Reba McEntire and Tony Bennett celebrate this year’s ‘CMA Country Christmas’
Reba McEntire had such a good time hosting “CMA Country Christmas” last year, she’s back to do it again – with some very famous friends along.
Fellow country-music superstars Martina McBride and Brad Paisley are on the bill – as is the legendary Tony Bennett – as ABC airs the special’s ninth annual edition Monday, Dec. 10. Recorded at Nashville’s Belmont University, the show also features Diana Krall (Bennett’s latest recording partner, on the Gershwin tribute album “Love Is Here to Stay”), Brett Eldredge, Amy Grant, Dan + Shay, Dustin Lynch, Old Dominion, Michael W. Smith, Lindsey Stirling, Brett Young and the Isaacs.
A recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors this month, McEntire says “it was a lot of fun” to return as “CMA Country Christmas” host. “We had wonderful artists come in and help us. I got to sing with the Isaacs, a family gospel group ... and I sing a song in the opening with a group of kids who are dancers. I was watching them more than I was paying attention to what I was doing!”
McEntire adds that she was “so glad” to have McBride on board, calling her “a wonderful talent and a great friend.” And if popular-music icon Bennett seems a surprising choice for “CMA Country Christmas,” McEntire reports that “everybody was totally in awe” of him: “There was a standing ovation immediately when he walked out on stage. It was just a very warm experience for everybody – and when he performed, it was just like, ‘Wow! He still has it.”’
Bennett says that being on the special reminds him of when he “had doubts about doing a country song when (conductor/producer) Mitch Miller brought me ‘Cold Cold Heart’ back in 1951, and I said to Mitch, ‘This is a country song, so I am not sure I am able to sing it.’ But Mitch was persuasive, and we recorded it more in the vein of a pop song, and it became a No. 1 hit ... so of course, I had no qualms at all about singing on ‘CMA Country Christmas.”’
Noting that he performs in Nashville annually, Bennett is happy to be teamed with Krall on their current album, and also in many television appearances this season.
“Diana and I have known each other for more than 20 years now,” he reports. “We met at the Montreal Jazz Festival, and I was so impressed with her that I asked her to join my set and play piano when I sang ‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me.’ We have done a few duet recordings, but it was the right time to get into the studio and record a full album together.”
Tony Bennett performs on “CMA Country Christmas” Monday on ABC.