You.”

In addition, Richard Marx is well-matched with Nickel Creek’s Sara Watkins on a tender version of “Silent Night,” from A Christmas EP. Meanwhile, fiddle master Mark O’Connor offers a lovely rendering of “Carol of the Bells” on the new Appalachian Christmas. Margo Rey’s original “This Holiday Night” is inspired by classic Christmas carols.

Other unique projects include: Mandy Barnett’s Winter Wonderland, a lush, Nashville Sound-inspired project rereleased this year by Rounder; This Warm December — A Brushfire Holiday Volume 2 featuring seasonal indie pop by label founder Jack Johnson and his roster; Christmas With Karling by California rockabilly singer-songwriter Karling Abbeygate; The Gathering, an acoustic collaboration with North Carolina musicians Laurelyn Dossett, Rhiannon Giddens, Mike Compton, Joe Newberry and Jason Sypher; and Nashville combo the Ornaments’ A Charlie Brown Christmas Live at Middletree, with pianist Jen Gunderman and her pals interpreting the classic Vince Guaraldi score.

P.S. Every year, I try to sneak in my favorite Christmas video of all. So, here it is. Vince Vance and the Valiants“All I Want for Christmas Is You.”