Hosts Carly Pearce and Gabby Barrett welcome Carrie Underwood, Lady A, Brett Eldredge, the Pistol Annies and more to the annual TV special
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Cma Country Christmas
Carly Pearce and Gabby Barrett
| Credit: Hunter Berry for CMA

The CMA Country Christmas is one of the first sure signs that the holidays are here — and it arrives tonight!

By now an annual tradition for millions of TV viewers, the musical special is once again a feast for both the ears and eyes as an all-star cast, dressed in their snazziest holiday finery, deliver holiday standards and new songs that range from merry to majestic.

Nine acts in all — including Carrie Underwood, Lady A, Brett Eldredge and the Pistol Annies — appear in the hour-long show. As first-time hosts, newly crowned CMA female artist of the year Carly Pearce and Gabby Barrett, who just won an American Music Award for favorite female country artist, bring a delightful big sis-little sis chemistry to the festivities.

Cma Country Christmas
Carly Pearce and Gabby Barrett
| Credit: Hunter Berry for CMA
Cma Country Christmas
Carly Pearce and Gabby Barrett
| Credit: Hunter Berry for CMA

Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley, aka the Pistol Annies, kick off the special with "Snow Globe," one of the 10 tracks they co-wrote for their irresistible new seasonal album, Hell of a Holiday. It's among three standout performances that radiate a '60s glow (which by now seems as holiday traditional as the Crosby-Sinatra era). Jimmie Allen, Louis York and the Shindellas re-create a Motown vibe with a jaunty "What Does Christmas Mean," a 2020 release that Allen and York wrote. And Pearce and Barrett duet on a "Sleigh Ride" that's reminiscent of the Ronettes' memorable 1963 version.

Cma Country Christmas
Pistol Annies
| Credit: Hunter Berry for CMA
Cma Country Christmas
Jimmie Allen
| Credit: Hunter Berry for CMA

Pearce and Barrett also each take solo turns on classic Christmas hymns. In a dramatic red strapless gown and opera gloves, Pearce brings grandeur to "O Holy Night." And accompanied by husband Cade Foehner on guitar, Barrett offers a reverent "Silent Night" dressed in an elegant white pantsuit. (White, by the way, seems to be Barrett's go-to fashion statement: It was her shade of choice for performances at the 2020 ACM awards, the CMA Summer Jam in September and the CMA Awards earlier this month.)

Cma Country Christmas
Carly Pearce
| Credit: Hunter Berry for CMA
Cma Country Christmas
Gabby Barrett
| Credit: Hunter Berry for CMA

Underwood, in a stunning black gown that twinkles like a starry Christmas night, soars in contemporary favorite "Mary Did You Know." It's a cut off her 2020 holiday album, My Gift, recently reissued in deluxe form with three additional tracks.

Cma Country Christmas
Carrie Underwood
| Credit: Hunter Berry for CMA

Lady A and Eldredge also spotlight selections off their popular holiday albums. Lady A's Hillary Scott takes lead vocals on the tender "Christmas Through Your Eyes," which Scott and bandmates Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood wrote in tribute to their children; the song is one of four new tracks on the 2020 deluxe edition of On This Winter's Night, first released in 2012.

Cma Country Christmas
Lady A
| Credit: Hunter Berry for CMA

Eldredge draws from his brand-new Mr. Christmas album, the follow-up to 2016's best-selling Glow. In a trademark velvet tuxedo, he brings out his albums' big-band brassiness for a sexy "Merry Christmas, Baby."

Cma Country Christmas
Brett Eldredge
| Credit: Hunter Berry for CMA

Newcomer BRELAND, who's been making waves with his genre-blending, offers a warm R&B reading to "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)." And another up-and-comer, Lainey Wilson — who scored her first No. 1 in September with "Things a Man Oughta Know" — shows she knows her way around Texas swing music on "Christmas Cookies." She shares the spotlight with three-time CMA musician of the year Jenee Fleenor, who lends her fiddle sparkle to the holiday gem that George Strait first recorded in 1999.

Cma Country Christmas
BRELAND
| Credit: Hunter Berry for CMA
Cma Country Christmas
Lainey Wilson
| Credit: Hunter Berry for CMA

For the second year in a row, the pandemic has kept the Christmas special on a sound stage and away from a live audience, but the show's lavish production still lends it a magical feel. Now in its 12th year, CMA Country Christmas airs on ABC at 8 p.m. EST / 7 p.m. CST Monday.