Eternal Country Music queen Reba McEntire returned to host the 2018 festivities of “CMA Country Christmas” on December 10 on ABC. From the start, the mood was fanciful and full of Christmas joys. Last year, McEntire made a concerted effort to keep the country in the holiday season special, but for this, the ninth season running for the spirited special, she and the show producers set up a feast of 14 artists. There were varied genres, two hours, and nearly a dozen songs to keep any heart singing.

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The iconic singer looked sumptuous in her sequined red down for the opening number of “Man with a Bag” and the sentiment couldn't get any sweeter than to be backed by real children decked out as elves on a gift assembly line. Once more, Reba proved she can sing anything, and she would have several more chances to display her incredible range.

A grand seasonal showing

Legendary singer and acclaimed painter, Tony Bennett, got a bigger build up than Santa Claus, who “doesn't have 19 Grammys,” as the host pointed out.

Tony Bennett teamed up with stellar jazz pianist-singer, Diana Krall, for the classic, “Our Love Is Here to Stay,” followed by “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” For anyone who saw the painful product of not enough rehearsal for the pair at the “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” event earlier this month, this was pure redemption. These super talents probably have perfect kismet for a song in the studio, but they just miss the chemistry in performance. Krall is perfectly at ease and completely in her element when she returns for her boogie-woogie solo of “Jingle Bells” and Bennett is lovely with “My Favorite Things.” The audience came to their feet in a roar for the ageless 92-year-old singer.

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Brent Eldredge brought extra helpings of his cool Sinatra vibe for his “Winter Wonderland” and equally effortless “Holly Jolly Christmas” that got every age smiling in the audience, leaving them swaying. Eldredge has mastered his Christmas style on the road with his holiday shows, and his new album, “Glow” lets him spread his wings wide across vocal styles.

Martina McBride has her own new Christmas album, “It's the Holiday Season,” and she performed “It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” and “Happy Holidays.” Reba chatted with Eldredge and McBride about holiday food favorites and discovered that their favorite foods were not her forte, but she gladly offered to be their dinner guest.

Simple and straight to the soul

Viewers and him scores of females in the audience at Belmont University, where the special was filmed in the fall, swooned over the notes of Shay Mooney of Dan + Shay on “I'll Be Home for Christmas,” and Old Dominion did fine on their slowed-down “Little St. Nick.” The deepest spiritual moments came with hardly a flourish, from many voices to none at all. The 2018 CMA nominees have also been revealed.

Fans who remember Brad Paisley's Christmas album from a few years back will remember a tender version of “Away in a Manger” combined with Paisley's own heartfelt composition to the Christ child, composed at age 13.

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The string master-singer didn't do a medley this time, but instead, let the purity of his acoustic strings on the classic speak all the words needed from his heart in every line.

Brett Young delivered an exquisite, soulful rendition of Mark Lowry’s “Mary, Did You Know?” and violinist Lindsey Stirling gave stirring spirituality in her interpretive dance and strings to “Carol of the Bells” and “Angels We Have Heard on High.”

Christian music's most beloved singer-songwriters, Michael W Smith and Amy Grant, brought their own and 22 more voices to Smith's operatic turn, “Gloria,” leaving anyone watching enraptured by the sweep of divine touch.

The most spiritual and uniquely moving song of the night was Reba McEntire, joining with The Isaacs for “What Child Is This?” The bluegrass masters with harmonies so rich they could never be taught surrounded Reba, pouring meaning into every part. Reba wowed with what she can do with a note on “White Christmas” and there was a razzle-dazzle showstopper with everyone on stage to close the show. These voices and three minutes of the sacred song conveyed the meaning of the season.