The Christmas soundtrack in my head contains a heaping helping of Classic Country holiday songs. Some are happy, some are touching, all of them are guaranteed to get you singing along. Here are my top 10 favorites.
1. Christmas Time’s A’Coming by Bill Monroe: Your Christmas soundtrack might include harps, violins, cellos, and piano, but mine has a fiddle, a mandolin, a banjo, an upright bass, and a guitar. Plus, Bill Monroe is the Father of Bluegrass which is almost as cool as being Father Christmas. Skip over to 1:12 if you just want to hear the music and not all the talking.
2. Please Daddy Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas by John Denver: This song doesn’t have extensive lyrics, but I’ve made up a whole scenario in my mind about the life of this family. I can just picture that poor mama and the little boy. It’s also a reminder that not everyone’s life is as happy as yours, which is something we all need to keep in mind not just during the holidays, but every day.
3. Pretty Paper by Willie Nelson: Nobody sounds like Willie. Nobody. And nobody sings this song like he does.
4. If We Make It Through December by Merle Haggard: Country music is all about a good story, and this is a good story. Country music is also all about hard luck, and poor old Merle is so down on his luck in this song it’s not even funny. What he does have is hope, and that’s why I love this song. That, and it’s Merle Haggard for Pete’s sake. When you hear him say “we’ll be fine,” well … you just have to believe it’s true.
5. Christmas in Dixie by Alabama: These cousins from Fort Payne struck holiday gold with this 1982 song. I’m sure it has nothing to do with their soaring harmonies that always get me singing along just like I was a cousin too. They also get bonus points because they are from the motherland.
6. Hard Candy Christmas by Dolly Parton: While this song mentions Christmas, it’s not necessarily a Christmas song. But it’s sung by Dolly Parton, who aside from being one of the the queens of Country Music (sorry, not sorry, Kitty Wells), is one of the most generous and charitable people there is. She’s given away millions of books to children not only in her native Tennessee, but all over the United States, she gives away thousands of dollars in college scholarships each year, Dollywood has created jobs and revenue for Sevier County, Tenn., where she was born, and she helped out when fire displaced residents around Sevierville. And all these things are just a drop in Dolly’s charitable bucket, which is why she’s on my list. Christmas is the time to help out those less fortunate than yourself, a time to give more than you receive, and there’s no better example of that than Dolly Parton.
7. Children Go Where I Send Thee by Tennessee Ernie Ford: Ford’s bass-baritone voice sounds like velvet feels — rich, luscious, grand. It’s perfect for this beautiful song. But the reason I’ve included this here is not just because of the song. It’s because of the little boy sitting to the left of Ford in this video. I wish that all of us could muster this much joy and enthusiasm every day.
8. I Won’t Decorate Your Christmas Tree by Loretta Lynn: Nobody’s going to walk all over Loretta, not at Christmas, not no time.
9. Blue Christmas by Elvis Presley: I know this isn’t technically Country music, but Elvis is from Tupelo, so I’m giving it a pass.
10. Silent Night by Johnny Cash: Who better than Cash to sing this carol composed by Franz Gruber almost 200 years ago? His deep, resonant voice tells the story of the Savior’s birth so beautifully that you might just get a little misty.
And there is one more Christmas song that I can’t resist including in a list of my favorites. It has nothing to do with Country music or even Southerners, but the voices and the message are both too beautiful not to share.
11. The Little Drummer Boy (Peace on Earth) by Bing Crosby and David Bowie
What are your favorite classic Country Christmas songs?