Women in Music 2016

Luke Bryan & More Country Stars Take You Home for the Holidays in 'A Country Faith Christmas' Book

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Luke Bryan performs during the CMA 2013 Country Christmas on Nov. 8, 2013 in Nashville, Tenn. 

Billboard contributor Deborah Evans Price gathers recipes, stories & more in new book.

Deborah Evans Price is one of country music’s most esteemed journalists. Her byline has appeared in BillboardNash Country Weekly, Rolling Stone and countless other magazines. Now Price -- the 2013 winner of the CMA Media Achievement Award -- has just released a new book that is very close to her heart. Titled A Country Faith Christmas, it serves as a follow-up to her popular Country Faith book from 2013.

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“We were trying to find ways that we could expand the Country Faith brand,” Price told Billboard. “One of my business partners had the idea to do a line of jewelry, so we partnered up with a company in L.A. called Bob Siemon Designs, and Word/Warner is our partner on the music side. The Country Faith companion CD did rather well, and they wanted to do another one, so we thought about doing another book. One of the partners had the idea to do a Christmas book.”

A Country Faith Christmas profiles many of the hottest artists on the market today, as well as many of the most iconic legends in the business. One thing that Price found is that not all Yuletide celebrations are the same. “Depending on where people grew up is what their traditions are. The Bellamy Brothers grew up in Florida on a ranch, and they would get animals for Christmas presents. I thought that was interesting.”

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Many artists contributed recipes to the book – whether it be Luke Bryan’s Scrambled Chili Dogs or Mama’s Tea Cakes, a dish from Little Big Town’s Kimberly Schlapman. Price said she always enjoys talking to the musicians regarding their culinary talents. “It's interesting to me to find out what people's favorite dishes are to eat on Christmas day. Neal McCoy contributed a Filipino recipe for a dish called Pancit. I'm gonna try to make it,” she said, though she noted that “my husband Gary is the cook in the family. Canaan Smith’s chili is also interesting because it's his mother's recipe, and she puts worcestershire sauce on it, which gives it some kick.”

One of the common threads to the stories shared in the book is how music and the artists’ first musical instruments often play a pivotal role in their Christmas memories. “Vince Gill talked about getting his first guitar and how much it meant to him because he didn't have to share it with his dad. Scotty McCreery's grandfather got him a guitar, while Wade Hayes got a guitar one year, and it got passed around his family, and a few years later, he got it back!”

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The legendary Charlie Daniels contributed to A Country Faith Christmas by penning four Advent devotionals, which Price noted might be a surprise to some, but he comes by it naturally. “I don't know if people know he's a wonderful Bible scholar, and he really knows the Bible. What he wrote is the reason for the season.” Daniels also shared the story of buying his wife Hazel a unique present for Christmas early on in their marriage. “He bought her a bowling ball one year. She was on a bowling team and didn't have a ball. They were young and married, and he worked extra gigs to get it for her. I love that story.”

Another story that touched Price was that of Jimmy Wayne, who spent one Christmas working as a prison guard. “He traded places with one of the other guards so he could be home with his family, and he was walking through the prison checking things out, and this guy named ‘Jelly Roll’ started singing 'Silent Night,' and his voice was just booming through the place, and grown men were crying. He said it was the most amazing experience. He said he switched shifts to be a blessing to the other guard, but he got the biggest blessing from it.”

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The book is supported by a companion CD that features selections from acts such as Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood and Lonestar, as well as a special track that Price is honored to have included. “We've got some great artists, and we end it with Johnny Cash reading the scripture from Luke, which is very powerful.”

The disc is available at many locations, including the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, which fits the target demographic of the book like a glove. “Cracker Barrel has been a wonderful place to expose the Country Faith brand. They have been so supportive. When you think of good food in a positive environment, the Cracker Barrel consumer is the same person that will pick up the book and CD.”

Price tells Billboard that her next Country Faith project will be a look at the favorite hymns of country artists, targeted for an Easter 2016 release.