Let me get this out of the way right off the bat: I've owned this cd for eight years, and I had never noticed until I was finding the cover art for this blog entry that Vince Gill is sporting a mullet in this photo. I was completely full of mocking about this, but then I did some reading to discover that the cd was originally released in 1993, fully eight years before I owned it, and much closer to the peak of the mullet heyday, if such a thing existed. But I'm not going to let that poor hair choice dampen my enthusiasm for this album. I received this cd as a gift from my Secret Santa person the first year that I taught school. I also got another Christmas cd (that will be the subject of my next post) and a monkey figurine thing that had three monkeys sitting one on top of the other doing the hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil thing. As odd as that sounds, I think it's kinda cute, and it's usually displayed somewhere in my home, but I think it is in that box of house junk that never got emptied after the last move. But we were talking about Vince Gill or Christmas music or mullets or something, so let's just try to stay on topic from here on out, shall we?
The other day when I was reviewing Amy Grant's version of "I'll be Home for Christmas," I made some comment about her leaving her husband for Vince Gill tainting the song for me. I never meant to imply that I cared one bit about who she was married to and not married to anymore. I don't know her life. I like that song; I don't have a problem with Amy Grant, and I love Vince Gill. None of that has anything to do with their music or my enjoyment thereof. My comment was more about how when I hear that song, I'm reminded of that brouhaha because that was going on or at least still fresh in people's minds when I first got that cd. So it became one of those memory-associated songs for me. It's kinda like when I hear the Dixie Chicks song "Travelin' Soldier," and I am reminded of the whole Bush feud and the radio boycott. I love Dixie Chicks music and that song especially no matter who said what about whom, but when I hear that song, it makes me think of that other thing. That's all I'm saying.
So can we talk about Vince Gill now, please? Thank you. I love Vince Gill. And this cd is interesting. Wanna know why?
1. "Do You Hear What I Hear" It strikes me as odd that this song is the first track on this cd and on the Martina McBride cd from the other day. This song was so far off my radar until I got these cds (which happened to be in the same year), and suddenly it was front and center, squared. And I love it. And I love Vince Gill's voice, which was specially made to sing slow, meaningful Christmas songs.
2. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" I've written about this song bunches of times so far, and I'll be writing about it at least one other time. We already know that it's important to get this one right. I'm happy to report that Vince Gill does not disappoint. It's not the ultimate version (I'll get to that next time, I think), but it's lovely, and it's a song I never tire of hearing. Good show.
3. "One Bright Star" This was a new song to me when I got this album. Clearly it's about baby Jesus, and it sounds like a Vince Gill song--funny how that works out. It's pretty and has nice words and stuff. I recommend it.
4. "What Child Is This?" Oh, this song is beautiful. Only four songs in and we've already hit two of my all-time favorites. One of the things I love about this song is the language of the lyrics. So many fun words that don't occur in modern language. Don't you love the word "laud"? How could you not?
5. "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" There's a thing that sometimes happens on albums, that I've particularly noticed during this Christmas music journey. It's the juxtaposition of slow, mellow ballads played back-to-back with upbeat, boisterous songs. On a Christmas albums this also usually means mixing up Baby Jesus and Santa, which almost always bothers me. (Speaking of mixing the infant Christ with Jolly Ol', have you seen those yard decorations where Santa is kneeling at the manger? I think they're creepy.) This particular Santa song is a purely instrumental version, and it's as upbeat and boisterous and country as can be. It makes me think of Chet Atkins, so I love the song, but it just sounds kinda funny coming right on the heels of that stately Baby Jesus song on track 4.
6. "I'll Be Home for Christmas" When I set out on this Christmas soundtrack sharing adventure, I didn't stop to think about how many songs would be repeated on multiple albums, and how many times I'd have to talk about them, if they did. So I love this song. It's well-documented by this point. And I love Vince Gill, which has been well-documented so far in this post. So I feel completely boring and repetitive. But it's just charming and full of longing for home, and that speaks to me.
7. "Let There Be Peace on Earth" This song is a giant gamble for me. It's a duet with his daughter Jenny, and I think children singing on professionally recorded albums is dicey. Yeah, it's sometimes cute and often sweet, but it's a little too sweet for me, usually. I have no idea how old Jenny Gill was when they recorded this, and I'm okay with letting you down by not finding out right now. She's not a tiny kid, by the sound of her voice, and ultimately, she does a fine job on it. But it's a gamble. The words of this song are beautiful, and not necessarily just a Christmas message.
8. "White Christmas" Though he eventually does sing this song, it's instrumental only the first time through. Unlike the instrumental track 5, this one is slow and not terribly country, and still altogether pleasant. And then he sings, which I certainly don't mind either.
9. "Till the Season Comes Around Again" This song was unknown to me prior to this cd also. It's a family and love and being together kind of Christmas song, which is probably my favorite niche of Christmas music, because that's the best thing about Christmas for me.
10. "It Won't Be the Same This Year" If you know much about Vince Gill, you may recall a song called "Go Rest High," which is about Keith Whitley but also about VG's own dead brother. Apparently this cd came out fairly soon after his brother died, and this song is one that he wrote about the first Christmas without him. I could cry just from the backstory, so the song has the potential to turn me into a big ol' bawl-bag. I can typically resist the urge to weep, but it's an emotional song. That's all I'm saying.
This is by far the most slow and contemplative cd I've covered so far, and honestly I'd never even noticed that until I started going through the songs one by one. So I guess it's a good thing that they threw in that lively "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" before things got to depressing or people were lulled to sleep by Vince Gill's sweet voice.