If you were putting together a Mount Rushmore of female country-music singers, it's safe to say the list would include Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn and Reba McEntire.
But who would get that fourth spot?
I'd argue pretty vehemently on behalf of Sharon, Kan., native Martina McBride, who comes to the Lowell Memorial Auditorium on Saturday night as part of "The Joy of Christmas" tour.
She's sold more than 14 million albums in the United States, five platinum, with seven of her studio albums and two of her compilations selling more than 500,000 copies each. She's won the Country Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year award four times (tied with McEntire for most wins) and the Academy of Country Music Top Female Vocalist award three times.
Like McEntire, she's had roles on television shows (those with long memories will recall her appearance as Sadie Jennings on Baywatch in the early 90s), sang at big-time sporting events (the National Anthem at the 2003 NBA All-Star Game) and even performed on Katie Couric's final day as Today Show co-anchor.
But when she comes to Lowell on Saturday night, it will be an evening of Christmas music. It's the fifth holiday-themed tour in McBride's career, but her first in six years. "I missed it," McBride told me of going back out on tour around the holidays. "I love to sing Christmas music."
It's a short-run (16-date) tour, but McBride is a tireless road warrior who just wrapped up a string of dates in support of George Strait on his farewell tour, which will resume in 2013 for 20 dates between January and March.
As for what to expect on Saturday night, a peek at her set list from this past weekend shows that you can expect timeless holiday classics like "Let It Snow!," "Silver Bells," "Winter Wonderland." "White Christmas" and "Silent Night." But, as McBride told me, she's also doing some of her biggest hits, so expect to hear "This One's for the Girls" and "Independence Day."
She's broken the show into different parts (Christmas classics, Christmas rock songs, and hymns), which also allows her time for audience banter and the whopping seven costume changes she tells me they've packed into the show.
McBride said that she actually considered putting out another Christmas album this year (her only Christmas album to this point is 1998's White Christmas) but the timing didn't work. Yet, the idea of a tour appealed to her. "It's a lot of fun. It's Christmas. I get to do my regular show a lot and I love it, but this is a show for the whole family. I want to put everybody in the Christmas spirit."
If you've ever seen her in concert (I was fortunate enough to see her several years ago at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell), you know she puts on a high-energy show backed by an impressive 12-piece band.
- Martina McBride brings "The Joy of Christmas" to the Lowell Memorial Auditorium on Saturday, Dec. 15 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $81.50, $71.50 and $61.50 and can be purchased by phone at 978-454-2299, at www.lowellauditorium.com, or at the Auditorium box office.
Ed Hannan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his For the Record blog at blogs.lowellsun.com/fortherecord. You can also follow him on Twitter @SunFTRblog or like our For the Record blog page on Facebook.