George Strait is impervious to fashion trends so while most of the country music stars around him were ditching their cowboy hats and Stetsons and infusing their songs with a pop demeanour the Texas singer kept it country in a way that traditionalists would have always wanted it. And it is these decisions and his obvious talent that has seen Strait sell in excess of a 100 million records over a career that began back in the early eighties. Dotted around a huge body of work Strait has recorded a substantial number of Christmas records.
1986's 'Merry Christmas Strait to You!' was George's first festive long player and announced its intentions with main single 'Santa Claus Is Coming to Town', hardly a revolutionary choice but nonetheless a song that brings a smile to most people over the holidays. Throughout his career the country has had great fun with encompassing his name into his album titles ('Strait To You!', 'Strait from the Heart') and 'Merry Christmas Strait to You!' is no different. While such things could be viewed as infantile there is no doubting that Strait's first Christmas album is something that will appeal to every generation when the evenings get short and the temperatures drop. And with Strait peppering the album with some rarely heard and original numbers like 'What a Merry Christmas This Could Be', 'When It's Christmas Time in Texas' and 'For Christ's Sake, It's Christmas' this collection brings with it plenty of new things for the festive table.
With George setting out his stall on his debut Christmas album he consolidated his position as one of country's biggest Christmas fans with the 10-track follow-up 'Merry Christmas Wherever You Are' in 1999. Again Strait put his heart and soul into the project with a raft of new songs unveiled for the occasion including 'I Know What I Want for Christmas', 'Old Time Christmas' and 'Noel Leon'. George's strait-ahead (we're at it now!) approach might not be to everyone's taste but there is no denying the warmth in his recordings of old favourites like 'Jingle Bell Rock' and 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer'. With the originals genuinely displaying a love for the season ('Noel Leon' depicts the man who never takes down his Christmas lights!) and Strait's mature vocals intonating with passion how much the holidays mean it is hard to resist the country singer's second festive outing. George also recorded a song for a compilation called 'A Country Christmas' in 1999 called 'Christmas Cookies' that was not included on any of his festive albums which seems a pity given the sweetness of the composition.
In 2003 the best of George Strait's Christmas songs to date were compiled on a collection called '20th Century Masters: The Christmas Collection'. The 12 tracks were mostly made up of the originals found on his two previous Christmas albums but did also include his versions of 'Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!' and 'Jingle Bell Rock'. The country singer's next Christmas album proper came out in 2006 via card company Hallmark and was called 'Fresh Cut Christmas'. The 10-track album was made up of 10 traditional standards, mostly sacred in nature but a couple of secular numbers like 'Up On The House Top' thrown in for good measure. The album was only available in Hallmark stores along with 3 limited edition Christmas cards. With an easy mix of the essential country sounds of fiddle, slide guitar and Strait's formidable tones 'O Christmas Tree', 'O Come, All Ye Faithful' and 'We Three Kings' were given a brand new lick of paint. 'Fresh Cut Christmas' was reissued in 2008 as 'Classic Christmas' but this time it was given a much wider release.
With such a bewildering array of Christmas songs to his name it might take a number of seasons to work through all of George Strait's festive collection so a good starting point might be his 'Christmas Time: 15 Holiday Favorites'. Released in 2011 this compendium is surprisingly hard to track down but as a summary of George's interpretation of such classics as 'Winter Wonderland', 'The Christmas Song' and 'Silent Night' it should prove indispensable.Author: Kevin