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Kacey Musgraves Invites You To Spend Christmas On An Island Paradise

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

If you still haven't heard enough of "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" or "Let It Snow" this holiday season, your ears will perk up at this. Grammy award-winning country singer Kacey Musgraves released "A Very Kacey Christmas" this year, and our reviewer, Meredith Ochs, says it's an instant classic.

MEREDITH OCHS, BYLINE: Kacey Musgraves recorded her Christmas album in July. She decorated the studio with twinkly lights and had the musicians help her cut up paper snowflakes to set the mood. But the music they made sways like palm trees in a tropical breeze and plays like Christmas spent on an island paradise.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS")

KACEY MUSGRAVES: (Singing) Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Make the yuletide gay. From now on, our troubles will be miles away. Here we are as in olden days, happy, golden days of yore. Faithful friends who are dear to us gather near to us once more.

OCHS: Kacey Musgraves sifted through her childhood holiday favorites and dressed them up with Western swing and Hawaiian steel guitar. The result is warm enough to melt even the frostiest Christmas music naysayer. These songs are like presents under the tree waiting to be unwrapped and yielding genuine surprises.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MELE KALIKIMAKA")

MUSGRAVES: (Singing) Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say on the bright Hawaiian Christmas Day. That's the island greeting that we send to you from the land where palm trees sway. Here we know that Christmas will be green and bright. The sun will shine by day and all the stars at night. Mele Kalikimaka is Hawaii's way to say merry Christmas to you.

OCHS: In-between these reimagined favorites are four Kacey Musgraves originals that effortlessly blend with the standards. Multitracked vocals, a saxophone and hand claps put a classic girl-group spin on this song called "Ribbons And Bows."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RIBBONS AND BOWS")

MUSGRAVES: (Singing) Don't need ribbons and bows to cure my woes. No, I just need your love. Expensive rings or diamond things - no, I just need your love. No, I don't need much under a tree. Oh, but you can light me up. No ribbons and bows to cure my woes 'cause I just need your love. Oh, I, I, I just need your love. I, I, I just need your love.

OCHS: Kacey Musgraves strikes the perfect tone on her Christmas album. It's a twanged-out, tiki-tinged celebration of the season, nostalgic without being old-fashioned, kitschy without being corny. It's warm, and it's cool. It's red and green, and it's even a little blue. It's an instant classic that will entertain both the reverent and the irreverent holiday reveler.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHRISTMAS MAKES ME CRY")

MUSGRAVES: (Singing) And I know that they say...

SHAPIRO: Meredith Ochs is a talk show host and DJ at Sirius XM Radio. She reviewed "A Very Kacey Christmas" by country singer Kacey Musgraves.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHRISTMAS MAKES ME CRY")

MUSGRAVES: (Singing) I sincerely try, oh, but Christmas - it always makes me cry. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.