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Gretchen Wilson

Under the Covers – 2013 (Redneck)

Reviewed by Henry L. Carrigan Jr.

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CDs by Gretchen Wilson

This has been a busy year for country's original "redneck girl": Gretchen Wilson released an album of original songs, "Right on Time," in April, led by the single Still Rollin', and her first Christmas album, "Christmas in My Heart," hit the shelves in October. In between, she climbed "Under the Covers" with Rod Stewart and the Faces, Jackson Browne, Led Zeppelin and Derek and the Dominoes, among others, for a night on the town singing classic rock songs.

Wilson's full-throated, sultry voice hasn't lost its power, and if she decided to take up a career as a classic rock songstress, she'd have some bands ready to sign her up. At the same time, though, her range is limited, so some of her versions of the songs she covers here work much better than others.

Wilson's backing band, especially Tony Obrohta and Ryan Wariner on guitars, nails almost note-for-note the original music, and Wilson delivers mostly faithful versions of the songs. The album kicks off with a righteously raucous version of The Faces' Stay With Me, and Wilson's stayed-up-too-long, whiskey and cigarettes voices scratches out the feistiness of the original. It's the best song on the album, and she does Rod Stewart proud. She misses, though, on her version of Derek and Dominoes' classic Bell Bottom Blues; it's not a simpering torch song, as Wilson sings it, but mournful blues song that radiates with a spiritual yearning for an object just out of reach. Wilson is better with Van Morrison's Into the Mystic, and she captures much of that song's poignancy, but she lacks Morrison's growl and somber anger.

You won't put a quarter in jukebox to hear Wilson's versions of these songs rather than the originals, but she treats the songs reverently, acknowledging their clear impact on her life and work, so climbing under the covers with Wilson will certainly make you want to get between the sleeves with the originals.