The Johnny Cash Family Christmas
Released in 1972, Johnny Cash’s second holiday LP is an intimate affair that mixes old-time carols and original tunes with reminiscences from family and friends. Rather than offer a string-draped Christmas pageant, Cash opens the album with a folksy (and historically informed) retelling of the Nativity before segueing into “King of Love,” a gently rhythmic celebration of the Savior’s birth. A series of stories and songs follow, with such musical pals as bassist Marshall Grant and producer Larry Butler stopping by to share memories. Mother Maybelle Carter’s bittersweet recollection of country Christmases past is especially evocative. Cash turns over the spotlight to old cohort Carl Perkins for “When You’re Twenty-One” and features Stadler Brothers member Lew DeWitt on “An Old Fashioned Tree.” Johnny and June Carter Cash trade verses on rambunctious renditions of “Jingle Bells” and “Christmas Time’s A-Comin'.” Throughout, a spirit of sharing and togetherness helps give life to these tracks, above the usual run of celebrity holiday projects. A sing-along performance of “Silent Night” closes things on a note of warm reverence.