If you listen to any of country band Lady Antebellum’s music, two things are immediately evident: the extended use of catchy, uptempo beats on their songs and the pleasantness of the group member’s voices together. Because of this, I had high expectations for their Christmas album “On This Winter’s Night,” and it’s safe to say that I was left surprised in more ways than one.
The group, composed of Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood, released this album, the follow-up to an EP released in 2012. It features all six songs from the original record, so, only six of the 12 songs on the album were new when released, and even with those, all but one were covers of other artists’ works.
The album opens with the Quinto Sisters’ “A Holly Jolly Christmas,” a fitting introduction. Scott’s higher-pitched voice is an appropriate match for Kelley and Haywood’s lower register voices. At times, though, she can drown them out.
However, this is not as noticeable on “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” originally by Mariah Carey; more prominent is the difference in background music compared to Carey’s original version. Inconsistent with their traditionally upbeat songs, this version has been significantly toned down and is not as energetic as Carey’s version, perhaps due to the absence of instruments such as bells.
Left searching for more upbeat songs, I found them in Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas,” Vaughn Monroe’s “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” and Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas.” It is here where the trio’s adaptability shines. The smooth singing is most similar to their conventional studio records, and they manage to maintain their pleasant harmony while placing an emphasis on their different voices, such as Kelley’s solo in “Blue Christmas.” Also unlike the other songs on the album is the music; it fits better with the group’s country-rock style, yet it still preserves part of the original song’s charm. The use of instruments similar to the ones found in the classic songs, such as the use of horns in “This Christmas,” assist them in this regard.
It is fitting that the song that best represents the album is the only original song on the album, the title song “On This Winter’s Night.” Opening with a tranquil instrumental, the group begins to sing in their usual technique, with Kelley at the forefront. A choir is heard in the background, and before long, the song transitions into a guitar solo, ending when Kelley takes back the reins and leads the song to a close alongside Scott. Throughout these four minutes, both lead singers are prominent, and the instruments used, such as the guitar, allow the group to stay true to its roots.
The album “On This Winter’s Night” is a well-harmonized collection of holiday music, featuring customized covers of honored Christmas songs. And while not the best representation of Lady Antebellum’s music, due in part to the lack of their own songs, it is yet another example of the beauty that can occur when the group sings as one. But next time, more than just a single original song, please. It’s all I want for Christmas.