Best Country & Roots Holiday Releases of 2018
Usually Christmas music gets shoved to the back burner around these parts, but this year there is such a surprising amount of quality selections of Holiday music being released, it’s worth a dedicated roundup. So if Christmas music is your thing—especially with a country or roots kick—give a gander to what 2018’s got in store, and/or listen to the playlist below.
As far as individual Christmas songs go, Jerico Woods comes out of nowhere with “Let’s Dance Around The Christmas Tree,” which feels like a country music Christmas hit in the making. Songwriter Grant Maloy Smith teamed up with wunderkind Emi Sunshine on “Fly Possum Fly,” which they’ve released in both bluegrass and country versions. World champion rodeo rider and traditional country artist Paul Bogart also has a great new Christmas song called “Thank God Things Never Change.”
The amount of Christmas albums from cool country and Americana names in 2018 is downright daunting. Let’s start with Aaron Watson, who has promised a family Christmas album for a while, and we get one this year. It’s not just family in name. Aaron’s wife Kim Watson, along with children Jake, Jack, and Jolee Kate all participate in the project, and though it includes mostly Christmas standards, it starts off with the well-written and fun “Lonely Lonestar Christmas.”
JD McPherson is the King of throwback roots rock, and now he can add a Christmas record to his resume. Socks is a cool musical stocking stuffer, and finds JD doing what he does best, which is reminding you of the golden era of music when pop was so much more palpable than it is today, and launched an entire legion of Christmas standards. This isn’t just one of those Christmas records that rolls through the old carols, it tries to make some Christmas traditions of its own.
If you want to talk about the perfect roots artist for singing Christmas tunes, there’s possibly nobody better than Raul Malo and The Mavericks. There’s a reason Malo is regarded as one of the greatest singers of our generation, and folks who’ve seen The Mavericks perform live near the holidays know that Malo is a master of all the old Christmas favorites. But like JD McPherson, Raul and The Mavericks aren’t interested in just running through the same old standards, releasing 10 original songs in Hey! Merry Christmas!
If you want a more offbeat approach to Christmas music, 2018 has you covered there too, and in a couple of different ways. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, Rodney Crowell now has a Christmas record, and it’s called Christmas Everywhere. It’s has a bit of the bah humbug spirit mixed in with some ultra-saccharine Christmas tunes almost to be funny. It also includes appearances by Brennen Leigh, Lera Lynn, and Mary Karr.
Otis Gibbs says he grew up so poor, they didn’t even celebrate Christmas in his household, and he never received presents. That’s probably the best way to set the table for his Christmas record called Once I Dreamed of Christmas. With songs like “Crap For Christmas,” and “Lloyd the Reindeer” about a dropout sleigh puller who gets in a skirmish with Santa, it may not set the yuletide gay, but it will put you in stitches.
You may expect to get a bluegrass-style Christmas record when you see the world-class duo Dailey & Vincent on the cover, but their album The Sounds of Christmas is a pretty straightforward and electric collection of Christmas tunes. If you want something a little bit more rootsy, original, and interesting, try the Marshmallow World EP from Kentucky up-and-comer Rhyan Sinclair. The 17-year-old’s original song “Let The Light In (In The Name of Christmas)” might be the best new Christmas song of the season.
Some other 2018 Christmas Releases Relevant to the Roots World:
- Ana Cristina Cash – My Christmas Collection
- The McCrary Sisters – “Go Tell It On The Mountain” and “No Room at the Inn”
- Phil Vasser & Lonestar – “Not So Silent Night”
- Chris Janson – “It Is Christmas”
- Jeff Clayborn – “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “The Christmas Song”
- Country Family Reunion Presents: Home For Christmas, featuring Joey + Rory, Bill Anderson, Rhonda Vincent, The Isaacs, members of the Scott Family, Ricky Skaggs with Sharon & Cheryl White, T. Graham Brown, Mandy Barnett, Jimmy Fortune, and more.
- Musicians Corner Holiday Compilation Album (Out November 30th), featuring Lera Lynn, Sun Seeker, The Sweetheart Deal (Paul McDonald & Emily Kinney), Tristen, Kyshona, Molly Parden, Becca Mancari, Amber Rubarth, The Daybreaks, Matthew Perryman Jones, and Angel Snow.
And if you’re looking for some more newer releases to round out your Christmas listening, check out An Americana Christmas featuring various artists such as Emmylou Harris and Corb Lund released by New West Records in 2014, Bloodshot Records’ 13 Days of Xmas from 2017, Kacey Musgraves’ A Very Kacey Christmas from 2016 is never a bad selection, and if you’re looking for something instrumental in nature, check out Joel Patterson’s Hi-Fi Christmas Guitar from 2017.
A selection of some of the best new Holiday songs for 2018 (and “Christmas in Dixie” by Shane Owens from 2017) can be streamed on Spotify or on Google Music, or can be found in the playlist below.
November 25, 2018 @ 11:23 am
Nice! I always love some new Country Christmas tunes. Thanks Trig!
Sir Adam the Great
November 25, 2018 @ 1:11 pm
Yeah JD McPherson’s has been on a near constant rotation for me. I usually get at least one new Christmas album a year, but now I’m up to five! This has been a really good year.
November 25, 2018 @ 1:15 pm
I feel like Chris Janson getting a mention, but nothing of the Old 97’s “love the holidays” is a bit weird. I get they’re not really country or rootsy, but then again…Chris Janson’s objectively shit regardless of genre.
November 25, 2018 @ 1:38 pm
Very unusual amount of quality Christmas tuneage! I picked up Alan Jacksons Honky Tonk Christmas in the $5 bin the other day. I truly forgot how well rounded that record was. Best all time though, has to be Merle Haggards Christmas Present. If We Make It Through December is the greatest of all time.
November 25, 2018 @ 4:31 pm
Picked up Merle’s Christmas lp at a thrift store for a buck. Why would anyone give this away?
Merry Christmas all!
November 25, 2018 @ 1:55 pm
Old 97’s Love the Holidays! So good I’ve got a copy and I’m Jewish!
November 25, 2018 @ 3:17 pm
I’ve gotta pick up that Mavericks album. Need to give the Rodney Crowell one a listen on Spotify as well, see if I wanna pick that one up.
Some other favorites this time of year (at least with my family):
“Old Time Christmas” – Randy Travis
“Honky Tonk Christmas” – Alan Jackson
“Light of the Stable” – Emmylou Harris
“Merry Christmas Strait To You” – King George
“Merry Texas Christmas, You All” – Ernest Tubb
November 25, 2018 @ 3:55 pm
Not a big fan of Christmas music, but love JD McPhersons new album and just ordered it on vinyl, along with Reverend Horton Heat’s classic “We Three Kings”.
November 25, 2018 @ 4:55 pm
Casper McWade released a new album “Hello Lonesome” on Thanksgiving. It’s not holiday oriented, but it is a new release worth a listen.
November 25, 2018 @ 6:21 pm
Can’t believe I am saying this but the Mavericks have gotten boring the last couple of albums. Maybe it’s just all the horns and accordion which I initially loved but I think it’s taken away from Raul’s voice.
November 25, 2018 @ 7:15 pm
Martina McBride also put out a new album of Christmas standards this year.
November 25, 2018 @ 9:34 pm
Randall King has got a cover of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” out.
November 26, 2018 @ 5:24 am
A very Kacey Christmas on repeat along with beach boys, Charlie Brown and Mariah Carey.
November 26, 2018 @ 5:26 am
Love it for the Holiday’s.
November 26, 2018 @ 8:08 am
I’m mad that Phil Vasser decided lonestar was a collaboration worth his time. He’s great but Lonestar hasn’t been anything since the new singier took over they suck.
November 26, 2018 @ 8:48 am
Richie is back with Lonestar as the lead singer for their latest tour dates and for this collaboration with Phil Vassar. He also does some solo dates with Tim Rushlow (Little Texas) and Larry Stewart (Restless Heart).
November 26, 2018 @ 6:51 pm
Shinyribs Christmas album coming Friday!
November 27, 2018 @ 12:02 pm
Joel Paterson has a stellar guitar Christmas record out on Bloodshot.
November 27, 2018 @ 6:26 pm
Let the Light In (In the Name of Christmas) is superb. The message is spot on and that voice! Brothers and sisters this is the real deal.
December 1, 2018 @ 5:47 pm
Dammit guys, That Phil Bogart tune caught me off guard if you know what I mean.