A beautiful celebration of the season is my Christmas Song of the Day for December 27.
Lady Antebellum is composed of Charles Kelley, Dave Haywood, and Hilary Scott, the latter of whom famously was an American Idol reject. They formed in 2006, and in 2007 they made their recording debut as the featured artist on a Jim Brickman song, “Never Alone,” followed by their self-titled debut album.
Their second album, in 2009, yielded one of the biggest crossover hits in recent memory, “Need You Now,” which got to #1 on the country and adult-contemporary singles charts and #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Just like that, Lady Antebellum had become one of America’s most popular groups. In time for the holiday season of 2010, they recorded a six-song extended-play CD that was available only in Target department stores, A Merry Little Christmas. All six of the songs on that disc made the country charts, and I heard four of them on the local all-Christmas station in 2010.
Two of the standards caught my ear: First, they recorded “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” in 3/4 time, as a waltz, rather than the standard 4/4. They were the first artists I heard to record Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” as a ballad, which gave the song a different spin and new life. But the EP’s real standout was an original, “On This Winter’s Night.”
Co-written by all three members and Tom Douglas, “On This Winter’s Night” reflects on the joy of Christmas, both in the secular trimmings and the sacred significance. Kelley sings lead, with harmonies from Scott and Haywood, and a children’s choir enters during the second chorus. I remember it getting a decent amount of airplay in the 2010 holiday season, but I haven’t heard it very often in the time since.
In 2012, when Lady Antebellum released a full-length Christmas CD, comprising the six songs from the Target album and four new recordings, they named it On This Winter’s Night. The song really deserves to become a standard.