Note: You may not have realized this, but I'm doing this little jaunt through my Christmas music collection chronologically. I promised one more college-era post last time, but I can't exactly find the cd in question at the moment. So enjoy this out-of-order post.
I was raised on country music (and Elvis and Lionel Richie and Journey but mostly country music), and though I'm not all that into current country music (or any current music, if I'm being truthful), I still honor and embrace my rural roots. So there's a fairly strong representation of country artists in my Christmas collection. Jess and I were coming home from a family grocery store run the other day, and she, who is far from a country music fan, concluded after discovering that what we were listening to Vince Gill, "I guess I like country Christmas music." I don't blame her. In my experience, country artists tend to take fewer liberties with Christmas music. That's not written in stone, but the familiar songs and carols on my country Christmas albums are much more reliably traditional. And I'm a traditional sort of girl.
Here's what else I will tell you about this particular cd: I sometimes consider Martina McBride to be country music's answer to the diva, not so much in dramatic lifestyle choices, but when it comes to a powerful voice and a tendency to show off an impressive vocal range, she's all diva. On country night on American Idol, some powerhouse of a girl (or Scott) always sings Martina McBride. And while I always admire her talent and range and all, I sometimes think she's too much. So this whole Christmas cd experiment could have been just as traumatic a mess as Mariah Carey over-singing "O Holy Night," and I know none of us are likely to forget that fiasco for a while. But praise the Lord, country music artists just have more sense than that. Martina McBride does have a strong, amazing voice, but I think the songs here are powerful yet simple. So this little gem of a Christmas cd is a triumph, one that crosses musical taste boundaries and brings people together in the spirit of Christmas and piracy--I know this because Jess took it hostage last Christmas and may or may not have illegally made herself a copy.
So here's what I love about it:
1. "Do You Hear What I Hear?" I haven't always loved this song. I do now, and I have to give at least a measure of the thanks for that to this version. It's definitely the reason I know all the words in the right order. And though I'm no Martina McBride, this song is easy to sing along with. (I just ended that sentence with a preposition. I'll miss you when you cannot in good conscience continue to visit this blog.)
2. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" This song seems to be cropping up on lots of my cds, but careful readers will recall that it's a personal favorite. This is a great version. Not the best ever by anyone, but definitely enough to fill my heart. Thank you, Martina McBride. (I don't feel Martina McBride and I are close enough to be on a first name basis, but typing out her full name is tedious. Just sayin'.)
3. "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow" Martina McBride is not my voice twin (pop quiz: who is my voice twin?), but when I listen to this cd, I almost believe she could be. I love singing along with it, and it doesn't hurt that I really love almost all the songs on it.
4. "O Come All Ye Faithful" When I was kid, I had no idea that Christmas songs had verses. I knew lots of Christmas songs back then, but I had no idea that some of them were so long. Later in life, when I would go to a church that sings Jesus-y Christmas songs in season, I would discover them in the back section of the song book with all sorts of verses that I'd never known. I really love that. And since the birth of my Christmas-music obsession which begat my collecting Christmas cds, I have discovered that some artists, like Martina McBride for instance, actually sing those verses. So the point I'm trying to make is that she sings verses to this song (but no Latin), and it's good.
5. "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)" I'm starting to feel like all my song comments in this post have are repetitive. I've talked about most of these songs at least once before, I like them all. Martina McBride does really solid, traditional performances of them all. She has that powerful voice but resists the over-singing temptation. I feel like I'm not being enthusiastic enough about the cd because it really is one of my favorites. But when you love ever song (or at least, every song so far), it's hard to keep the hype alive. Please infer the hype.
6. "O Holy Night" Bless Martina McBride's beautiful voice, I love this song. Singing this song, or at least singing it well, is not for the faint of heart. It's serious, but when it's done well . . . I could weep. Are you feeling the hype now? Because seriously, this song. I die.
7. "Silver Bells" Don't quote me on this, but this may be the only version of this song that I own. And this song is one that I forget about until I hear it again and remember how much I love it. Love.
8. "Away in a Manger" Did you know this song has verses? It does. Did you know Martina McBride can take even the most mediocre, played-out Christmas carol and make it beautiful and meaningful? What--you didn't? Have you not been reading? Why do I bother?
9. "White Christmas" This song has been on every cd I've reviewed so far. Maybe it just occurred to me that at the end, I should go through and rank in order the different versions that appear on multiple cds. That's obsessive. And I haven't wrapped any presents yet.
10. "What Child Is This?" Seriously, Martina McBride hit all the big ones for me. If only she'd done "O Come, O Come Emmanuel," though at the time that I got this cd, I didn't realize that I loved that song as more than a friend. I did know that I loved this one times a million. And it's beautiful.
11. "I'll Be Home for Christmas" Martina McBride, you are killing me. That is all I can say.
12. "Silent Night" Well, we all make mistakes, right? And it's very difficult to hold this one less-than-perfect song choice against my friend Martina and this delightful cd. See that? We're on a first-name basis now, just to show you that I'm not mad at her for the whole "Silent Night" thing.
If you didn't stop reading this blog midway to cut over to amazon and order this cd, what are you waiting for?
P.S. Can you end questions with a preposition? I sure hope so.