Greetings from Asheville, where good music is always found on the turntable. So many Christmas albums have been released, over the years, it is inevitable that some get forgotten about, over time. They fade into obscurity as newer releases take their place on the airwaves and in store shelves. Today’s Classic Album Review looks at one of those forgotten gems, Christmas with Hank Snow.
Christmas music doesn’t often get associated with The Singing Ranger, even though he recorded several Christmas songs over the years. But only once, did he record a whole album of Christmas music.
That happened in May 1966, when during a two-day period, he recorded the twelve tracks that became today’s featured album. With Chet Atkins at the production helm, the session included notable players such as Harold Bradley on guitar, Junior Huskey on bass, and Buddy Harman on drums. The gospel group, The Imperial Quartet provided the backing vocals. One of their members, Henry Slaughter, also played organ on the sessions.
RCA Victor released the album in October 1967.
The opening bands on both sides of the album are remakes of a 1953 Hank Snow single. “Little Stranger (In A Manger)”. I’ve always liked Hank’s interpretation of this one. Now if you’re used to versions by smooth-styled vocalists (like Marty Robbins, for instance), Hank’s vocals might be a bit of a jolt. But Hank Snow was like Ernest Tubb or Willie Nelson. They may not have been great technical vocalists, but their styles of singing more than make up for any lacking’s they have. I’m not an expert in singing or music-making by any stretch, all I can say is, Hank Snow singing this track, works.
And the same for some other traditional tracks found on the album, including “Silent Night”, “White Christmas”, and “Blue Christmas”.
“C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S”, the 1949 Eddy Arnold hit, also gets a nice treatment from Snow. A song perfectly suited for his style.
While I normally don’t care much for depressing Christmas songs, “Christmas Roses” is an exception. To begin with, it’s pure Hank Snow, the kind of song he excelled at, that slower, sad ballad that suited his voice so well.
I’m movin’ on to side two, where the tempo, in general, picks up. That’s thanks in large part, to the first and last bands on the side. Hank Snow could really nail those up-tempo pieces. “The Reindeer Boogie” and “Christmas Cannonball” are proof. I love “The Reindeer Boogie”. It’s quick paced and fun. One I always made sure to play, each Christmas season on the old Ultimate Twang show.
This side also showcases Hank’s treatment of “Frosty the Snowman” and “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer”. Both are lite and spritely, and you can’t help but enjoy.
“Christmas Wants” is a recitation that shows off Hank’s speaking vocals. Had music not worked out, he could have had a career as an announcer. The track is standard fare for this type of track. The wants are the usual, peace, love, all kinds of good for mankind.
If there is any song that misses, here, it might be “God Is My Santa Claus”. When a schoolteacher inquires about why a young boy in her class isn’t writing a letter to Santa like his classmates, he explains that “God is his Santa Claus”. A song that falls dangerously close to syrupy, in fact would be with most singers. But there’s something about Hank Snow that makes this type of song listenable. His knack for these types of songs save it from being a stylus-skipper.
Unfortunately, this is one of those many albums that have been forgotten about, over the years. Out of print for many years, used copies were hard to find. I know. I looked. But in this age of internet and all things digital, this album is getting a level of rediscovery. Amazon offers the album in MP3 form, or streaming for Prime members. The album’s tracks are also found on the Bear Family release, Snow for Christmas. If you’re like me, and you want that vinyl copy to plop down on the turntable, well good news there, as well. I did find some used copies on sites such as Amazon and eBay, ranging between $8 and $25, depending on condition. The Goldmine publication lists near-mint copies in both mono and stereo pressings as having values around $30.
Overall, Christmas With Hank Snow is an album that is worth bringing back, especially for us classic country fans. The whole album is enjoyable; nothing I’d call weak, here. A couple of tracks may not have the impact of the others but are still decent listens. The other tracks may not have classic status, but they are well performed by The Singing Ranger. And anyone who likes Hank Snow’s music, should like this album. Hank Snow is one of the great legends of country music, and he could handle the Christmas tunes, as well.
As always, your thoughts are welcome in the comments, below. I’d love to hear your opinion.
NEED MORE CHRISTMAS? CHECK OUT THESE POSTS!
HOW ABOUT MORE HANK SNOW?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike the Country Musicologist is a lifelong music and radio fanatic, model railroader, lover of vintage agriculture, and big sports fan, including the Colts, Reds, Hurricanes, Pacers, Purdue & Butler Universities. He has collected records since childhood, focusing on classic country and top 40 oldies music. He convinced Vincennes University to give him an Associate’s Degree in broadcasting. He’s worked for several stations in Indiana and North Carolina. Be sure to follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.