Buck Owens and duet partner and protégée Susan Raye present a holiday album mostly consisting of Owens originals in 1971's Merry Christmas from Buck Owens & Susan Raye. Owens previously released Christmas with Buck Owens and His Buckaroos in 1965 and Christmas Shopping in 1969, and he returns to many of his songs from those LPs in duet versions here. For example, the ballad "Christmas Ain't Christmas Without You" and the livelier Don Rich contribution "Santa's Gonna Come in a Stagecoach" appeared on both earlier albums, while the bouncy semi-standard "Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy" (on the same theme as "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus") was on the 1965 disc and "Home on Christmas Day," "All I Want for Christmas Is My Daddy," "It's Not What You Give," and "Good Old Fashioned Country Christmas" all appeared first on Christmas Shopping. They are given new life by adding Raye's sturdy voice, both when she takes verses on her own and when she replaces Rich on the high harmony behind Owens. Owens' seasonal songwriting ranges from the humorous to the sad and sentimental. "All I Want for Christmas Is My Daddy" doesn't reveal specifically why daddy isn't at home; a divorce may have taken place, or maybe daddy has just strayed. In "It's Not What You Give," the children give last year's presents back to their parents for Christmas this year -- is poverty to blame? Such oddly melancholy sentiments are offset by the more celebratory numbers. And at the end, Raye finally gets her own solo on a cover of Gene Autry's "Here Comes Santa Claus." The result is not the most conventional holiday recording, but one to which many country fans may relate.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann