PLAYING NASHVILLE: The Best Country Christmas Songs of 2020

With the 2020 holiday season comes a bounty of festive music straight out of Nashville. Stars across Music City have been getting into the holiday spirit with new Christmas albums, and while many offer sound renditions of the classics, they’ve also contributed their own perspectives with holiday originals. From a music legend to a bright newcomer, this collection of holiday tunes from some of Nashville’s finest provide comfort in their own unique ways during a time we need it most.

Dolly Parton (featuring Miley Cyrus) – “Christmas Is”

Dolly Parton has a monopoly on Christmas this year, and frankly, the world is better for it. When she’s not funding research for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, Parton is offering up her first holiday album in almost 30 years, A Holly Dolly Christmas. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, as the icon shares stellar covers of Christmas classics poised alongside a handful of Parton-penned originals that make the season bright, including the tender-hearted “Christmas Is” featuring her goddaughter, Miley Cyrus. During a tumultuous year, leave it to Dolly’s graceful nature to bring us back down to earth with a reminder of what’s truly important not only during this time of reflection, but all year round, with her message of kindness and the joy of giving over receiving. Her words are destined to bring a smile to your face – one of the many gifts from the national treasure that is Dolly Parton.

Best lyrics: “It’s all about kindness/Love and compassion/Better to give than receive/That is a true fact/But those who don’t know that/Well, they are the poorest indeed”

“Christmas is a time for caring/Being at your best/Christmas is a time for sharing/Knowing you’ve been blessed/Christmas is a time for giving/Love is made of this/That’s what Christmas is”

Ingrid Andress – “Christmas Always Finds Me”

2020 was a major year for Ingrid Andress. While her debut hit “More Hearts Than Mine” and corresponding album, Lady Like, scored the breakout star multiple Grammy nominations, Andress still managed to cut through the hype with the tear-inducing “Christmas Always Finds Me.” Backed by a piano and intimate string orchestra, Andress delivers a timely message for those feeling lonely this holiday season. The songwriter has a gift for visual storytelling, and these lyrics (co-written with Derrick Southerland and Sam Ellis) find her clinging to warm memories of the past that follow her wherever she roams the earth. Delivered with breathtaking vocals that speak right to the heart, Andress offers a message of comfort with this gentle holiday lullaby.

Best lyrics: “And even if I’m all alone/A million miles away from home/It shows up in warm memory/Another year older/Getting harder to believe/But somehow Christmas always find me”

Carrie Underwood ft. John Legend – “Hallelujah”

One can only expect greatness when two of the best singers in music team up for an original holiday song, and that’s precisely what Carrie Underwood and John Legend deliver on the gorgeous “Hallelujah,” which appears on Underwood’s first-ever holiday album, My Gift. The lyrics, co-penned by Legend, evoke beautiful imagery ranging from a choir of angels to embers burning bright, and one can feel the crisp winter-kissed air the Grammy winners sing of as their brilliant voices unite. The song is wrapped in a feeling of calm and serenity they bring to life on this cinematic number, all while offering a message of peace and hope that feels like a warm embrace. The video is clip from My Gift: A Christmas Special from Carrie Underwood which begins streaming December 3 on HBO Max.

Best lyrics: “Let there be peace on earth/Let the lonely join together, let them know their worth/Let the children know/There’s a brighter day ahead/Let’s hold on to hope/And on the coldest evening in this December/Let us pray the spirit of love will linger”

Dan + Shay – “Take Me Home For Christmas” and “Christmas Isn’t Christmas”

Quenching fans’ thirst for Christmas tunes, Dan + Shay offer a sugar and spice blend of holiday originals with “Take Me Home For Christmas” and “Christmas Isn’t Christmas.” The crossover duo, featuring Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney, offer a pair of festive songs that reflect the current time, juxtaposing the happy and the sad. “Take Me Home For Christmas” is a banjo-laden bop for new lovers spending their first holiday together, injecting the listener with a dose of Christmas cheer as the narrator beckons their partner to take them to their hometown where they established holiday traditions and memories. But Dan + Shay bring us back to reality with the pandemic-friendly “Christmas Isn’t Christmas,” the two serenading those longing for the person they love during a time when many are separated from family and friends on a holiday of camaraderie.

Best lyrics: “And those songs wouldn’t sound the same/Home wouldn’t feel like home/I’m thankful you’re here tonight/‘Cause all I know is/Christmas isn’t Christmas if it’s not with you”

Louis York ft. Jimmie Allen and The Shindellas – “What Does Christmas Mean”

Bust out those jazz hands – Louis York and The Shindellas shoobie-doobie their way into the holiday season with Jimmie Allen on “What Does Christmas Mean.” Originally released in 2017, the Grammy nominated duo of Claude Kelly and Chuck Harmony called on hit making country star Allen for a re-imagination of the track that finds them painting their ideal Christmas scene with snow on the ground and loved ones all around. Allen’s buttery-smooth voice and The Shindellas’ sparkling harmonies add flair to the already bouncy track, the three acts instantly igniting Christmas spirit the moment the song starts. But the real star of the show is the way Harmony tickles those ivories, creating a jazzy Christmas melody that’ll hit you in all the holly jolly feels.

Best lyrics: ”There’ll be snow on the ground/There’ll be lights in the trees/There’ll be love all around/But if you’re not with me/Tell me what does Christmas mean without you?”