12 Country Christmas Albums for 2012

Lady Antebellum, Scotty McCreery and Blake Shelton Offer Holiday Sets

It’s a Miracle on Music Row, twinkling lights keeping time,
Country artists bearing gifts of Christmas twang and rhyme.

Nashville’s finest have avoided the rut
With their first yuletide albums and much reason to strut.

Classics abound: reimagined, tried and true
And new collections burst with Carrie and Colt Ford, too.

Here are 12 of St. Nick’s very best bets
From Scotty, Blake, Lady A and the rest.

Charlie Daniels, Hallelujah It’s Christmas Time Again
For Charlie Daniels (perennial winner of country’s Santa Claus lookalike contest) the spirit of giving extends well beyond his family and fans. This year, he says he’s hoping to “celebrate Christmas through music and help the children of our military at the same time.” Daniels will donate all the proceeds from his Hallelujah It’s Christmas Time Again album to the Armed Services YMCA, an organization that’s helping give the kids of soldiers a healthy place to grow while their parents are deployed. The album will feature classic seasonal tunes like “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “Hallelujah,” as well as a special bonus track — a reading by Mr. Daniels of “Carolina Christmas Carol.”

Sammy Kershaw, A Sammy Klaus Christmas
Louisiana native Sammy Kershaw delivers a fun collection of classics this year and also wins the prize for silliest album title. A Sammy Klaus Christmas includes 12 standards designed to please. “I wanted to make a fun sing-along Christmas album that people of all generations would be happy to listen to and children would enjoy,” he says. A highlight of the album is sure to be Kershaw’s Cajun-spiced reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” but his signature voice will bring joy to listeners on other standards like “Jingle Bells,” “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” and “Silent Night,” as well.

Lady Antebellum, On This Winter’s Night
Lady Antebellum lend their award-winning harmonies to everyone’s favorite Christmas tunes for On This Winter’s Night, their first full-length holiday collection. Singer Hillary Scott says Christmas still makes her feel like a kid each year: “I love the excitement, the child-like spirit of innocence and just about everything that goes along with Christmas.” The album’s 12 tracks include “Holly Jolly Christmas” as well as a new arrangement of “The First Noel.” The band is looking forward to a special concert on Dec. 3 where they will play each song alongside the Nashville Symphony.

Scotty McCreery, Christmas With Scotty McCreery
Scotty McCreery’s first Christmas album, fittingly titled Christmas With Scotty McCreery, marks a high point in the American Idol’s already remarkable career. After reaching No. 1 and going platinum earlier this year with his debut album, Clear as Day, McCreery lends his rich baritone to the Christmas songs he loved growing up in North Carolina. Produced by Mark Bright, who’s famous for capturing Carrie Underwood’s signature sound, “Let It Snow” and “Mary Did You Know?” stand out among the album’s 11 tracks. You can catch McCreery on the CMA Country Christmas special on ABC on Dec. 20.

Willie Nelson, The Classic Christmas Album
Willie Nelson’s getting in the Christmas spirit this year and giving his fans what they seem to ask for over and over — more music! The Classic Christmas Album is the first-ever compilation of Christmas tunes Nelson recorded for Columbia Records, including all of his 1979 classic Pretty Paper (a CMT.com favorite ). His rendition of “What a Wonderful World” is also here, along with two duets with sister Bobbie Nelson and 13 favorites like “Blue Christmas” and “Frosty the Snowman.”

Blake Shelton, Cheers It’s Christmas
CMA entertainer of the year Blake Shelton released his first-ever Christmas album in October, and there’s plenty of reason to be excited if you see it underneath your tree. Cheers, It’s Christmas includes duets with two big stars and one other singing partner who is extra-special to the lovable funnyman. Shelton and Michael Bublé reworked their No. 1 hit “Home” and offer it here, and later in the album, Shelton duets with his mentor Reba McEntire for the first time ever. But the big news is that Shelton sings with his mother Dorothy Shackleford on a song they wrote together called “Time for Me to Come Home.” The family-centered song captures “the longing for a son on the road to finally come back home for Christmas,” something that Shelton’s family surely knows all too well.

John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, This Christmas
For the first time in more than 30 years the stars of Grease, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, are singing new music together. This Christmas features collaborations with mega-stars like Tony Bennett, Barbara Streisand and James Taylor, and proceeds from the project will be donated to Travolta and Newton-John’s respective charities. They’re mostly singing standards like “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” but there is one surprise waiting for fans. The album’s one original song, “I Think You Might Like It,” is a sequel to Grease’s smash hit “You’re the One That I Want.” “It was really fun to do that,” says Newton-John, former CMA female vocalist of the year. “If it wasn’t for that song, we wouldn’t be here talking about it 30 years later.”

Donna Ulisse , All the Way to Bethlehem
Bluegrass songwriter Donna Ulisse delivers a truly unique album this Christmas with All the Way to Bethlehem. She wrote or co-wrote each of the album’s 11 tracks, and rather than just rehashing the meaning of the holiday, Ulisse chooses to tell the story of Christ’s birth through the eyes of the characters who were there. She writes songs from the perspective of Joseph, Mary, her cousin Elizabeth and even the Innkeeper who fatefully denies the young couple shelter. “The people in this story didn’t foresee who they were going to wind up being,” she says. “They were just people — people who were trying to adjust to miraculous circumstances. That’s where the real drama lies.”

Various Artists, An Average Joes Muddy Christmas
Average Joes labelmates Colt Ford, Montgomery Gentry, Josh Gracin and the LoCash Cowboys are among the artists contributing to An Average Joes Muddy Christmas, an album that features classics as well as new songs by the label’s roster. Ford raps his way through “Home for Christmas,” Gracin sweetly sings “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and Montgomery Gentry deliver a faithful rendition of Robert Earl Keen’s lovable Christmas comedy, “Merry Christmas From the Family.” John Anderson, Bo Bice and Matt Stillwell also spread the holiday cheer.

Various Artists, A Very Special Christmas 25th Anniversary
A Very Special Christmas benefits the Special Olympics, and this year the project is celebrating its 25th anniversary with two albums. The first, Bringing Joy to the World, features country stars Rascal Flatts on “Mary, Did You Know,” Vince Gill on “Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song)” and Martina McBride on “Please Come Home for Christmas.” Pop stars like Christina Aguilera, Train, Jordin Sparks and Francesca Battistelli also contribute to the worthy cause. According to Special Olympics chairman and CEO Timothy Shriver, “The albums have become the largest single source of funding for the Special Olympics and its athletes.”

Various Artists, Christmas the Mountain Way
Filmed and recorded earlier this year at the Bell Theater in Pineville, Ky., Christmas the Mountain Way is a CD/DVD set showcasing the bluegrass tradition of the Appalachian Mountains in Christmas music. Featuring Dale Ann Bradley, Steve Gulley, Marty Raybon, Audie Blaylock, Cumberland River and more, its live performances are sure to take listeners on a journey of spirituality and cozy mountain cabins. Bradley contributes her original song “Christmas the Mountain Way,” while Cumberland River offer a special tune written just for the show, “Christmas in the Mountains.”

Various Artists, Now That’s What I Call Today’s Christmas
Fans of the Now That’s What I Call Music! series won’t miss out this holiday season. Some of pop music’s brightest stars offer their vocal stylings to Now That’s What I Call Today’s Christmas, a collection of “hot new festive Christmas songs.” Country lovers will unwrap tracks from Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts and Sugarland, while those with broader tastes will find Carly Rae Jepsen, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and many, many more crooning for Christmas.

Writer/producer for CMT.com and CMT Edge. He's been to Georgia on a fast train. He wasn't born no yesterday.