REVIEW: Jennifer Nettles – ‘To Celebrate Christmas’

unnamed-3Jennifer Nettles has become the public face of Christmas in Nashville because of her association with ‘CMA Country Christmas’, which she has hosted for the last seven years. This has given her the opportunity to showcase some of the songs that are featured on this, her first solo festive album. This year’s show, which will be aired at the end of this month, will feature the duets that are included on the album.

It is competing in a crowded market this year. There have been some that have taken an individual angle by creating new Christmas songs and others who have recreated the sounds of the classics. Jennifer appears to have done a bit of both, but all with her own hugely enjoyable style and personality. Jennifer Nettles has a stunning voice, arguably the most powerful female voice in country music. She entirely makes a song her own, even if you have heard countless versions.

‘Go Tell It On The Mountain’ is a case in point. It was first recorded in 1963 and has been covered by many country artists previously. Dolly, Garth, Hunter Hayes and Little Big Town, but you won’t hear a better version than the one that opens this album.

‘Little Drummer Boy’ with Idina Menzel and ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ with Andra Day are the significant duets but the absolute standout is Jennifer’s cover of Kenny Loggins and Bob James’ ‘Celebrate Me Home’. She performed this song on last year’s Country Christmas. It’s a song that has been around since the late seventies and although LeAnn Rimes covered it on a holiday album she released last year, it hasn’t had an extensive audience. Jennifer Nettles has recorded a version that surely won’t be bettered. It’s a great song and she entirely nails it.

Dolly’s ‘Circle Of Love’ is another song that isn’t usually included in a traditional Christmas collection but its spiritual message works a treat here. This is the part of the abiding appeal of this album. None of the ten tracks are new songs but some have not had much exposure. ‘Merry Christmas With Love’ is an undiscovered gem. It was written by Greg Wayne Davis and Billy Smiley in the early 80s, but apart from a Clay Aiken version in 2004 it’s a song that has been gathering dust. There is a huge tendency for radio stations to regurgitate old standards in the month before Christmas; If this song was played to that audience it would become a new standard. It really is that good.

There are many options this year for your Christmas music but this is an album that will be a huge part of our festive 2016 playlists. Jennifer has had seven years of hosting a networked country music show entirely featuring Christmas songs. She admits that she has ample opportunity to audition her favourites and she has chosen very wisely. This is an album that exudes holiday spirit and would be a fine addition to anyone’s collection.