Christmas with Nashville

Nashville Cast

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Christmas with Nashville Review

by Thom Jurek

This seasonal offering by the cast of the ABC prime-time series Nashville was produced by Rascal Flatts' bassist Jay DeMarcus (who made a cameo appearance in an earlier episode). It contains 12 selections of Christmas standards, a carol, and a couple of welcome surprises. Clare Bowen's slick, jazzy big-band reading of "Santa Baby" proves she can swing -- as well as sing contemporary country songs. Jonathan Jackson's read of Phil Spector's "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" may not be Darlene Love's (whose is?), but his television appearances never even suggested he could sing like this, and in falsetto no less. Lennon & Maisy Stella offer one of the recording's best moments with their own "Christmas Coming Home," a pop-country song with gorgeous old-school harmonies amid modern sonics and production. Less is almost always more, and Sam Palladio displays it in spades on this version of Joni Mitchell's "River." He may not be the best singer on the show, but he is among the most sincere. His plaintive understatement of the lyric is quite moving -- he stays with it even when the arrangement and production (which borrow from Daniel Lanois' aesthetic) get ratcheted up (but not too much). Charles Esten's "Blue Christmas" comes right out of Elvis, though of course it's not nearly as iconic. The pedal steel, the Duane Eddy-esque lead guitar break, and the female backing chorus add substance to a delivery that showcases phrasing and elocution rather than the phony suavity that plagues so many other versions. Esten's completely convincing. Charley Rose's "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" adds just the right amount of contemporary soul to overcome the schmaltzy production, and she pulls it off in spite of that. This is a mixed bag that should appeal to most fans of the series; beyond that, the aforementioned cuts would be welcome on most seasonal contemporary pop playlists.

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