We all know that Christmas music is an integral part of the holiday season. That said, we’re tired of Mariah too (not really). So take the candy canes out of your eardrums and check out these 5 fantastic Christmas albums that are sure to position you properly during the most wonderful time of the year.
A Charlie Brown Christmas - Vince Guaraldi (1965; Fantasy)
Lights on the house. Ornaments on the tree. Charlie Brown on the turntable. This is our most cherished holiday record and for many of us our first introduction to jazz music. Vince Guaraldi’s west-coast Christmas arrangements are the perfect companion to Charles Schulz's timeless animation. The two come together and provide a never-ending stream of nostalgia. Readily available on vinyl, there is no better record to gift this holiday season.
An Austin Rhythm and Blues Christmas - Various Artists (1983; Austin Records)
This incredible collection of Christmas tunes was curated by the legendary Paul Ray and features some of the greatest musicians (The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Lou Ann Barton, Charlie Sexton) that have called Austin home. Each soulful track lays the boogie woogie and sounds like the Austin of yesteryear. This is one album that is sure to keep your holiday party humming.
Pretty Paper - Willie Nelson (1979; Columbia)
No Texas Christmas would be complete without Willie Nelson’s Pretty Paper. This platinum-selling record features the same personnel from Willie’s chart-topping release, Stardust, (which was released the year before) and contains Christmas classics that are given the signature Willie treatment. These simple childhood favorites - like Frosty, Rudolph, and Jingle Bells - are given a folksy authenticity when delivered by that signature roadhouse baritone. A particular favorite is the title track, “Pretty Paper,” (originally released by Roy Orbison in 1963), which sounds like it could have come off of Willie’s 1975 classic, Red Headed Stranger.
Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer & Other Christmas Favorites - Gene Autry (1967; Design Records)
They don't make them like they used to. If you hail from Texas, there’s a good chance you grew up with this genuine holiday classic. Gene Autry was the singing cowboy who knew how to tell a story, and that vibe is manifested in this fantastic collection of Christmas tunes. We love the spoken word introductions that make this record truly unique. Merry Christmas, y’all.
Songs for Christmas - Sufjan Stevens (2006; Asthmatic Kitty)
Forget the fifty states, there is no bigger concept than Christmas. Sufjan was destined from the beginning of his career to put out a Christmas record, as his style seems perfectly tailored for this genre. This album has all of Stevens’ signature marks - banjo, guitar, lush strings, rich vocal harmonies, trumpets, oboes, and (lots of) sleigh bells. Add to that Sufjan’s haunting and tender voice, and what you get is a holiday masterpiece. This collection of standards and original compositions initially started as 5 separate EPs that he gifted to friends and family from 2001-2006. Sufjan released the EPs as a boxset of 42 tracks in 2006 and followed that up with Vol. 6-10 in 2012. Some highlights from the album are the standards “I Saw Three Ships,” “Amazing Grace” and “What Child is This Anyway,” as well as the originals “Star of Wonder” and “That Was the Worst Christmas Ever.”