If the Vacation movie series’ “Cousin Eddie” (Randy Quaid) has a favorite holiday song, it’s probably Robert Earl Keen’s “Merry Christmas From the Family.” The tongue-in-cheek tune, from the Texas country icon’s 1994 Gringo Honeymoon album, sets the drunken scene for a dysfunctional brood’s holiday gathering, complete with bean dip, Marlboro Lights, fake snow and a whole lot of eggnog. Its cast of characters includes a new boyfriend from Mexico, an uncle’s third wife who’s apparently fresh out of AA, and — reminiscent of the beloved Cousin Eddie — a couple who plug in their motorhome and subsequently blow out the Christmas lights.
“I truly wrote it to amuse myself,” Keen tells Tulsa World. “I grew up in Houston [where] you saw snow in your refrigerator — that’s about it. I was frustrated, so I wrote this song in this weird, sort of druggie-like fashion, really slow. I felt like it really reflected, in every way — the music, the lyrics, the whole thing — my Christmas.”
Chances are, Angaleena Presley can relate. The singer wrote her debut album, American Middle Class, largely based on her upbringing in tiny Beauty, Kentucky, as the daughter of a coal miner. She recently filmed a session at Nashville’s famed Blackbird Studios for Country Now, and when asked to pick a favorite Christmas song to cover, she chose to channel Keen.
“It’s very real,” Presley says of “Merry Christmas From the Family,” “and it paints a very vivid picture of a gritty country Christmas.”
Check out other holiday performances on Country Now, including sessions by Sara Evans, Charlie Worsham and Tracy Lawrence here.