There are Christmas songs… and then there are the best Christmas country songs. A festive song or album is almost obligatory for a Nashville star, and these seasonal outings have become as reliable as the music of the Grand Ole Opry.
Listen to the Christmas Country playlist right now, and scroll down to read out Top 10 best Christmas country songs.
Alan Jackson: ‘Let It Be Christmas’
Alan Jackson composed the heart-warming title song for his 11th studio album, Let It Be Christmas, in 2002 and was rewarded with a Top 40 hit on Billboard’s country charts. Tony Award-winning conductor Bill Elliott was responsible for the rousing horn and string arrangements on this country Christmas treat.
Lady Antebellum: ‘A Holly Jolly Christmas’
Nearly 50 years after Burl Ives first warbled Johnny Marks’ ‘A Holly Jolly Christmas’ into the charts, it was taken back there in 2012 by Lady Antebellum. The trio – guitarist Dave Haywood, and singers Charles Kelly and Hillary Scott – delivered a rousing version for their festive album, On This Winter’s Night.
Luke Bryan: ‘O Holy Night’
‘O Holy Night’ has its origins in a French poem by a 19th-century wine merchant. Following in the footsteps of Mahalia Jackson and recording such a famous traditional song wasn’t easy, but Luke Bryan delivered a delicious version in 2017. “I couldn’t be prouder of a piece of work,” Bryan said. “It is probably one of my most proud recording moments.”
George Strait: ‘Christmas Cookies’
‘Christmas Cookies’ peaked at No.33 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1999, and country-music fans seemed to relish the innocence and simplicity of the Christmas food song written by the bestselling singer George Strait – a man responsible for many of the best Christmas country songs. “Christmas cookies sounded fun and it fits me, besides, I really like the song,” said Strait.
Reba McEntire: ‘The Christmas Song’
Reba McEntire is one of country music’s Christmas stars and has regularly hosted the annual CMA Country Christmas show. Her 2017 festival album contained a sweet version of Mel Tormé’s ‘The Christmas Song’ (subtitled ‘Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire’). Tormé said the song was written “to stay cool by thinking cool”. McEntire was tackling a song made famous by Nat “King” Cole, who had a hit with it in the 50s.
Kacey Musgraves: ‘Present Without A Bow’
Kacey Musgraves’ 2016 album, A Very Kacey Christmas, was full of fine guest stars (Willie Nelson sang and played drum triggers on one track), and the excellent single ‘Present Without A Bow’ features soul and R&B singer Leon Bridges. Musgraves co-wrote the track with Bridges, Austin Jenkins and Luke Laird. “The album has a child-like fun,” said Musgraves, who was 28 when she recorded it.
Darius Rucker: ‘You’re A Mean One, Mr Grinch’
Any song written by the great children’s writer and illustrator Dr Seuss is going to be fun, and Darius Rucker does a fine job on ‘You’re A Mean One, Mr Grinch’, which was originally composed for the 1966 cartoon special How The Grinch Stole Christmas! Rucker recorded a lively version for his 2014 album, Home For The Holidays. When it comes to frosty lyrics, it’s tough to beat “Your brain is full of spiders, you have garlic in your soul, Mr. Grinch/I wouldn’t touch you with a thirty-nine-and-a-half-foot pole!”
Scott McCreery: ‘Christmas In Heaven’
The American Idol winner had a smash hit with his album Christmas With Scott McCreery, which contained cover versions of classics such as ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘The First Noel’. McCreery also decided to record the song ‘Christmas In Heaven’ (written by Paul Marino and Jeremy Johnson) after hearing just one verse of the demo. “I just wanted it to be holly and jolly and really lift people’s spirits in the Christmas season, because it’s supposed to be a really happy time,” he said. “But I also wanted to get across the real reason for the season. ‘Christmas In Heaven’ is my favourite song on the album and it really speaks to that.”
Toby Keith: ‘Frosty The Snowman’
Not only one of the best Christmas country songs, but one of the best Christmas songs of any genre, the song about a snowman called Frosty, who is brought to life by children, has been enchanting listeners since a version of Jack Rollins and Steve Nelson’s song was first recorded by Gene Autry in 1950. Toby Keith sings and plays acoustic guitar on his energetic version of a song he recorded in 2007 for his album A Classic Christmas.
Amy Grant: ‘A Tennessee Christmas’
Amy Grant was only six when her family settled in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1967. On her 1983 release, A Christmas Album, Grant paid tribute to her adopted state with a song co-written with Gary Chapman (who had also been born in another state but moved to Nashville). “Another tender Tennessee Christmas/The only Christmas for me,” Grant sings with affection.
Follow the Christmas playlist for the best Christmas songs of all time.