Patricia Lynn ‘Trisha’ Yearwood was born on September 19, 1964 in Monticello, Georgia. She released her self-titled debut album in 1991. The lead single from it, ‘She’s in Love with the Boy’, peaked at #1 on the Billboard Country Chart later that year. THE SWEETEST GIFT (1994, MCA) was Trisha’s fourth studio album. It was produced by Garth Fundis and peaked at #17 on the U.S. Billboard Top Country Albums Chart. Trisha writes the following in the liner notes: “Christmas is about a lot of things. It’s about families getting together, about seeing old friends, about little children’s smiling faces, and it’s about the birth of our Lord and Savior. This collection of Christmas songs celebrates all of these”.
A very slow and stripped down version of ‘Sweet Little Jesus Boy’ opens the album. It starts with these words of confession: “Sweet little Jesus boy/They made You be born in a manger/Sweet little holy child/We didn’t know who You were/Didn’t know You’d come to save us, Lord/To take our sins away/Our eyes were blind, we could not see/We didn’t know who You were”. Hank Snow, Charlie ‘Peanut’ Faircloth, and Cordia Volkmar wrote ‘Reindeer Boogie’, an upbeat, old school country and western tune with these playful lyrics: “A little piano then started to play/Santa began to swing and sway/Thought he heard a toy drum startin’ to beat/But he found it was the rhythm of the reindeer feet/The reindeer boogied in the middle of the road/Tonight we have a mighty big load/Don’t boogie to the left, now boogie to the right/Do the reindeer boogie this Christmas Eve night”. Aubrey Haynie plays the fiddle.
Ashley Cleveland (who also provides harmony vocals), John Barlow Jarvis, and Wally Wilson wrote ‘Take a Walk Through Bethlehem’. Steve Nathan plays piano on this country ballad that reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas: “Every heart longs for more than tinsel/Something more than just a holiday/Come and celebrate the baby King/Let’s take a walk/You don’t have to travel anywhere/Faith and hope and love will bring you there/Bring you there/Take a walk through Bethlehem/Come and kneel before the Lamb/Good news for every man/Walk through Bethlehem”. ‘Santa Claus is Back in Town’ is a fun blues-rock number: “Well it’s Christmas time pretty baby/The snow is fallin’ on the ground/Yeah, it’s Christmas time pretty baby/The snow is fallin’ on the ground/Well, you be a real good little baby/Santa Claus is back in town/Got no sleigh with reindeer, no sack on my back/You gonna see me comin’ in a big black Cadillac”.
Skip Ewing wrote the beautiful adult contemporary song ‘It Wasn’t his Child’. It reflects on things from Joseph’s perspective: “He was her man, she was his wife/And late one winter night he knelt by her as she gave birth/But it wasn’t his child, it wasn’t his child/Yet still he took him as his own/And as he watched him grow, it brought him joy/He loved that boy/But it wasn’t his child, it wasn’t his child”. Paul Franklin plays steel guitar on a traditional version of ‘Away in a Manger’.
J.B. Coats wrote the title track, ‘The Sweetest Gift’. It dates back to 1942. Here it features harmony vocals by Trisha and her sister Beth Yearwood Bernard. They dedicate this track to their parents. It’s a beautiful story song: “One day a mother went to a prison/To see an erring but precious son/She told the warden how much she loved him/It did not matter what he had done/She did not bring him a parole or pardon, free/She brought no silver, brought no gold/No pomp nor style/Longed to see/It was a halo, bright/Sent down from Heaven’s light/The sweetest gift, a mother’s smile”. ‘There’s a New Kid in Town’ quietly reflects on Christ’s birth: “We’re looking for the King/The new Messiah/We’re following the star shining brighter/Old man won’t you help us if you can?/He shook his head, but he pointed his hand/There’s a new kid in town/And He’s lying in a manger down the road/There’s a new kid in town/But He’s just another baby I suppose/Heaven knows/There’s a new kid in town here in Bethlehem”.
‘Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!’ is romantic: “It doesn’t show signs of stopping and I brought some corn for popping/The lights are turned way down low/Let it snow (3X)/When we finally kiss goodnight/How I’ll hate going out in the storm/But if you’ll really hold me tight/All the way home I’ll be warm”. Last up is the Mel Torme/Robert Wells classic ‘The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)’. Kirk ‘Jelly Roll’ Johnson plays harmonica on this song some will find sentimental and some will find sappy.
By far, the majority of the songs on THE SWEETEST GIFT are on the slow, meditative, and contemplative side of things. Half of the selections are specifically about Jesus’ birth, while the others speak of Santa, snow, reindeer, and human relationships. If you enjoy older country music, and the vocals of Reba and Martina, you will find something to like here. There are also influences of adult contemporary music to be found. Trisha’s vocals are a real treat! I’m rating this album which clocks in at 32 minutes and 42 seconds 83%. For more info visit: www.trishayearwood.com.