GIGsoup look back at Christmas themed albums of the past. This time Adam Jones takes a listen to Dolly Parton’s 1990 LP ‘Home for Christmas’
1990 saw the release of country legend Dolly Parton’s second holiday album, ‘Home for Christmas’. In contrast to her first festive offering, 1984’s ‘Once Upon a Christmas’ with close friend Kenny Rogers, this album draws entirely from the Christmas classics, incorporating both traditional carols and secular staples.
As the name would suggest, Parton draws heavily on her own memories of childhood Christmases to fuel and inspire this album. Her heartfelt speech at the beginning of ‘First Noel’ recalls a small country Church in the mountains: humble beginnings that have shaped a number of Parton’s recordings over the years. This instantly sets the scene for the rest of an album that has a deeply nostalgic feel. After her speech, ‘First Noel’ segues into the shaky and uncertain, yet heart-warming sound of a Church choir. She follows this with a stripped back solo rendition of the classic Christmas carol, contrasting sharply with the first section and the strength of Parton’s vocal delivery shines through. This fairly traditional version of ‘The First Noel’ sets a good mood for what is to follow.
A country-tinge is given to classic secular songs, like ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’ and ‘Jingle Bells’, allowing Parton to blend some of her own signature style with traditional festive tunes, with some interesting results. The instrumentation of ‘We Three Kings’ stands out, as does the use of children’s singing and clapping on a unique recording of ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’. An unquestionable highlight is the gospel-infused second half of ‘Go Tell It on the Mountain’, lifting the spirit with the joy of the season; as any good Christmas song should. Whilst Dolly provides a blend of religious and secular tracks, her faith shines through on this record. A touching message at the end of ‘Joy to the World’ closes the album in suitable fashion.
It would be easy to imagine listening to this album whilst sat around a burning log fire in the depths of winter. The warm and cosy feeling is enhanced by Parton’s nostalgic interludes and the album clearly aims to evoke the sentiments of a simpler yuletide. The aptly titled ‘Home for Christmas’ allows Dolly Parton to recall and present her own childhood memories of Christmas: based in faith, music and a feeling of togetherness.