Christmas in the Country: Five Essential Albums

Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers
GAB Archive/Redferns

This week in The 615, we have taken a look at some of the holiday's top new Christmas albums in country. To close out our kick-off of the holidays, let's look back at five of the format's essential discs of the season. These are the albums that are a must for your collection, ones that have endured throughout the years:

Elvis Presley, Elvis' Christmas Album (1957)

The title is remarkably simple, and though it has been almost 60 years since the album's release, this album still stands as essential listening during the final months of the years. After all, what would the holidays be without Elvis? The biggest hit from this album would be his rendition of "Blue Christmas," but if you really want to hear an old-time sonic treat, find a vinyl copy of the album, and put the needle down on "White Christmas." Though it was not one of Irving Berlin's favorite versions of his composition, the warmth that Presley applied to the track is still very much in evidence today.

Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton, Once Upon a Christmas (1984)

After the success of their chart-topping "Islands in the Stream," it just made sense to pair these two icons up for a full album. The two recorded some classic versions of songs like "The Christmas Song" and "Winter Wonderland," but what really sets this album apart are the original songs here, many of which were written by Parton -- a true testament to her songwriting genius. Since its release some 30 years ago, the album continues to entertain fans -- whether it be the down-home simplicity of "With Bells On" or the potent balladry of the title track.

Patty Loveless, Bluegrass & White Snow: A Mountain Christmas (2002)

Loveless had just released her critically acclaimed Mountain Soul disc when she decided to keep her music in a Bluegrass direction with this mountain-inspired collection. Very much inspired by Emmylou Harris' Light of the Stable, this disc mixed standards with classic material, with her versions of "Silver Bells" and Bill Monroe's "Christmas Time's a'Comin" being highlights -- in addition to the pristine title track and the nostalgic "Santa Train," about a real-life mountain tradition in Appalachia.

Faith Hill, Joy to the World, (2008)

Musical artists of any genre would do well to follow Hill's example here. Rather than try to get too creative with arrangements, the songstress simply let her talent shine on this album of classic material, with instrumental backgrounds that would make Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin proud. Hill's take on material like "A Holly Jolly Christmas" and "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town" remain as enchanting and brilliant as ever, still six years later.

Trace Adkins, The King's Gift, (2013)

One might think it's a little presumptuous to include an album from last year, but one listen to this set and you'll understand why this album made the list. Including influences of Celtic and folk sounds, this is Adkins' defining career statement. Songs like "I Saw Three Ships," and "O' Come Emmanuel" glisten with as much of a dramatic flair as ever before.

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