Sony Music Entertainment
Release Date: October 22nd 2021
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Christmas Cards
- Pretty Paper
- The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)
- One in a Million
If you all have been perusing our site until now, I guess it’s no secret that I’m a country music fan. But in case I haven’t said it plain enough, I’ll say it again- I’m a country music fan. I used to be ashamed of or weirded out by that fact- because how can a Christian love country music? Music about America and beers and trucks and girls and more trucks? But now I’m proud that I resonate with country music. I don’t know when it happened- maybe it was just me perusing Grady Smith’s youtube channel (Grady’s a country music reviewer by the way!), or maybe it started with me reviewing Carrie Underwood’s Cry Pretty in 2018; however over the past few years I have been reviewing a number of country albums. Not just ‘Christian-country’ like Rhett Walker Band and Zach Williams… but ‘country-country’. Take a read of these reviews we have posted within the past year- these big names. Lady A’s What A Song Can Do, Cassadee Pope’s Thrive, Lauren Alaina’s Sitting Pretty On Top Of The World, Kacey Musgraves’ star-crossed, Scotty McCreery’s Same Truck, Thomas Rhett’s Country Again: Side A, Carly Pearce’s 29: Written In Stone, Blake Shelton’s Body Language, Dan + Shay’s Good Things, Florida Georgia Line’s Life Rolls On, Chris Stapleton’s Starting Over, Ingrid Andress’s Lady Like, Brian Kelley’s Sunshine State Of Mind… the list goes on. All of these albums, as Jon or myself have reviewed them, have showed me over the past few years that the industry that I originally assumed to be about trucks and beers and cars and drinking and having a good time and girls and more girls… is really not; when you look and listen a bit deeper. In fact, according to Grady’s video below, about the analysis of key country words… country artists on the whole are a lot more complex than originally thought.
And now, that we’ve seen this inspiring video about how we all know now that the common words in country music are somewhat of a myth… now it’s time to default to my new favourite genre once again- this time reviewing a country Christmas release during this time of joy, peace and celebration of Jesus’ birth. Country albums to me have so much emotion, honesty, and vulnerability- that you can’t help but be moved, inspired, encouraged, brought to tears, and challenged all at the same time. Especially during COVID-19 (which seems to be never-ending!), where we do need some encouragement and reassurance; I firmly believe that country music is one of the main genres (aside from CCM) that delivers to us real, raw and authentic melodies that will stick with us for the foreseeable future. Last year I listened to and reviewed extremely highly Canadian country artist Tenille Townes’ The Lemonade Stand, and Jon reviewed both the singles “Girl Who Didn’t Care” and “Villain In Me”. And the general consensus amongst these songs on her debut album and the two from her forthcoming untitled sophomore album, is that these songs are some of the most hopeful and inspiring that I’ve heard in a long while. These songs are unique and interesting and from left field… and I reckon if you give Tenille’s debut album The Lemonade Stand a chance, I firmly believe that you will be won over and that you’ll be one step closer to being a country-fied fan of the genre! The same sentiments are echoed greatly in Songs For Christmas– a 4 song EP celebrating the holidays, even though these tracks aren’t explicitly singing about Jesus.
Here we are in December 2021. The Omicron variant of COVID-19 is in full force waging war against everybody… and the world is still in shambles in relation to the ongoing Afghan war, the pulling out of officials from all nations concerning the Beijing Winter Olympics 2022, and still-rising COVID-19 cases, to name a few. The world couldn’t be in any more turmoil… and we’re just four days out from Christmas Day. It’s the holiday season, people should be happy, we all should be in the Christmas spirit, putting up our tree, listening to carols and celebrating Jesus’ birth. Yet people are nonetheless crying out for help, for hope, for inspiration, for comfort and for reassurance. We’ve listened to and reviewed powerful and impacting Christmas releases this year from plenty of artists (Pentatonix, Delta Goodrem, Anne Wilson, Rend Collective, Matthew West, Zach Williams, CAIN, We The Kingdom, Kristin Chenoweth, Chris Tomlin and Tasha Layton, to name a few!) and we are planning on reviewing a few more albums (from artists like Sarah Reeves, Norah Jones, Pistol Annies, Carrie Underwood, Rob Thomas and Darren Criss, to name a few!). And thus, with the sheer volume of Christmas releases in the midst of one of the most uncertain times in modern history; it’s evident, that hope and help and reassurance can be found in more places than we think, if we dared to look harder and deeper. Tenille Townes, like these artists I have previously mentioned, carries on this trend, and also provides hope and reassurance- for this reason, I reckon everyone should listen to this EP and be immersed and amazed at the impact and power of these tracks.
“Christmas Cards”, the title track, features Tenille lamenting on a lost and damaged friendship, and from the outset, this acoustic guitar driven originally penned ballad isn’t a Christmas song at all. And you’d be right… to a degree. Tenille earnestly and emotionally probably sings from experience, but even if she doesn’t, she sings honestly about the breakdown of a friendship… which these days can happen in the midst of COVID-19. You think you’re true friends with someone, and then 5 years go by and you haven’t spoken. This song isn’t a Christmas song barring the reference to ‘Christmas cards’ in the chorus referencing the current state of your ‘friendship’ with that one person you thought would have your back forever. But maybe, just maybe, this song is needed this Christmas. we need all the friends and family we can get this year. And though this song sounds downright melancholy and depressing: ‘…seasons come and seasons go, summer sand turns into snow, someone you loved along the way becomes someone you used to know…’; Tenille subtly encourages us to try to keep the friends we do have, or maybe to reach out in faith to our ‘friends’ from before. We can be a helping hand to everyone we meet, and thus I firmly believe this song is a challenge to us this Christmas. will we rise up and ensure our deepest friends don’t become ‘friends’ whom we only think about when we write Christmas cards to them?
Tenille’s cover of Willie Nelson’s “Pretty Paper”, also not an overt Christmas song, speaks about spending time with your loved ones, and more specifically your partner (I guess that’s something to strive for this Christmas for those of us who are married or in a relationship!); while Tenille also offers up a slowed-down country/acoustic cover of “The Christmas Song”, probably one of the most thought-provoking and contemplative holiday songs ever recorded. Songs For Christmas then ends with another original track. “One in a Million”, an acoustic guitar driven ballad, is similar in theme to “Pretty Paper”, and is a great way to end a moving and inspiring EP, reminding us all that there is a special someone out there for each of us, and what better way to start hoping and praying for that person than right now during Christmas time?
Tenille Townes is someone I would have never thought I’d be listening to- and actually enjoying- in a million years! If you told me I’d be listening to Tenille in 2020, even just as The Lemonade Stand released last year… well I wouldn’t have laughed in your face as I was listening to a bit of country music here and there- but I would’ve thought that might not have been the case. Well let me proudly say that I’m glad that I’m listening to country music; and for those of you who are not country fans- let me say please listen to Tenille Townes, and her music, especially her Christmas EP and her debut album. Because you will change your mind after The Lemonade Stand. No doubt about it. So thank you Tenille, for this near-flawless masterpiece, and for encouraging us this Christmas time- I can’t wait to hear what God has in store for you next.
3 songs to listen to: Christmas Cards, The Christmas Song, One in a Million
RIYL: Tenille Arts, Caylee Hammack, Lindsay Ell, Maren Morris, Carly Pearce