Toby Keith: A Classic Christmas

Cut By Cut

Toby Keith's 2007 CD, A Classic Christmas. Photo courtesy of Show Dog Nashville.

"Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas"

One of the classics of all time. This is one of the first songs we recorded for the album. We wanted to keep it as true to form as possible and listened to several versions before settling on a direction, picking a key and cutting the thing. It's been so good for so many years; I wanted to just add my voice to it and keep it as close to the original as possible.

"Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow"

This is one of my favorite Christmas songs and I wanted to make it bounce as much as I could. So we put a little more of that into it than you heard on the original. You'll hear my fingerprints all over this thing vocally because I really added my touch to it. This is the first song I picked to be on the seasonal album.

"Winter Wonderland"

My grandmother loved this song – it was one of her favorites. She got a copy of this at Christmas last year because I had an advance for her, but unfortunately she's since passed away. I can remember her playing this at her house.

"Silver Bells"

Another one of the classics. I grew up hearing Elvis and Frank Sinatra sing it, but we wanted to make it as traditional as possible. We tried to take it back to the sound you'd have heard in the fifties or sixties.

"I'll Be Home For Christmas"

Now this is a song I've heard at least 200 versions of; one of the most-recorded Christmas songs of all time. It needed to be treated like the standard it is, so I just tried to put my vocal on a track that's true to people's expectations.

"Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree"

I never hear anybody singing this but Brenda Lee. Being the uptempo and attitude thing we are, we really rocked this thing out and tried to blow it out, my-style.

"The Christmas Song"

We listened to the Mel Torme version. It's actually really tough to sing. It has some really unique changes in it and you hear it so many times you just take it for granted. This is no sing-a-long Christmas song. It was a lot to bite off and took me several times to get the vocal exactly the way I wanted it. You think you know it, but when it's in front of you it's a little tougher than you expect.

"White Christmas"

The Bing Crosby version is the most-played Christmas song ever. Again, we didn't try to stretch too far. We made a few changes to make it our own, but we stayed pretty much to the basics and give it a pure vocal.

"Frosty The Snowman"

That's for my kids. I was raised watching Frosty on television every year; my kids watched it every year. So I did this for them and all the kids who might be listening to this album. You sit around listening to grown up Christmas music all the time, so you ought to put something on there to break it up.

"Please Come Home For Christmas"

One of my favorite Christmas songs, but not really a classic. The most popular version is by The Eagles and I'm a big fan. It's got the bluesy feel and a little more attitude. I had to have one on here that was closer to what I do than just all classics.

"Little Drummer Boy"

This is my favorite song on this entire project. We got in the studio and listened to 15 demos, talked through it and figured out a direction – everybody had an idea, the instrumentation fell into place and we just caught that magic. Instrumentally and vocally it's my favorite because everybody had their own ideas and it was a perfect blend.

"Go Tell It On The Mountain"

Very uptempo, so when people are looking to play something on the radio at Christmas time they always grab this one. It's got a mountain music quality to it, almost a bluegrass feel. It's that one where you just scream it out and praise the Lord.

"The First Noel"

This talks about the real reason we celebrate Christmas, which is the birth of Christ. I sang this song a million times in church; very spiritual.

"O Come All Ye Faithful"

To me, it's like it was written out of the old King James Bible. I don't know when it was written, but the words sound like they're right out of the New Testament.

"Silent Night"

I sing it every Christmas at church. This might be the most performed song at churches on Christmas Eve. Everybody knows it word for word, very simple and it's the sing-a-long Christmas song.

"Away In A Manger"

This is another one we sang in church on Christmas Eve. If there are two I get up with a guitar and sing at church, it's this and "Silent Night." It's a traditional approach and we laid a contemporary vocal on it.

"We Three Kings"

We had a lot of fun with this in studio because it's so different from everything else you hear. It's almost like a nursery rhyme. It was fun putting it together because the session guys never come across these kinds of songs doing a regular album. It was really a step out to do this.

"O Little Town of Bethlehem"

We tried to treat it with the same form as the others. The vocal was fun to do because it was a very powerful, operatic kind of things. The words have that Biblical feel, and you can almost go opera voice on it.

"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"

There are three or four on here where I can open my throat up and really let that baritone out clear and loud. I got to go old school on it. It's not a real country voice.

"Joy To The World"

The reason I put this at the end is it's got a rambunctious vocal. You sing hard and show off a different style. There were some unique chord changes the session guys and myself aren't used to doing, so it was an interesting experience.