Sugarland: Gold and Green
Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles once said their music “tells a story that people can relate to on a really human day-to-day level.” Given the warmth of their songs, it only seemed natural that Nettles and guitarist/singer Kristian Bush would release a CD in time for the holidays. “Gold and Green” features five Christmas classics and five originals, each with that signature Sugarland sound as well as Nettles’ ability to stretch a three syllable word into seven.
Sugarland immediately goes for the heart strings on the standout opening track “City of Silver Dreams,” the story of a stranger in the big city at Christmastime. Jennifer Nettles’ voice is both wistful while managing to gently soar simultaneously. “Winter Wonderland” is a holiday barroom honky tonk, with a slick lyric change at the end to “rocking all the way to Sugarland.” Kristian Bush’s vocals on “Holly Jolly Christmas” contain an almost mischievous quality until Nettles sings “Winter Wonderland” underneath Bush’s vocals, combining one holiday classic with another (parents in the front seat take one set of vocals, kids in the back take another!). Sounding a bit more like Etta James, “Coming Home” is Sugarland gospel, giving Jennifer Nettles a chance to showcase herself as a premiere country vocalist. The title track “Gold and Green,” the second standout track, is the album’s gentle Christmas lullaby, sung with child like naivete; a beautiful view of the world at Christmas time. Filled with holiday imagery, as well as quotes from”The First Noel”, this song contains an almost indescribable amount warmth and beauty.
“Maybe Baby (New Year’s Day)” sounds more like a middle of the road, generic highway song than a Christmas one. On this album, being the weakest track is relative as it still manages some level of charm. Vocally “Nuttin’ for Christmas” bears more of a resemblance to “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”. Musically, it’s a fun holiday hoedown better suited for line dancers. “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” “Little Wood Guitar” takes on the sounds of the hit machine Sugarland became, mixing “Baby Girl” and “Want To” into a song about about a girl (Jennifer Nettles, perhaps?) getting a wood guitar for Christmas. Rounding out the album is “Silent Night.” Sung in both English and Spanish, it’s the only other religious track to be found. In true Sugarland fashion, it ends the disc with a beautiful reminder of the true spirit of Christmas.
There’s very little here that doesn’t work. While the holiday classics are performed with either much grace or a grin, it’s on their originals where Sugarland seems truly comfortable. With Nielsen Soundscan records and Grammy awards to their name, the album that could have been a cheap, quick cash grab using the Sugarland name turns out to be everything but. It’s a near perfect country take on the season.
This disc should make a lot of green as there’s a whole lot of gold to be found there.
Editor’s Note: Sugarland has a FREE online “Gift Pack,” which includes audio clips of Gold and Green.