There’s just something about Christmas music and country music that work so well together. The cozy feelings of home and hearth that are at the heart of both genres conjoin in harmony so well, and for some reason sleigh bells and steel guitar pair well together too. This is one of the reasons country artists have been stepping up to make Christmas music more and more over the years. To hear a playlist of the best country Christmas songs for 2023, as well as a run down of the new Christmas country and roots albums, CLICK HERE.
A good Christmas album usually checks a handful of important boxes. You want it to have at least a few new original songs, and a maybe a new take or two on some old ones. Don’t just run through the ol’ standards with dry interpretations like so many mailed-in Christmas records do. You need a dash of humor too, because otherwise it comes across as too schmaltzy. But it’s also good to have a touch of sentimentality at opportune times. You also want to include some well-recognized songs so everyone can enjoy it.
With Merry Christmas From Jon Pardi, it’s check, check, check, and check. He did the Christmas album right. And because it’s Jon Pardi, he also did the Christmas album country, though there’s also horns and other classic Christmas song elements to go along with the welcomed fiddle and steel guitar. Many of the songs also touch on country themes.
Jon Pardi gets you revved up and well-lubricated with a couple of new Christmas songs he hopes to make into classics with “Beer For Santa” and “400 Horsepower Sleigh” right off the bat. Sure, songs about beer and trucks don’t veer too far from the mainstream country script, but these songs are rendered with traditional country instrumentation and enough wit to make them enjoyable.
Horns really do play a large roll on this album, and when Pardi performed the album at The Beacon Theater in New York, the horn section was present as well. But when the first instrumental break comes along during “All I Want For Christmas Is You” and twin fiddles take it, you’re assured that Pardi and co-producers Bart Butler and Ryan Gore took the right approach to this country Christmas record.
A couple of the more unknown tracks on the album include “Merry Christmas for the Keys,” and the witty “Reindeer,” which also gives the album one of its more sentimental moments, even if the word association stretches it a bit at times. The alter ego of country songwriter Nicolette Hayford named “Pillbox Patti” continues to be a better concept than a performance. The breathy “I’ve Been Bad, Santa” makes for an easy skip.
And apparently “Long December” by Counting Crows now counts as a Christmas Carol, since Pardi and have a dozen others have recorded it as one over the last couple of years … and here we were still undecided if fellow Californian Merle Haggard’s “If We Make It To December” should be considered a holiday track.
But really the best of Merry Christmas from Jon Pardi is his country takes on classic Christmas tracks. The interplay of fiddle and steel guitar on “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow” and “Santa Looked A Lot Like Daddy” make for great renditions of these tunes. Another great and super country track is the Western swing-themed “Swing Down To Texas.”
Merry Christmas from Jon Pardi is always good, but never especially great, which is kind of what we’ve come to expect from Pardi. He’s definitely country, but doesn’t really have the kind of voice where he can take a standard Christmas track and do something incredible with it. But as one of mainstream country’s true traditionalists, he can do something really country with it, making this album a welcomed addition to any country household’s Holiday rotation.
1 1/2 Guns Up (7.7/10)
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