The first 20 seconds of @Zach Williams' very first Christmas record, I Don’t Want Christmas To End, are deceiving. The familiar piano waltz of “Christmas Time Is Here” makes it seem like Williams is about to go all Vince Guaraldi Trio on his fans. Then, the guitars kick in. By the end of the four-minute-plus Charlie Brown classic, the two-time GRAMMY® winner has delivered a full-on jam session. And the electric heat doesn’t stop until the album’s final note.
Williams’ surprising take on Christmas is reflective of the room it was captured in. The “Chain Breaker” singer and his band recorded in the round at the iconic FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where artists like Aretha Franklin, Little Richard and Otis Redding, among others, have cut records.
WATCH NOW: "The Making of I Don’t Want Christmas To End"
With a distinct ’60s vibe, I Don’t Want Christmas To End features jangly pianos, layered guitars and twangy harmonica, often accented by a bluesy B3 organ and jazzy horns. At times, Williams is backed by singers that feel like they’re from another era. While each of the 10 tracks carries a retro sensibility seamlessly woven through the entire album, very few of the classic selections remain true to their original arrangements. With the help of producer Jonathan Smith, the three-time K-LOVE Fan Award winner puts an unexpected spin on every single song making Williams’ inaugural Christmas effort one of the most original offerings in recent memory.
“We knew we wanted it to have a rock ’n’ roll edge, a southern rock feel. That’s when we got the idea to go down to Muscle Shoals,” explains Williams of the recording process. “We got down there, and all the original gear is still there from the ’60s—the original rooms, the original console. Recording there really made the songs come alive even more than I thought it was going to.”
Taking inspiration from everyone from Ray Charles and Wilson Pickett to Elvis and Van Morrison, the hitmaker’s creative stamp makes standards like “Mary Did You Know?” and “Silent Night” almost unrecognizable if not for the know-it-by-heart lyrics. Across the board, vintage charm permeates his soulful renditions, even the most upbeat numbers.
Elsewhere, Williams’ gritty vocal feels tailor-made for his nostalgic take on “The Spirit of Christmas” and automatic rock ’n’ rollers “Merry Christmas Baby” and “Run Run Rudolph.” The title-cut—the album’s only original—closes the collection with a thoughtful sentiment Williams co-wrote with country songwriting titan Dallas Davidson. The final track finds the singer pining to make the wonder and warmth of the season last a little longer.
WATCH NOW: “I Don’t Want Christmas To End” (Official Lyric Video)
For his debut holiday project, Williams has managed to create a record that sounds both completely different and completely on brand for the soulful singer who is often known for his country stylings as much as his pop hits.
To celebrate the season, Williams is bringing I Don’t Want Christmas To End to 11 cities this December alongside special guest @Anne Wilson.
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