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Wynonna Picks Her 5 Essential Christmas Songs

Wynonna Judd
Kristin Barlowe

Wynonna Judd

Wynonna says that her A Simpler Christmas Tour has been quite an emotional roller coaster.

"It's basically a tragic comedy," she tells Billboard. "I get to talk about very some intensely personal deep and sentimental family stuff from growing up in Appalachia. We didn't have anything much, but mom said we had everything because we had each other, and the audience just starts crying. I walked out on stage to a room full of broken hearts, and people dealing with loss."

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She says that there is a range of emotions from the audience. "It's the best and worst time of year for some, but for others, people are getting married and having children. A lot of the guys in my crew are having babies. It's a real mixture. Everything is very microscopic and so concentrated in that room. It's filled with all these spirits. I can feel all this love, and it being a wonderful time of year for so many, but I can also feel the loss."

However, there are some lighter moments. "I go out there and tell stories, and if I'm not laughing, I'm crying. Sometimes, it's all of the above. I go from singing a song like 'Mary Did You Know,' and then I look back and I see my husband put on a smoking jacket, and he's got a pipe and a glass of bourbon. We'll be sitting on a trunk, and we'll do 'Baby, It's Cold Outside.' He will do everything but touch my hair, because he knows better. We laugh, and I couldn't sing from laughing. He was somewhere between Bill Murray and Dean Martin. It's just a funny moment in the show, and gets so much applause. It's a Ricky / Lucy moment, bordering on vaudeville," she says.

The singer is mindful of the fact that many fans consider her 1987 Christmas Time With the Judds and 2006 Classic Christmas albums as essential listening during their holiday celebrations. "I think I am keenly aware of that. For me, the holiday doesn't start until I hear Nat King Cole's voice. As soon as I do, I immediately lock in, and my season begins. The thought of someone decorating their tree to our album makes me stop for a second. I'm the backdrop of everyday life; this isn't just about show business. This is about people's lives. They are having human experiences with us in the background. I take that very seriously, because I know how precious life is. I get it. After all these years, I do. I think it's pretty amazing to have that connection with people I don't know. That's pretty freaking cool. I get very mushy and very tender hearted when I think about that CD. I played it for my grandmother when she was on her way out. Her heart monitor increased, and I thought for sure that she was reacting to hearing the music. Music is not only universal to me, but I also think it's eternal, because those sound waves echo into the heavens."

What are some her favorite songs of the season? She discussed five that made her list for Billboard:

"Ave Maria"
It was never on my list of songs that I would do, but it changed my vocal range, as well as my life. It's on my Christmas CD. I think that's the closest I've ever been to heaven musically. When I sing that song, I almost have an out of body experience every time. I forget where I am and tap into this realm that is not of this world. It's a spirit-filled moment when I do it.

"Beautiful Star of Bethlehem"
That one takes me back to before my teenage years. It was one of the first couple of songs I ever learned. I sing it every night on my Christmas shows. I've never done one without it.

"O Holy Night"
It's a real important spiritual moment for me as a believer. It's beyond this Earth.

"Mary Did You Know"
I've done it with Kenny. I've done it by myself. I've done it with an orchestra, and each time, it stands on its' own. It doesn't need a lot of frills.

"Silent Night"
That's the song that brings me closest to the fans every night. I've been doing this for a couple of years now where I have the audience singing it with me. They are my family. Blood makes you related, but loyalty makes you family. These fans come and sing to me. It's church. It literally becomes like a Christmas Eve candlelight center. It's pretty intense. Sometimes, I stand there, and just look up at the light and forget where I am. It's the most anointed artist feeling to have them sing it back to me. It's awesome."

Wynonna A Simpler Christmas concert dates:
Dec. 19: Morgantown, WV
Dec. 20: Virginia Beach, VA
Dec. 21: Newberry, SC

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