By JASON REYNOLDS
Followers of the Cross
Have you ever wondered what your favorite country music artists’ favorite Christmas traditions are? Chances are, the answer is in “Country Faith Christmas,” a beautifully illustrated new book that would make a perfect gift for the country music lover in your family.
“Country Faith Christmas” is compiled by Deborah Evans Price. She is a Country Music Association award-winning journalist who has spent 20 years writing for Billboard magazine and often contributes to Country Weekly, Rolling Stone Country and other publications.
The 37 featured artists include such icons as Dolly Parton, Brenda Lee, Alan Jackson and Charlie Daniels, to newer names such as Scotty McCreery of American Idol fame. My personal favorite among the younger artists is Jimmy Wayne. I recently reviewed his memoir, “Walk to Beautiful.” His story of having been a foster child hits home because I recently adopted a foster child. I have spoken with Wayne via email a few times and applaud his work to build a better future for foster children.
Of Price, Wayne said, “She’s one of the sweetest ladies I’ve met in the music business. She truly is the real deal. It was an honor having my story in her book. I was very surprised they gave me that much paper.”
I spoke to Price just two days after the CMA Awards 2015, which she described as one of the best shows ever. Chris Stapleton’s recognition was “cool,” she added.
“Country Faith Christmas” was conceived a couple of years ago. Price had previously completed “Country Faith,” a compilation of favorite Scriptures by country artists. The creators, who included Bob DeMoss, wanted to get country music fans engaged with the Bible with the first book and wanted to keep going with a Christmas version.
“It was so much fun to do because everybody loves Christmas,” Price said.
Price and her publisher, Regnery Faith, had to pull off a fast turnaround because they signed the deal in March 2015 — Price had to finish her portion in June! But it was a process she enjoyed.
“It was fun to talk to people about their holiday traditions, their favorite memories,” Price said.
Those memories include Reba McEntire’s family singing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus on Christmas morning before opening gifts. “What a great way to remind little kids the reason we celebrate.” Or Luke Bryan’s childhood family tradition where his mother made chili dogs for family gatherings.
I asked Price about her childhood traditions. Christmas Eve is her parents’ anniversary, so they thew a dual-purpose party that day. Her father served in the Air Force, so they spent Christmas in a variety of places, including Japan. They opened gifts from one another. They also attended candlelight mass services on Christmas Eve. On Christmas morning, they opened gifts from Santa. Now, her family still believes in Santa, including her 25-year-old son.
The cookbook features every star’s favorite Christmas recipe. Price said she cannot wait to make Amy Grant’s baked garlic cheese grits (as featured in Vince Gill’s section).
I like Wayne’s recipe, for a can of cranberry sauce. The directions read, “Open can. Serve.”
Although she writes about talented singers like Jimmy Wayne and Lee Greenwood, Price said she has no musical talent. “I can’t play any instrument. I can’t sing. I dial it back singing church hymns.”
Her talent, however, is in writing and relating to people. She has interviewed many of Nashville’s leading artists, from Loretta Lynn to Brad Paisley to Carrie Underwood. “It’s a privilege to talk to those talented people about how they make music. That’s the thing I love about my job.”
That job includes work on future projects such as a Christmas CD in the “Country Faith” line featuring carols by Rascal Flatts and other stars. She also is working on a “Country Faith Hymn” selection with a release date around Easter 2016.