Spending Christmas with Blake Shelton must be a lot like visiting your favorite uncle for some festive holiday cheer. You know the one; it’s the uncle that makes sure all the lights are twinkling, that Santa and his reindeer have found their rightful place on the lawn, and that the eggnog is stocked and ready to go. It’s also the same uncle that, behind the extravagant and playful decorations, understands that the company of family and friends through the holidays is something to celebrate.
On his first holiday album, Cheers, It’s Christmas, current CMA Male Vocalist of the Year Blake Shelton delivers a set ready for the parties but also for the quiet times spent around the tree. The 14-song collection, which is available now, lends itself to both settings by moving easily between good-timin’ country Christmas songs and the more traditional sounds of greats like Bing Crosby.
Blake is at his best on hillbilly Christmas tunes like “Oklahoma Christmas.” Joined by fellow Sooner state native Reba McEntire, the two reminisce on chicken fried steak, Bob Wills and 3.2 beer. Built around the old-time feel of acoustic bass and fiddle, the two twang in harmony, We’ll have an Oklahoma Christmas even if we have to have it in Tennessee. Themes of roots and family come often, and on “Time For Me To Come Home,” Blake is joined by his mother, Dorothy Shackleford. Blake and his mother, who co-wrote the song together, trade off loving lines through the second verse while pedal steel winds like the roads back home. On “Blue Christmas,” Blake is joined by his wife, Miranda Lambert, and her group Pistol Annies. Riding the classic ’50s feel, Blake navigates the melodies with a fun, approachable charm while the Pistol Annies support with time-honored, ooh-ooh-oohs, against a bright horn section.
Miranda also joins Blake on the project’s opening track, a faithful rendition of “Jingle Bell Rock,” in which the country starlet provides dynamic harmonies alongside her husband. Many of the standards on Cheers, It’s Christmas come off with a more traditional touch. “White Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” follow their classic counterparts closely while traces of jazz guitar brush the tracks nicely. Blake sounds at ease here and throughout the collection, able to move between deep and mid-range notes effortlessly.
Several guests join Blake to spread the cheer. Kelly Clarkson duets on the Keith Whitley-penned, “There’s A New Kid In Town,” and Xenia, a former member of Blake’s team on “The Voice,” trades verses with him on “Silver Bells.” Here, the two show off a nice chemistry highlighted by octaves through the chorus. Crooner Michael Buble joins on a Christmas version of his pop song, “Home,” a track Blake released with slightly different words as a bonus track on his previous project, Pure B.S. Trypta-Phunk, comprised of members from Blake’s touring band, round out the guests on the soulful closing track, “The Very Best Time Of The Year.”
Cheers, It’s Christmas is a project for celebration. When played next to each other, traditional numbers like “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” and the chuggin’ country notes of “Santa’s Got A Choo Choo Train” accomplish the same goal. They’re wonderfully entertaining songs devoted to the season, and on his first Christmas album Blake delivers a record perfect for all holiday occasions.
Key Tracks – “Oklahoma Christmas,” “Home,” “Blue Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland”