Willie Nelson – The Classic Christmas Album (Columbia / Legacy)
Nelson has only recorded one holiday album over the years, Pretty Paper (1979), and the Classic Christmas Album contains all 12 tracks from that original record. The remaining songs come from a variety of sources.
The opening track, “A Dreamer’s Holiday,” isn’t really a Christmas song technically, and is pulled from the 1983 album Without a Song. But, it fits well with everything else, because, like all of the Pretty Paper LP, it was produced by Booker T Jones, so everything is wrapped in his warm signature Hammond organ. Everything from this album is done in a typically laid-back style. Surprisingly, almost all of the more contemporary material works – “White Christmas” and “Blue Christmas” are both closely associated with other singers, yet he has no trouble imparting his own rendition. Oddly, it’s when he tries to tackle his own composition, “Pretty Paper,” where he misses – it doesn’t come close to Roy Orbison’s sad original reading. Also, because Nelson isn’t technically a gifted singer, the more traditional fare, like “O Little Town of Bethlehem” are harder for him to pull off. His excellent take on “Wonderful World” is also included – not a holiday song, but meshes well with the heartfelt material.