photo: Los Angeles Times
By Jeff Uveino
Each genre of music has its own take on holiday music.
While country artists have covered plenty of holiday classics, this genre has produced its own fair share of seasonal music, as well. Here are the five best holiday-themed country songs, ranked.
5. “Christmas Cookies,” George Strait (2000)
This upbeat score by the “king of country music” sounds exactly like the title would suggest. Strait repeatedly says, “I sure do love those Christmas cookies,” and for a variety of reasons. The best part of baking cookies, according to Strait?
“Every time she sticks another batch in the oven, there’s 15 minutes for some kissin’ and huggin’.”
4. “Merry Christmas From the Family,” Robert Earl Keen (1994)
Later covered by Montgomery Gentry, this holiday epic from Texas-based indie artist Robert Earl Keen tells the story of a stereotypical poor, redneck family getting together to celebrate Christmas.
The song’s lyrics have an abundance of twists and turns, including chain smoking while listening to Christmas carols, a quest for extension cords and a motor home blowing the host family’s Christmas lights.
3. “Honky Tonk Christmas,” Alan Jackson (1993)
If you’re a fan of Alan Jackson’s fiddle-filled tunes from the 90s, this song is for you. Jackson’s 1993 holiday album, of which this song is the title track, is filled with the same steel guitar and other traditional country sounds that made him famous.
On this record, however, his songs of hard work and heartbreak are focused on Christmas. “I Only Want You for Christmas” is another highlight of the album.
2. “Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy,” Buck Owens (1965)
Owens is most well-known for bringing the “Bakersfield sound,” a west-coast style of country music that featured twangy strings and limited bass, to the mainstream. On this track, he carefully weaves a Christmas tale from the perspective of a child that snuck out of their bed late on Christmas Eve.
“It’s not the way I had him pictured,” Owens screeches in his unmistakable baritone. “Santa was much too thin.”
- “If We Make It Through December,” Merle Haggard (1973)
Haggard has a hit song for everything; Christmas included.
The title track of Haggard’s 1974 album with his band “The Strangers,” this song has been covered by many artists in its 47 years of existence. Unlike many country songs that are Christmas-themed, this one doesn’t have a positive undertone.
Haggard tells the story of a factory worker who isn’t particularly fond of the winter time. To make things worse, this year, the song’s narrator has been laid off from his factory job, leaving him wondering how he is going to be able to afford Christmas presents for his daughter.
For many, December is meant to be the “happy time of year,” as Haggard sings. However, that isn’t the reality of the holiday season for many people. As he did for so many years and on so many hit songs, Haggard illustrates the reality of Christmas from the working man’s perspective.
“If we make it through December,” he says, “we’ll be fine.”