Folks, I have a confession to make. I’ve been countrypilled.
“Jesse, you sound like a weirdo. What the hell is countrypilled?”
Perhaps I spend a little too much time on Twitter. For the uninitiated, to be “(insert subject here)pilled” is to be a convert to that subject. To be newly awakened to the previously unrealized virtues of that subject.
My best guess is that being “pilled” is an allusion to The Matrix. Morpheus offers Neo a choice…
MORPHEUS:[Takes out two pills, one of which is red, the other of which is blue] “This is your last chance. After this there is no turning back. You take the blue pill, the story ends; you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
(MIND BLOWN EMOJI)
So like I said, I’ve been countrypilled. Specifically, country music pilled. Even more specifically, Prime Country Music Pilled, where Prime Country means the era of 80’s/90’s country music that became a commercial juggernaut and took over America, propelled by superstars like Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Reba McIntyre, The Judds, etc.
Perhaps it’s because I grew up in the early 90s when grunge exploded? Or perhaps it’s because my affinity for rock precluded me from enjoying genres I might have considered “unserious?”
Whatever the reason, the grunge or the snobbery, I had always dismissed country music as inferior to what I personally preferred at the time.
Then I got SiriusXM (extends open hand, palm up, awaiting corporate sponsorship).
The thing nobody tells you about being a music snob is that eventually you burn out on your narrow range of preferences. Pearl Jam is my absolute all time favorite band. But as it turns out, there’s a finite number of times one can listen to “Ten” and still get an acceptable level of joy from it. Now, that number probably varies from person to person. But it exists, I assure you. And about five years ago I reached that number. And not just with Pearl Jam. With the whole rock “thing.” So I made a New Year’s Resolution: GIVE OTHER MUSIC A TRY!
Enter SiriusXM Prime Country (channel 58. Please sponsor this blog, Sirius!). In fact, not only did it enter, it kicked the saloon doors in wearing a bad ass waxed black duster with perfect tassels, brandishing two shiny Smith & Wessons, yelling “Stick ‘em up!,” and where “‘em” was my preconceived notion about country music, which was that it was too corny to be good.
I wasn’t ready for it when I was a kid. My dad liked it. How could it be “cool?”
However, in my early 40’s, when I’ve become bored with everything I used to love? GIVE ME THE MORPHINE DRIP. Just replace morphine with all the 80s and 90s country and the drip with Airpods.
Now I just want to mainline all the Prime Country I can get my ears on. I even did a recent Realtors Karaoke Night dressed in a cowboy hat and a bolo tie, regaling fellow agents with Prime Country megahits like “Chattahoochee,” “Should Have Been A Cowboy,” “Boot Scootin’ Boogie,” etc., all to wild cheers!
But it’s not just the music (which is the absolute tightest shit you can imagine, written by the best craftspeople in the industry, played by the most polished session musicians known to man). It’s the aesthetic. It’s a lifestyle.
Starched white collared shirts buttoned all the way the hell up.
Million dollar smiles.
Have you ever gone LINE DANCING?!? It’s glorious!
So Prime Country found me at the perfect time in my life. A time where I was ready to open my mind. If I could find just a kernel of interesting inside a song, I was gonna roll with it.
And now that it’s December, SiriusXM has gifted me with a dedicated “Country Christmas” channel (Channel 55, give me the money Sirius!). I must have been a good boy this year, huh?
Naturally I did a swan dive right into all the great Prime Country Christmas Classics. This was soon followed by a Wikipedia rabbit hole excursion. I must know who played harmonica on Clint Black’s 1995 masterpiece “Til’ Santa’s Gone (Milk and Cookies).”
I’ll be damned if it wasn’t Clint himself. Dude can straight HONK!
And when you find yourself in that rabbit hole, you notice that every Prime Country star recorded and released a Christmas album.
And that they’re all phenomenal.
And that they all have incredible album covers.
And that nobody has done a right and proper ranking of these Prime Country Christmas Album Covers?!?
UNTIL NOW, BABY! Ahahahahahahahah!
AND NOW, A BREAK TO REMIND YOU ABOUT MY SERVICES!
Are you looking for a new home in Northeast Pennsylvania? CLICK HERE to search for listings. And play around with the filters to make sure you get only the homes that you know you’d want!
So now, without further ado, I give to you this Holiday Season, the definitive
PRIME COUNTRY CHRISTMAS ALBUM COVERS: #RANKED
14. “Mr. Christmas” (1995) – Joe Diffie
Straight out of “graphic design is my passion” Twitter hell, this thing is a beauty! It’s got all the hallmarks of both Prime Country and Christmas:
• Mullet? ✅
• Mustache? ✅
• Starched White Collared Shirt Buttoned All The Way The Hell Up? ✅
• Red scarf and gloves? ✅
• Green graphic accents? ✅
• A top hat and cane, for some reason? ✅
But in the end, it’s really just the name. Joe Diffie. If that ain’t Prime Country at Christmas then I don’t know what is!
13. “Once Upon A Christmas” – Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton (1984)
Well isn’t this shit FUN?!? Talk about Icons! It doesn’t get much bigger than Kenny & Dolly in country music, but when they came together to record a bunch of Christmas classics? *womanslidingoffacouchfainting.gif
And boy does this check a lot of boxes.
• Million Dollar Smile? ✅
• Rosy red cheeks? ✅
• Santa Hat? ✅
• Are they Mr. & Mrs. Claus? ✅
• Kenny & Dolly climbing through a dang wreath? ✅
• A “reindeer” with elk antlers, for some reason? ✅
Absolute quintessential Prime Country Christmas Album Cover from two titans in the biz. Bravo!
12. “The Sweetest Gift” – Trisha Yearwood (1994)
This one just kills with the subtle hints of Christmas. Understated and beautiful, you can smell a crackling fire in a cozy December living room with snow falling outside. Let’s go to the scorecard, shall we?
• Giant early 90s hair (but not as big as mid 80s)? ✅
• Classic tuck-the-whole-hand-akwardly-behind-your-cheek photographer pose? ✅
• Warm ember glow of two soft focus candles in the background? ✅
• Multiple “Christmas Fonts” within the title? ✅
• Aggressive blouse sleeves? ✅
• Quaint pearl earring? ✅
• Lyrics included? ✅
Is it cliche as hell? Sure. But cliches are cliches for a reason: They work! And looking at this Prime Country Christmas Album Cover gives me a definite case of the Christmas Warm & Fuzzies.
11. “An Old Time Christmas” – Randy Travis (1989)
Man… Randy Travis. Dude just drips Prime Country, heyna? He disarms you with his toe-tapping rhythms, and the dulcet tones of his voice can melt butter. You combine that with the Magic of Christmas®️ and you’ve got a combo more powerfully destructive than the melted reactor core at Fukushima! But don’t take my word for it. Let’s go to the judges!
• Half-side profile with extreme shadow contrast? ✅
• Big ass wool collar? ✅
• Informal badassery of a maroon t-shirt underneath? ✅
• I am smiling? ✅
• A little bit of perfect hair falling onto his forehead? ✅
• Breathtaking chin indentation (chindentation™️)? ✅
• Just enough red and green around the edges to remind you it’s a Christmas album? ✅
I’d like to rank this higher, I think it’s a beautiful Prime Country Christmas Album Cover. But he didn’t spell it “Olde.” Probably could have vaulted into the Top 5 if he did. You hear that Randy? It’s not too late!
10. “Merry Christmas Strait To You!” – George Strait (1986)
George freakin’ Strait! I mean, c’mon! Would you look at this man? Women wanted him, men wanted to be him. It’s that simple. I take one look at George Straight and I wanna drive a Chevy pick up. I wanna drink disgusting black campfire coffee. I wanna tan some leather. Bottom line: Kings Stay Kings. And George Strait is a King. Judges?
• Album cover as a wrapped Christmas present? ✅
• Ten gallon hat? ✅
• Red Scarf? ✅
• Million Dollar Smile? ✅
• Damn, is that a lot of green? ✅
• Album title written on the gift tag? ✅
• :::DIGITAL? ✅
I’m probably making a mistake ranking this so low. It’s almost insulting to a legend like George Strait. But I’m kind of a maverick and I don’t really give a shoot, soooo…..?
9. “Come On Christmas” – Dwight Yoakam (1997)
I’m running out of synonyms for legend. But god dammit, that’s just what Dwight Yoakam is. The honky tonk master with the signature yodel-y twang has even broken though to become a pretty good actor (see: 2002 thriller Panic Room, or the brilliant cameo in Wedding Crashers). But that’s not why we’re here! JUDGES?!?
• Can he possibly see with that cowboy hat brim pulled so low? ✅
• Did he just walk into the photoshoot from inside a snow globe? ✅
• Is the title a perverted play on words? ✅
• Offset foreground/background font trick thing? ✅
• Obligatory red and green at least? ✅
• I am smiling? ✅
I love Dwight. I really do. Even before I was countrypilled (stop saying that word. It’s not a word!) I still appreciated his whole thing. And I don’t think it’s a bit. And if it is, he’s the Daniel Day Lewis of country artists, and I. Am. HERE FOR IT!
8. “Let There Be Peace On Earth” – Vince Gill (1993)
Daaaaaaaam! That’s a big album cover! You’re damn right it is! You got a problem with that? Because I sure as shit don’t. And are you entranced by Vince’s hypnotic eyes? Because I sure as shit am! LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT THE STATS!
• Thousand mile gaze off to the side photographer trick? ✅
• Soft focus mullet? ✅
• Sideburns that beg for congressional intervention? ✅
• A Classic Red Chamois Shirt from LL Bean, starched for some reason? ✅
• Christmas-Green font shadow effect thing? ✅
• Possible arson situation burning in the background? ✅
• What’s going on with the italics in the album title? ✅
• Comic book ass looking Star of Bethlehem? ✅
Is this ranking is a bit high for what many might perceive to be a “basic bitch” album cover? Perhaps. But did I mention Vince’s hypnotic blue eyes?
7. “Christmas Time With The Judds” – The Judds (1987)
Yes. Now we’re getting into some upper echelon Prime Country Christmas Album Cover territory! And when it comes to Mother/Daughter musical duos, I defy you to find one better than The Judds! Hitmakers together and as solo artists, few artists climbed the mountains of the Country Music charts in the 80s and 90s like they did. Oh, did I mention MOUNTAINS?!?
• Snow-and-pine-tree covered Rocky Mountain in the background? ✅
• SANTA’S FRICKEN SLEIGH? ✅
• Million Dollar Smiles? ✅
• Cartoonishly-huge fur coats and hats? ✅
• Get me out of this photoshoot it’s god damn freezing? ✅
• How did Santa’s sleigh even get there anyway? ✅
This baby is Top-10 worthy for two simple facts: The Judds, and Santa’s Sleigh. without anything else, it makes the list. Then throw in the Rockies?!? Yeah.
AND NOW, A BREAK TO REMIND YOU ABOUT MY SERVICES!
Real estate sure is in the news a lot lately, isn’t it? I’ll bet the current value of your home would SHOCK you. If you’d like to find out CLICK HERE for a free, no obligation Comparative Market Analysis to find out what your home could sell for today!
6. “Merry Christmas To You” – Reba McEntire (1987)E
Who’s got 👍🏼👍🏼 and thinks that Reba is just a dang national treasure? THIS GUY! Reba graduated to iconoclast status many years ago. She’s in the Sinbad/Oprah/Meatloaf/Seal group of so-famous-I-go-by-one-name now category. Go ahead, name another famous REBA. In fact, as I write this, it’s dawned on me what a peculiar name REBA is. Hold on, let me look into this a little more…
Ok, I’m back. I’ve learned that REBA is, in fact, her birth name. I’ve also learned that the second most famous Reba was the mail lady from Pee Wee’s Playhouse. That gap in fame between those two Rebas can barely fit in the Grand Canyon.
So yes, a legend like Reba would be an obvious candidate to make this list just on star power alone. Then you get one look at the album cover. 😍 😍 😍 Let’s get the tale of the tape!
• Using the perm-fro red hair as a compliment to the pine tree green in the back? ✅
• Classic tuck-one-hand-awkwardly-along-the-coat-collar photographer pose? ✅
• Million dollar smile without even smiling? ✅
• Big ass white fur collar? ✅
• :::DIGITAL? ✅
• Classy pearl earrings (do people wear pearls anymore?)? ✅
Incredible album cover from an incredible woman. And I can’t believe I made it this far without professing my love for her underrated WB sitcom “Reba” (what the hell else would you call it?). Did you know they made 127 episodes of that show? STAR. POWER.
5. “Loving Time of the Year” – Travis Tritt (1992)
We made it, Top 5, baby! 🥳 And what better way to kick us off than with the majesty of Travis Tritt? The alliterative-named Prime Country prince is just a spectacle. I love saying his name. Travis Tritt. Travis Tritt. Travis Tritt. I love looking at his mullet. His music is even half decent. However, there’s always been a bit of goofballishness to his whole persona. Perhaps he’s in on the joke? You can try to tell me he’s a Very Serious Person™️, to which I would counter “LOOK AT HIS DAMN CHRISTMAS ALBUM COVER!” Seriously, look at it!
• This was a soundtrack to some Christmas cartoon, right? No? NO? ✅
• WHO’S THE DOG, THEN? ✅
• Did Travis have a psychedelic era? ✅
• Million dollar smile? ✅
• Twenty Quadrillion Dollar mullet? ✅
• Got damn that’s one happy man, heyna? ✅
• Stately-ass fireplace mantle? ✅
I wish I could explain what exactly is going on here, but alas, I’m at a loss. Just enjoy the whole experience and let’s move on, shall we?
4. “Christmas With You” – Clint Black (1995)
We did it. We made it to the Mount Rushmore. The TOP 4. And first on the list. His first name is Clint. That’s immediately badass. His last name is Black. Also extremely badass. It’s hard to imagine a better avatar for “Prime Country” than Clint Black. He perfectly straddles two eras of country music: the gritty, ten-gallon-hat-and-bolo-tie seriousness of our grandfather’s country music, and the massive commercial success of 90’s country and beyond. And you better believe that when he was asked to make a Christmas album for the record company brass, he went into the studio and crafted the best god damn Christmas album those fat cats had ever heard in their lives! The only question remained: could they create an album cover to match the utter sonic perfection he delivered? YOU BET YOUR SWEET BIPPY THEY COULD!
• Another snow covered pine tree? ✅
• “Oh, hey. I didn’t see you there”? ✅
• Million dollar smile? ✅
• Seriously, did L.L. Bean have a rep working in Nashville for the entire 90s, because what’s with all the freaking Classic Red Chamois Shirt from LL Bean shirts? ✅
• Crispy black cowboy hat that was chiseled out of a single piece of granite? ✅
• Maybe his is actually a TRILLION dollar smile? ✅
• Like, is that not the most disarming smile you’ve ever seen? ✅
• For real, take him to the United Nations, with all of the world’s leaders, where he asks simply for world peace, then bludgeons them all with that smile, and BOOM: peace on earth? ✅
I get. By now in the list you are reeling from the sheer power of these album covers. You’re asking yourself, how can there possibly be three better Prime Country Christmas Album Covers out there. Well buckle up, it’s about to get intense!
3. “Home For Christmas” – Dolly Parton (1990)
Making her second appearance on the list, this time in a solo capacity, the newly minted Rock & Roll HOFer, ladies and gentlemen, Ms. Dolly PARTON! (deafening applause and cheers erupt). Dolly is so big she has an entire amusement park in Pigeon Forge, TN dedicated to her life and career. What have you ever done? HUH? Nothing, that’s what. Because you ain’t Dolly. Nobody is. Period. And don’t try to tell me that it’s harder than ever to stand out among the millions and millions of Tik Tok kids and YouTubers, because that’s bullshit. You can’t be serious if you think that’s why you’re not as big as Dolly Parton. Do you even know what she had to overcome in life just to get a chance to be famous?!? Dammit, you’re starting to piss me off with your nonsense. You’ll never be a fraction as cool or famous as Dolly, so give up! And do you wan’t to know why? BECAUSE LOOK AT THIS ALBUM COVER!
• Legit, don’t you just hear her voice when you look at her smile, and imagine her cracking the reigns on those poor horses and screaming “GIDDYUP!”? ✅
• If Clint’s was a Trillion Dollar Smile, then this one is two trillion, no? ✅
• What’s a more impressive shade of red: the velvet sleigh seat cushions or the rosy rouge on her cheeks? ✅
• Was she inside or outside for this photo? ✅
• Did Santa’s Elves spend the offseason in their workshop creating this font? ✅
• Sleigh Queen? ✅
• Extreme Nickelback voice: “Look at this photograph. Every time I do it makes me laugh. How did our eyes get so red? And WHAT THE HELL IS ON DOLLY’S HEAD?” ✅
• All white gloves/hat(?)/dress/fur combo? ✅
Sheesh! What a whirlwind that was. And I’m sorry for getting so bent out of shape. It’s not in my nature to fly off the handle like that. But in my defense, you were trying to compare yourself to Dolly Parton. That’s simply on you.
2. “Garth Brooks & The magic of Christmas” – Garth Brooks (1999)
Wanna hear a stunning fact about your boy Garth Brooks? He is the most commercially successful American solo artist of all time. Yep. Garth Brooks. Not Chris Gaines, though. That guy suuuuucked. Back to your boy. Garth Brooks is the only artist in the history of RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) to release NINE (9) Diamond albums, which is to say 9 albums that each sold more than 10 million copies. That’s just insane. Listening to the songs, you can understand the appeal, with monster hits that cover a wide range of musical ground, even if they fall primarily within the fences of “country music” at large. Yet, when you see him live, or watch interviews, you can’t help but think that this guy is a huge cornball. That so much of it is manufactured; not his authentic self. Which is fine! I love a good angle, a good bit, as it were. But his “bit” is every bit as big as his commercial success. So do you think for a fricken second that he wouldn’t apply that cornball glaze to his 1999 Christmas album, “Garth Brooks & the magic of Christmas?” OF COURSE HE WOULD! Check it out!
• Orb? ✅
• ORB? ✅
• Why isn’t “magic” capitalized in the title? Seriously, it should be capitalized? ✅
• The hell you lookin’ at, pal? ✅
• You wanna fight? On Christmas? ✅
• Menace, much? ✅
• ORRRRRRBBBBBBB?!? ✅
• 😵💫 😵💫 😵💫? ✅
• Daddy, this album cover scares me!? ✅
• Did he just kill Santa? ✅
Lots to take in here, but mostly just the darkness and dread Garth is attempting to cast upon the Christmas season. Kinda bullshit if you ask me. I mean do I often get overwhelmed around the holidays and internally threaten to quit “doing Christmas” every single year? Yes. Have I written an anti-Christmas anthem, “Christmas (Leave Me the Hell Alone)?” Yes. Ok, I’m starting to come around on Garth’s vibe here. By 1999 he must have been so freaking burned out from the non stop writing, recording, touring, press machine necessary to sell a quarter billion albums that he wanted to ruin Christmas for everyone. Respect, Garth. Mad respect.
1. “Christmas (The Oak Ridge Boys album) – The Oak Ridge Boys (1982)
There you have it. The best Prime Country Christmas Album Cover. Please take a moment (or several) to take it all in. Revel in its splendor. Behold its grandiosity. Relish the moment. Examine the composition. Explore the subversive undertones. Because there are many. I don’t even know where to begin. Perhaps the most logical starting point would be, just who the hell are these guys?
Guy On Far Left – William Lee Golden, Baritone. Mountain Man from the Smokies who lives in an off-grid log cabin and likely saves his urine in bottles.
Guy 2nd From Left – Joe Bonsall, Tenor. Except no. That’s Oates. That’s definitely Oates.
Guy 2nd From Right – Duane Allen, Lead Vocals. This fella has left a long list of divorced aunts in his wake. May have been involved with the design and development of the Mazda Miata.
Guy On Far Right – Richard Sterban, Bass. Wall Street prototype. Likely prosecuted in the Savings & Loan scandal. The other guys have a little cocaine on them, but he has A LOT.
Ok, now that we have introduced the cast of characters, let’s try to decipher exactly what the hell is happening in this album cover, because as Christmas album covers go, this one is a DOOZIE. Judges?!?
• Was this shot on a set for Boogie Nights? ✅
• Christmas tree that looks like a combination of Pizza The Hutt from “Spaceballs” and some freaky Sesame Street reject? ✅
• Should we coordinate our outfits at all? No? ✅
• Guys, you don’t look awkward enough. Mind holding these oddly sized wrapped packages? ✅
• I bet you thought that was a mirror on the wall, didn’t you? ✅
• You’re looking more closely now, aren’t you? ✅
• Wait. Is that actually a photo of this very spot in the room, except without anything in it? ✅
• Did they include that on the cover specifically to warp my mind? ✅
• WHY AM I OBSESSING OVER THAT PICTURE OF THIS SAME ROOM, BUT EMPTY, THAT’S HUNG UP ON THE WALL? ✅
• WHY GOD? WHY DID THEY DO THIS? ARGAHGAHAGHGHG! WHHHHYYYYYY?!? ✅
SNAP OUT OF IT, VIPOND! You’re in too deep! It’s just an innocent, but poorly designed and executed album cover from the early 80’s! There doesn’t have to be a logical explanation! Just enjoy the freakin’ season and pay more attention to your wife and kids!
Whew! I need to wipe the sweat from my brow! What a grueling, arduous journey we’ve been on together. And that’s really what the holidays are all about, right? Being together? Of course it is. And I hope you’ve learned a little about Prime Country along the way. I know I sure did. I think I also realized that my obsession with it has run its course.
What’s next, you ask? Who knows. Perhaps the janky, digital pulse of early post-punk-meets-synth beats (First Wave – SiriusXM 33). Or maybe the solid gold soft rock hits of 70’s AM radio (The Bridge – SiriusXM 17).
(If SiriusXM doesn’t come correct with a proper blog sponsorship offer I’m going to sue them.)
Oooh, maybe that weird electronic club music that only happened for like three years in the 90s! You know that song “I’ve Been Thinking About You” by Londonbeat? Or even better, “Everybody Everybody” by Black Box? You know, the one with the guy who just says “Ow” at regular intervals throughout the whole song? Yes. That’s the stuff. I can’t wait to make this type of music my whole personality for the next couple months. Alright, MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE! 🎅 🎄 🎁