By Vernell Hackett
NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) – Already atop the duck hunting industry and cable television, the Robertson family of juggernaut reality series “Duck Dynasty” now has the music charts in their crosshairs.
“Duck the Halls: A Robertson Family Christmas,” which was released this week, features the bearded, down-home-on-the-bayou clan singing traditional Christmas carols and duck-themed songs in the latest addition to their stable of merchandise.
The album, in which the family showcase their work on the squawking duck calls that have made their Duck Commander company leaders in the hunting industry, will also be a test of how the unlikely TV stars can compete head-to-head against Christmas albums by country music’s perennial million-sellers Kelly Clarkson and Trace Adkins.
But Willie Robertson, Duck Commander’s chief executive, is not counting on music being a full-time gig for the “Duck Dynasty” crew, who have also parlayed the A&E Network’s series into a merchandise lines sold at big-box retailers like Walmart and Sears.
“We’re not aspiring to be country music stars,” Robertson said in an interview about the album, which was produced by Nashville hitmaker Buddy Cannon.
“When we first went in the studio with Buddy we didn’t know what was going to happen, but we are very proud of the album,” Robertson said.
“Duck Dynasty” drew 11.8 million viewers for its season four debut in August, a record for a cable nonfiction series according to A&E. The show chronicles the Robertson’s rural Louisiana life of hunting, fishing and domestic squabbles among men and women.
Critics ascribe its success to fact that the Robertsons are seen as a regular family and viewers can compare their quirks and eccentricities to their own family members.
The TV show has also spawned diverse merchandise, from sporting goods and apparel to the unusual antibacterial bandages and camouflage reclining furniture. A&E’s online store has more than 300 “Duck Dynasty” products.
The family also got a little help on the album from country stars such as Luke Bryan, George Strait and Alison Krauss, who lent their voices to some tracks.
The album includes a few novelties from the long-bearded, camouflage-wearing hunting enthusiasts from West Monroe, Louisiana, along with traditionals, including “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
“It is definitely from our perspective of a down-home middle-America Christmas,” Robertson said. “There is some funny stuff and then there is some serious stuff.”
Willie even had a hand in writing a few of the songs, including “Ragin’ Cajun Redneck Christmas” with top Nashville songwriter Dallas Davidson.
Led by Robertson patriarch Phil, his sons and daughters-in-law, grandchildren, wife Miss Kay and brother Si, sing and toot their duck calls on songs like “Duck the Halls” and “Camouflage and Christmas Lights.”
Although a strong starting position on the Billboard 200 album chart next week would cement the national appeal of the family’s personas, do not expect them to be quacking about the album after November 23.
That is the start of duck-hunting season, and the Robertsons will get away from the cameras, leave the manufacturing company behind, and go off into the great outdoors to make sure their duck calls really do work.