A year after releasing his platinum-selling debut, Clear As Day, former American Idol champ Scotty McCreery is getting into the holiday spirit with a new project, Christmas with Scotty McCreery. The 11-song set pairs Christmas standards with selected originals as Scotty has fun showing off a few different sounds.
Favoring the neo-traditionalist instrumentation that powered Clear As Day, Scotty and producer Mark Bright return with a crisp sound built from acoustic/electric guitars, piano, pedal steel and well-placed strings. Add that to a classic country rhythm section, and the foundation is in place for standards like “Let It Snow,” “Winter Wonderland” and “First Noel.” However, where Scotty breaks from the recipe is in his delivery, channeling his inner Rat Pack in several instances.
Between the fiddle and keys, Scotty rolls through the melodies of “Let It Snow” like a young Dean Martin, subtly emphasizing a comfortable swing. On “Winter Wonderland,” a slow piano intro sets the scene before Scotty warmly captures the nostalgia of holiday film classics like James Stewart’s It’s A Wonderful Life. “The Christmas Song,” where even with a soft voice and lines known the world over, Scotty ably grabs the listener’s attention, singing of tiny tots with their eyes all aglow, against a slow, jazzy backdrop.
There’s a joy that runs through the collection as tracks like “Jingle Bells” and “Holly Jolly Christmas” are delivered with an energy that seemingly finds its strength in a song sung just for the fun of it. Scotty’s personality comes through easily on “Jingle Bells” with a dynamic delivery. On “Holly Jolly Christmas,” a guitar line straight out of Bakersfield powers the tune while Scotty twangs hard about mistletoe before fiddle and piano solos break out. The album’s closing song, a rendition of Elvis’ “Santa Claus Is Back In Town,” demonstrates a great bluesy touch from Scotty that might be new to many fans.
Original songs on the project include “Christmas In Heaven,” which poignantly misses and remembers those no longer here, and “Christmas Comin’ Round Again,” which offers a powerful message of reconciliation during the holidays. Both of these feature a more traditionally country musical tie than some of the album’s other works. The stirring and cinematic, “Mary, Did You Know?,” which builds from banjo laced verses into a powerful chorus, embodies the essence of the project. This child that you delivered will soon deliver you, Scotty sings here, emphasizing the spirituality behind the holiday season.
Scotty’s voice sounds confident and strong, most easily heard on vocal workouts like “O Holy Night.” Building from the depths of his range, Scotty rises with strength into the words, O night, divine, against a vast, atmospheric musical canvas of strings and mandolin. It’s a beautiful interpretation, and next to the other selections, defines the strength of the project and why it works so well. Scotty’s personal touch and unique take on each song is vibrant and infectious, honoring the season with his own musical celebration.
Key Tracks – “Mary, Did You Know?,” “O Holy Night,” “Let It Snow,” “Santa Claus Is Back In Town”