Santa's stingy when it comes to delivering country Christmas albums this year although new holiday titles from Faith Hill, Elvis Presley and Julianne Hough have managed to find room in the Top 10 of the current Billboard country albums chart.
So far, the top holiday seller is Hill's Joy to the World (Warner Bros.), a collection of 10 Christmas standards and a new song, "A Baby Changes Everything," that will no doubt vie for standard status in the years to come. Other selections include "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," "Holly Jolly Christmas" and "Winter Wonderland."
Presley's holiday recordings have continued to sell briskly even without new musical or marketing hooks. However, the late icon is getting a sizable sales boost this year with Christmas Duets (RCA Nashville/Legacy). Electronically paired with Elvis for this yuletide buffet are Martina McBride, Sara Evans, Carrie Underwood, LeAnn Rimes, Wynonna Judd, Amy Grant, Gretchen Wilson, Anne Murray, Olivia Newton-John and Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman of Little Big Town. In addition to these 10 duets, the album contains three additional solo recordings by the King.
NBC Sounds of the Season: The Julianne Hough Holiday Collection (NBC/Universal Special Markets) is an EP containing eight tracks, including a duet with Phil Vassar on "It Wasn't His Child/Mary Did You Know." The other songs include "Jingle Bell Rock," "Feliz Navidad" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Hough's CD is available exclusively at Target stores.
George Strait is also on the country albums chart with Classic Christmas (MCA), a project first released exclusively by Hallmark stores in 2006 under a different title, George Strait Fresh Cut Christmas. According to his Web site, Strait chose the 10 cuts from his childhood favorites. Among those choices: "We Three Kings," "Up on the Housetop," "Deck the Halls," "O Come, All Ye Faithful" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."
Two of country's top acts -- Rascal Flatts and Underwood -- have each released new holiday music this year, but you have to buy expanded versions of their current albums to get it.
The limited edition version of Rascal Flatts's Greatest Hits, Volume 1 (Lyric Street) includes a bonus disc containing their versions of "White Christmas," " Jingle Bell Rock" and " I'll Be Home for Christmas." Underwood's Carnival Ride (19 Recordings/Arista Nashville) has been released exclusively at Walmart as a special edition that includes a second disc featuring her interpretations of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," "The First Noel," "What Child Is This," "Do You Hear What I Hear" and "O Holy Night."
In addition to the audio CDs, Larry the Cable Guy and Randy Travis have released noteworthy holiday DVDs this year.
Larry the Cable Guy's Star Studded Christmas Extravaganza (Warner Bros.), a variety special which recently debuted on CMT, is a whimsical production that spotlights pre-taped segments featuring Toby Keith, Terry Bradshaw, Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall, Lewis Black and Blake Shelton, along with musical performances by Montgomery Gentry, Rodney Atkins and Emily West.
Travis' Christmas on the Pecos (Image Entertainment), his first-ever holiday DVD, was taped in part at Carlsbad Caverns in Carlsbad, N.M. In addition to the Christmas songs, Travis also included performances of "Forever and Ever, Amen" and "Three Wooden Crosses."