“I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.” – Billy Joel
If you live in Tennessee it’s not hard to admit that parts of this last month have been really hard. I have glued myself to the TV for updates about Gatlinburg; from one of the most severe droughts we’ve ever had to flooding and tornados, this state has been beaten up pretty badly by our weather.
Throw in the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season and it’s easy to get lost in the sadness. But one of the things I’ve always turned to for an emotional outlet is music. And the day I started listening to Christmas music this year I was probably a little more excited then I should have been.
One thing that I noticed while I was jamming out to my Christmas playlist is that some of my most favorite songs are from right here in Knoxville, or they either talk about how beautiful our state is or they remind me of the place that I have spent every single Christmas for 35 years. So I decided to share some of favorites because Tennessee needs a Christmas love letter and because sometimes the very best Christmas cheer comes from singing along to a beautiful melody. I hope you enjoy these songs and they bring you all the warmth of the holidays that only a simple song can bring.
Christmas in My Hometown by Karen Reynolds
This song is featured on the album Homegrown for the Holidays Vol. 2, which means that it is an album full of songs all by local artists. There are so many great songs on this album and I have to confess that I never would have known about it if my husband didn’t play keyboard for one of the other songs on it. But this song always makes me so excited for the season in our scruffy town of Knoxville with lyrics like:
“Lighting up the tree down at market square,
a real celebration everybody will be there, it’s Christmas.
Christmas in my hometown.”
If you visit WFIV’s website, Karen Reynolds is currently one of the spotlight artists.
Everything’s Changed at Christmas but You by Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors
“Family holding hands to pray,
Life’s not like this every day.
Every smile is more then it seems.”
Break out the Kleenex with this one – this song broke my heart. As a mom to young babies who see so much magic in every single thing we do at Christmas, this song reminded me how fleeting this time can be with them. I want to have four year olds forever at Christmas! Drew and his wife Ellie are University of Tennessee graduates and their music captures so much of what I love about TN.
Tennessee Christmas by Alabama
Of course you had to know this song would be here. I pick the Alabama version every time because it’s the album I grew up on and this version just sounds like Appalachia to me. There are so many other good songs on this album. Thistle Hair the Christmas Bear is one of my kids’ most favorite songs ever! And it’s so cute to watch them sing it, so I’m including a video of them singing. But a “tender Tennessee Christmas” definitely gives me all the feels.
I Believe in Santa Claus by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers
When I was growing up, it was a tradition in our house that we watch the Once Upon a Christmas special that featured Dolly and Kenny. Dolly has a way of making you happy just by watching her and she has the very best, most contagious laugh. Nowadays I still have Dolly Parton in my life as she sends my kids a book each month and we frequent Dollywood like it’s going out of style. Not to mention how much she gives back to this state of ours through her incredibly giving heart. This song is one of my all time favorites!
“I believe in family, in country and in smiles
I believe in turnin’ negatives to positives in life
I believe in lookin’ farther up the farther down we get
I believe when someone hurts us we should forgive and forget.”
Love in Snow by Steve Everett
One day last December I was driving down the road listening to 106.1 The River. This station boasts that it plays today’s hits along with some local up and coming artists. It’s actually where I have found a couple of songs that I instantly fell in love with and this just happens to be one of them. “It’s never hard to fall in love in snow…”
Family Tree by Dave Barnes
When I was in college Dave Barnes was hands down one of my favorite musicians to listen to. If you haven’t heard his songs “Nothing Fancy” or “Grace’s Amazing Hands,” do yourself a favor and buy those songs now! He’s a Tennessean with so much heart in his music, but if you see him live you’ll also feel like you went to a comedy show. This song struck a chord with me many years ago and I look forward to getting it back out every single year.
“We’re so much more than blood, we’re more than names.
We’re bound by bonds that only God sustains.
But this time of year we all gather here
And I always know I’m home.”
East TN Christmas by Chet Atkins
“Too long without you, too much on my own.
A Tennessee Christmas and I’m going home.”
Chet Atkins is known for his guitar skills more than anything, so there’s a lot of that in this song. Lyrics that show how much we need each other at Christmas in Tennessee will win me over any day.
If Everyday Was Like Christmas by Elvis
I’ve never been to Memphis or seen Graceland, but I here it’s a magical place to visit at Christmas. And I don’t think that my husband has ever been prouder of his children than the day he asked them, “Do you want to listen to The Chipmunks Christmas or Elvis Christmas?” and they responded by shouting, “Elvis!” So we made a gingerbread house and listened to some Elvis.
“A glow fills my heart, I’m at peace with the world as the sound of their singing fills the air.”
He’s The King for a reason and I just love listening to his voice while I sit looking at the lights that surround me – and maybe a glass of wine or two.