REVIEW: Garth Brooks & Trisha Yearwood – ‘Christmas Together’

LifeInASong_UK

15109358_10154807866515972_2387079722040643252_nThe US public have already decided their favourite Christmas Country album. Garth and Trisha will win the popular vote. As of 29th December this album had sold 60,000 copies. Bearing in mind the population of the USA now exceeds 200 million, this probably doesn’t sound like a lot of business but when you stack this against the opposition, it’s not too bad. Brett Eldredge has shipped 35,000, Rascal Flatts 22,000, Kacey Musgraves 16,000 and Jennifer Nettles 17,000. The Christmas collection from Chris Young was released months ago and has just exceeded 31,000.

Garth rules the roost when it comes to selling albums and concert tickets. His latest studio album ‘Gunslinger’ will be pushing Miranda for the top spot next week. ‘Christmas Together’ is billed as a holiday duets album but, although they do occasionally sing together, the majority is essentially Garth or Trisha singing solo. The first impression is that this is an album that is timeless. By timeless we mean that it’s an album that sounds like it could have been recorded anytime in the last 30 years.

It’s pretty cool to be retro. There is a purpose in harking back to Christmases of old, maybe because they actually were better. It’s not unique to country music. ‘Holidays are coming’ has become a Christmas catch phrase due to the popularity of the Coca Cola adverts that actually began as recently as 1995. However the nostalgia is based upon the earlier portrayal of Santa Clause that dates back to the 30’s. Our accepted version of Santa is largely as a result of Haddon Sundblom’s advertising campaign for the Coca Cola company.

‘Nostalgia’ is the operative word. Garth and Trisha have made a Christmas album that reminds everyone of the Christmas music that they have been raised on. It works and works perfectly. They know that there is a place for innovation and originality but their festive album isn’t that place. They have chosen to stick with the production values that served their peers well in the past, and the album is better for it.

‘I’m Beginning To See The Light’ opens the album and is one of the rare duets. It’s actually a slightly odd choice to open a holiday album. A jazz standard written by Duke Ellington, Don George, Johnny Hodges and Harry James that has no overtly obvious Christmas connections. They have substituted the brass for guitar, speeded up the pace and have given the song a lighter feel. It’s an interesting version of an old standard.

Garth Brooks is no stranger to Christmas albums. ‘Beyond The Season’ and ‘The Magic Of Christmas’ are part of his back catalogue. Those albums almost exclusively covered standards and did not push the boundary too far. However, for this new album, Garth has also contributed a couple of new songs. ‘Ugly Christmas Sweater’ is a light hearted take on the joys of the pretty girl in the ugly Christmas sweater at the office party. It has a vibe that is reminiscent of Johnny Marks ‘Rockin Around The Christmas Tree’.

Trisha shows us her sultry, sassy side on her version of ‘Santa Baby’ with its jazzy, southern feel. Garth sat this one out.

‘Feliz Navidad’ also appears on Kacey’s Christmas album. It’s a tough ask to equal or better the Jose’ Feliciano classic version but Garth brings out the horns and gives it the full ‘Tijuana’ effect.

Trisha’s version of ‘What Are You Doing New Years Eve’ is faithful to Ella Fitzgerald’s version that came out in 1960 and serves as a perfect reminder just how good Trisha’s vocals really are. This is a song that was written in the 40s and the song selection from that era continues with ‘Marshmallow World’, another of the rather rare duets on this album. Mr Christmas himself Bing Crosby first had a hit with this song but it’s given new life by Garth and Trisha. In fact, the chemistry is so strong between them that one wonders why the collaborations aren’t more frequent on this album.

Another of Garth’s contributions ‘Merry Christmas Means I Love You’ has a festive message that Garth performs in an upbeat, joyful style, although the song tends to pale against some of the timeless classics that they have covered here.

You might recall ‘Hard Candy Christmas’. It was originally composed by Carol Hall for Dolly’s ‘The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas’. Trisha Yearwood’s cover is faultless and vocally perfect, but we all know Dolly is a hard act to emulate.

There is no better ‘call and respond’ duet than ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’. Another dip back to the 1940s (there really was some great music written in those days) and a song that has also featured on Brett Eldredge’s Christmas album. His duet with Meghan Trainor is also a highlight but we also recommend Darius Rucker’s version with Sheryl Crow. The song is a timeless standard and everyone will have their favourite version.

Guess when ‘The Man With The Bag’ was written…. Close, it was 1950. The man with the bag is of course Santa. Garth again sits this one out leaving the stage to Trisha to deliver a version that ooze’s classic instrumentation and, that word again, nostalgia.

The final offering is ‘What I’m Thankful For (The Thanksgiving Song)’ which heavily features the familiar vocals of James Taylor. Garth and Trisha co-wrote the song and the sentiments are perfect for the Christmas setting. The album checks out at just over 30 minutes. It won’t even fully occupy your festive meal but there is a repeat option and plenty of other Christmas releases to check out!

It’s a shame that there aren’t more actual duets but that’s being a bit picky. It’s going to be the top seller and won’t disappoint.

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