My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘White Christmas Blue’

loretta-lynn-white-christmas-blue-1476726333The crop of Christmas albums has been hit or miss this year with big band affairs aptly showcasing Chris Young and Brett Eldridge’s vocal prowess and Kacey Musgraves’ continued decent into her own quirkiness. Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood had the most disappointing record, a haphazard affair unbecoming from an artist (Yearwood) with impeccable song sense who knows better.

Loretta Lynn has released the years most intriguing holiday record, White Christmas Blue, which comes a full fifty years since her Owen Bradley produced Country Christmas. The album is a full-on traditional affair and a delight at every turn.

I usually find fiddle and steel out of place on a Christmas album, but White Christmas Blue is changing that perception for me. The album is mostly comprised of holiday standards, with jovial renditions of “Frosty The Snowman” and “Jingle Bells” sitting comfortably along side “To Heck With Ole Santa Claus,” one of the album’s strongest cuts and a personal favorite of mine. “Blue Christmas,” a full-on honky-tonker in Lynn’s hands, is also excellent.

The ballads don’t hit as hard. It may be the starkness she brings to “Away In A Manger,” “Silent Night” and “Oh, Come All Ye Faithful” that didn’t do it for me or the fact I’ve heard them so often, in so may different versions, their simple beauty has begun to wear thin. “’Twas The Night Before Christmas” was a complete surprise, a perfect way to end the album.

White Christmas Blue also boasts two original numbers. “Country Christmas” is a rerecording of the title track from the last album and Lynn hasn’t lost any of the spunk she brought to the original. The other, the title track, is a rather somber affair, which finds Lynn with everything she wants – except her honey:

It’s Christmas Eve and I’m still all alone

It’ll be Christmas day when you come home

Icicles hanging from the eves, snow is glistenin’ from the trees

My Christmas time with you is over due

 

You turn into my white Christmas blue

You turn into my white Christmas blue

I should be saying ho ho ho instead of bu bu bu

Oh Santa Claus would no want you to break my heart in two

You turn into my white Christmas blue

I cannot recommend this album enough.

Grade: A-

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8 responses to “Album Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘White Christmas Blue’

  1. Razor X December 23, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    It’s a good album but I wish there wasn’t so much overlap with her other Christmas album, as far as the song selection.

  2. Ken December 24, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    Always nice to hear Loretta in good voice and being true to her core sound. I do wish that she would not have remade any of the songs from her 1966 Christmas album and searched out different material. We’ve already heard her do those songs so why not plow some new ground? There are certainly hundreds of other holiday songs to choose from so why devote 50% of a brand new album to songs she previously recorded?

    Just an observation – the fact that you can say “I usually find fiddle and steel out of place on a Christmas album, but White Christmas Blue is changing that perception for me” is just another indication of how far country music has gone off of the rails. Used to be that whenever country stars recorded holiday songs they would perform them in their own distinctive style usually backed by their own band. Just because it was a Christmas song they would not switch to Bing Crosby or Nat King Cole musical arrangements. An Ernest Tubb or Buck Owens or Loretta Lynn Christmas song mirrored the style of their other recordings from that period. Granted some country acts such as Eddy Arnold or Ray Price regularly used orchestral arrangements but they did not do so just because they felt it was a requirement for a Christmas recording. Merle Haggard struck a nice balance for his 1973 Christmas album with one side of that LP featuring new original Christmas songs backed by his Strangers band and the other side spotlighted mainstream holiday standards with then-current “Nashville Sound” orchestrated arrangements by the Bill Walker orchestra. One of the most disappointing holiday albums from more recent times was by Lee Ann Womack. Her voice would have been perfect for a traditional country styled Christmas collection but instead she morphed into a jazz/big band singer. It was well done musically but an opportunity missed in my book. Compare that to Patty Loveless who struck the perfect sound for her holiday offering with a solid country/bluegrass collection. If I was a country performer looking to please my fans I would do a Christmas album that mirrors the style of music that I regularly perform. Why try to sound like someone that you are not?

  3. Luckyoldsun December 25, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    Tennessee Ernie Ford’s gospel recordings did not sound much like “Hicktown” or “Shotgun Boogie.”

    • Paul W Dennis December 26, 2016 at 8:16 am

      Yes, but Ford had already abandoned the boogies by the time “16 Tons” hit in 1956. While he didn’t entirely abandon secular music, his secular music had already made a turn toward pop by the time he recorded his albums of hymns. From 1953 forward, much of his secular music featured the orchestra of Jack Fascinato.

      I wouldn’t put the heavily orchestrated “Hicktown” in the same category as “Shotgun Boogie”
      Besides, hymn do not lend themselves to fiddle & steel guitar. Even in very rural churches they are played on piano or organ

      • Ken December 26, 2016 at 11:30 am

        I’ve never considered Tennessee Ernie to be a purely “country act” rather an artist that used country music as a springboard. Though he began his career as a country singer in the late 1940’s by the mid-1950’s he had morphed into a mainstream act. He used his “Ol’ Pea Pickin’ Ern ” country persona as a gimmick similar to what Jimmy Dean did a decade later. Ford’s NBC-TV show generally showed very little true country music influence and most of his recordings from that period eventually did likewise. Unlike Eddy Arnold who was able to straddle the gap between pop and country music to great success Tennessee Ernie became lost in a musical no-man’s land where only his gospel recordings saw any significant success mostly due to performances of them on his TV show. However his earliest Christmas recordings were done during his “country” period and they are quite different from his later fully orchestrated albums. Here’s both sides of a 1951 Capitol Christmas single that are truly country and are quite good.

        • Paul W Dennis December 27, 2016 at 9:17 am

          Nice audio posts

          Ford did a really fine job with his hymns. I had a room mate in college who was an atheist but he had two of Ford’s religious albums because he liked Ford’s performances of them. They were exquisite

  4. Luckyoldsun December 27, 2016 at 11:14 am

    I like Ford’s earlier country boogie and folk material–which I got on his “Capitol Collectors’ Series” CD compilation–when CD’s were pretty new. I’m not a fan of his hymns, but I never really delved into that. As a non-believer, the country artist who blew me away with his hymns–at least a couple that I came across on youtube–is Jimmy Fortune. (I wasn’t even familiar with his name, but he’s the guy who–unexpectedly–revived the Statler Brothers in the 1980s.)

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