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"What happens if you play a country song backwards?"

"You get your wife back, you get your job back, you get your truck back, you get your dog back..."

This was one of only two country Christmas albums that Ernie offered at his blog late last year (the other was a Buck Owens - Susan Raye Christmas album - and I didn't get that downloaded - how the hell did I miss that one?).

Country music has certainly seen its highs and lows in popularity. The first big wave could arguably have come in the mid-1950s to 1964 with stars like Hank Williams Sr., Patsy Cline, and Jim Reeves; all who died rather early and at the height of their popularity.

The British Invasion pushed country off the scene for a while only to make its first comeback in the late 1960s - a crossover comeback to boot. "Hee-Haw" went on the air, Johnny Cash's career rebounded and he ended up with a TV show, the Bakersfield sound of Merle Haggard was getting crossover play, the country rock sounds of the Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd were beginning to develop, and new young stars like Dolly Parton, Charley Pride, and Mac Davis were becoming the new torchbearers.

It was in this transitional phase that Lynn Anderson began to make a name for herself. Born and raised in California, Anderson had one foot in the door thanks to her songwriter mom Liz Anderson who had penned several Merle Haggard hits.

Lynn began her solo career in 1966 and got noticed by a certain TV bandleader who loved to count... and ah one, and ah two... Welk signed Lynn as her "country" singer and she stayed on the show for a year (1967-1968) before leaving to sign with Columbia Records.

At Columbia, Lynn's sound became less twangy, more polished, more pop, more crossover (the current trend). It payed off in 1970 when she released "(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden", reaching #1 on the US country charts and #3 on the Billboard Top 40. The song also won her a Grammy award for "Best Female Country Vocal Performance." The following year, Lynn had several follow up hits, was named Top Female Artist at the Country Music Awards, and released her Christmas album at holiday time.

The very first song is "Ding-A-Ling The Christmas Bell" which tells the Rudolph-like story of a bell who fell from a tree and began to ring off-key. Santa then gets caught in a snowstorm, hears Ding-A-Ling ring his off-key chime, and Santa is rescued, making the bell a hero. Only a country song could make this story compelling folks!

Lynn has several original Christmas tunes on this album, all quite good actually. "The Spirit Of Christmas" is a tender ballad, "Soon It Will Be Christmas Day" is a wonderful tune, "Mr. Mistletoe" sounds like country and could crossover to pop, "A Whistle And A Whisker Away" may be my favorite on this album, and "Don't Wish Me A Merry Christmas" is the penultimate Christmas country heartbreak song.

Scratch Dolly, Loretta, and the Judds off my Christmas playlist this year. I want this album!

For the rest of the 1970s, Anderson scored country hit after hit but the widespread popularity of country music as a whole declined through the entire decade of the 1980s (the lone big crossover hit during this time was "Elvira" by the Oak Ridge Boys). Lynn's recording career continued on but never reached the heights as it did back when this album was released. She continues to perform concerts across the country.

As for country music, Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire, the Judds, and George Strait brought its popularity back in the early 1990s to stay - and a nice break from the boy bands, gangsta hip-hop, and the Britney wannabes of the world.

On to the next new Christmas CD in my collection...