With the influx of Christmas albums coming our way this year, it needed somebody to stand out from the pack by attempting a few originals, rather than doing the classics that so many have done before. Kacey Musgraves has done exactly that with her ‘A Very Kacey Christmas’ album in her own clever, quirky style that sets this album apart from the rest. When Kacey hit the studio to record a Christmas album, you knew exactly what was on the way. Plenty of traditional country instrumentation, gorgeous vocals and a distinctive style that only Kacey could pull off.
Let’s start with the four new tracks written by Kacey. It takes some guts to put out brand new Christmas material and veer away from the safe route, but she’s showing everyone how it’s done. The first new track is ‘A Willie Nice Christmas’, which sees her teaming up with lifelong hero Willie Nelson for another collaboration, and it’s quite possibly the catchiest Christmas song I’ve heard in years. There’s an islandic, Hawaiian feel about it and of course, the pedal steel puts the Kacey sprinkle on top. “May we all get higher than the angel at the top of the tree” – It sums up much of the album; care-free, fun and full of festive spirit.
By far the best track on offer is the simply beautiful ‘Christmas Makes Me Cry’, co-written with song writing power houses Shane McAnally and Brandy Clark. When these three get in a room together you’re always guaranteed magic. Very reminiscent of ‘Fine’ from Kacey’s ‘Pageant Material’ album, it requires nothing more than an acoustic guitar, bass and subtle input from the string section to produce one of those goose bump tracks that should become a Christmas standard. It really pulls on the heart strings with a story of someone approaching Christmas with a broken heart, which I’m sure will resonate with many. Certainly not one to cheer you up but everything about it oozes quality.
Kacey’s duet with Leon Bridges ‘Present Without A Bow’ maintains the high standards, experimenting with a warm, soulful melody that we wouldn’t usually associate with Kacey’s repertoire. But she passes the test with flying colours and it’s another one that you won’t be able to get out of your head. Leon Bridges’ voice adds a totally different dimension to the album and this collaboration fits like a glove. Another intricately crafted melody with sublime use of the string section once again to create an iconic Christmassy feel.
‘Ribbons and Bows’ was co-written with pop song writers Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter and is definitely the most commercially appealing track on offer. Julia and Justin have written tracks for the likes of Justin Bieber, Gwen Stefani, Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato, so it’s no surprise to see the ‘country’ aspect pushed aside for this one.
Other highlights on the album include the brilliant ‘I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas’, a cover of the hardly-known Gayla Peevy track (who was 10 when she originally recorded it), as well as ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ with the traditional country stamp all over it and ‘Feliz Navidad’ with its Latin influence. She takes us all around the world on this album!
If you’re going to do a Christmas album, this is exactly how you do it. Kacey doesn’t try to be anything she’s not; it’s a collection of songs drawing from her own musical influences, delivered in a quirky style that her fans have come to know and love. This one will be the soundtrack to the festive period for me, and it’ll take some beating.