Since I moved to New York last year from Oklahoma, I have frequently listened to The Judds’ music. I have now made it a tradition to listen to their 1987 Christmas album, Christmas Time With The Judds (two years going strong!). Now it is good to note that you never have to twist my arm to listen to The Judds. I don’t recall ever meeting a Judds song I didn’t like. Basically, my tradition is to the listen to the Judds every year and listen to this album in December.
As I listened to Christmas Time With The Judds this year I noticed the same magic they always create that never gets old: their angelic harmonies, undeniably charisma, and their ability to blend while remaining individuals. When these features are placed on Christmas tunes, a whole new perspective on Christmas is seen.
The album opens with “Winter Wonderland.” I immediately noticed the organic feel of this record. The instrumentation sounds natural. It was simple and complete without my head becoming a snow globe from jingle bells flying at me from different directions.
They did the same thing with their version of “Silver Bells,” which just happens to be my favorite version. When I hear “Silver Bells” I think of an upbeat Christmas song that has become background noise to the chaos in Shoprite, but their version created a completely different image in my mind. I saw the normal hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, but it was calm. The word serene comes to mind.
The true standouts in this album for me are the classic Christmas spirituals. They go into almost forgotten classics like “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem,” while creating their own, “Who is This Babe.”
When I flipped the record to side B, it was compromised of all spirituals and they felt brand new. Each song kept the same organic feel while the emotion intensified. As I listened to Wynonna take lead and Naomi sing her quiet, yet strong vocals, all I could think about was their conviction.
Side B opens with “What Child is This.” Wynonna tells the story Jesus’ birth with immense conviction. Mix that with Naomi’s angelic harmonies, and you can’t deny their belief in the savior. They didn’t need to use vocal acrobatics to prove their point, their honest and reverent performance was enough.
The album closes with “Silent Night.” The Judds strip this song completely back to the basics while adding that same hint of conviction. Yet the best track on the album is “Oh Holy Night.” This song added elements of gospel and country music with classic holiday tradition. I’ve never heard a vocalist pierce the soul of music like Wynonna and this could not have been more evident on this song. During this tune, a faint choir is mixed in with The Judds, really giving this song a hymn like appeal. Then there is just this one note at the end…you just gotta listen…I can’t put words to it.
Christmas is many things to many people, and none of these definitions are wrong. As a Christian, it is a celebration of Jesus being born, but for others it could simply be love. Sadly, every year I can’t help but notice how Christmas has a faster pace. From shopping and decorations, to the increase focus on material possessions, many forget the true reason for celebration.
In the rush of the Christmas season, Christmas Time With the Judds is a slow reflection of what Christmas is really about, Jesus, the salvation he brings, and love in the world.
Check out my in-depth relationship with Wynonna’s music here.
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