Putting a new wrinkle on the Christmas Music album is kind of a tough thing. But, some of Country Music's most memorable Yuletide offerings -- Kenny & Dolly's "Once Upon A Christmas" and Emmylou's "Light Of The Stable" among them -- have been able to carve out a soft spot in the hearts of musical fans everywhere.
Husband and wife duo Joey + Rory hope that will be how fans relate to their third Vanguard disc, "A Farmhouse Christmas." In an interview with the couple at their Marcy Jo's restaurant south of Music City, Rory Feek said that recording mostly original tunes seemed like the way to go.
"At Christmas, it seems like the albums we usually listen to are people's unique take on standard Christmas songs that everybody knows -- the classics. We weren't sure that our original take was going to be all that special, so we only did that on a couple of songs that had special meanings for us like 'Blue Christmas' or 'Away In A Manger.' The rest we either wrote or we found, but that's our nature. We love songs. We love storytelling. That's what was going to make a Christmas album for us be exciting and different was the songs we were going to put on there."
One of those new songs that has special meaning to the couple is the touching "Remember Me." Rory told Billboard.com about the writing of that particular song.
"I think the reason that song is so special is that our faith is so important. That song seems to combine Jesus and Santa without fighting the other. That's a neat song, a really special message for us."
Joey Feek agrees with her husband's sentiments, saying that she remembers when he and Tim Johnson penned the tune while at a songwriter's festival in Key West.
"It was special to him when he started it, and then at the end when he had it and what it meant. He played it for me, and I just bawled. It encompasses all you feel at Christmas time, and how easy it is to forget about what Christmas is all about," she said.
While the disc does have quite a few original songs -- current single "Let It Snow (Somewhere Else)" among them, there are some other highlights on the album that while not standards in the traditional sense, definitely have a place in the heart of country fans.
"The Gift," originally recorded by Garth Brooks on his 1992 disc "Beyond The Season" is included, as is "If We Make It Through December," a 1973 chart-topper for Merle Haggard. On the latter, there's a special guest who made the duo's day - the "Hag" himself. Joey said playing the song for her father was something she took a deep amount of pleasure in.
As Christmas nears, the excitement grows for the couple. One of their biggest traditions is watching the 1971 film "The Homecoming," which inspired the classic TV series The Waltons. "I didn't watch it growing up," admits Joey, "but since becoming a member of the Feek household, we started watching it. I just love how warm it feels. You can almost smell the food cooking, and the interaction between the family members."
The duo also looking forward to their own Country's Family Tradition Presents A Farmhouse Christmas TV special, to air on the RFD network this season. "It was filmed either in our house and the performances were shot in our barn," said Rory. "We turned it into a soundstage, built a set, and hung lights. It's pretty homemade, but doesn't look homemade at all. It looks spectacular."
The two are celebrating the releases with a short tour. "We're really excited," said Rory of the trip, which began on Nov. 25 in Anderson, IN.
Joey thinks fans will like the warm and friendly touch of the shows, all set in a more intimate surrounding than some of their usual shows. "All of the shows are going to be in theaters, so that's kind of a special thing."
Rory says the tour will definitely feel like home. "The whole concept behind it is that we wanted to take our farmhouse on tour with us. When we're in Boston or NY, we'll have a backdrop of it, and it will be like being in our living room no matter where we are. We're just going to be telling stories and singing songs from our farmhouse back here in Tennessee."