Gretchen Wilson

Christmas in My Heart

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When Sony Records dropped her in 2009 after she failed to generate another million-seller like 2004's "Redneck Woman," Gretchen Wilson rebounded nicely, starting her own label, Redneck Records, and releasing three new albums in 2013: the bluesy, rocking and jazzy Right on Time; an album of classic rock covers, Under the Covers; and this one, a nicely varied, spirited, and refreshing set of holiday songs. This isn't a seasonal toss-off done to fulfill some major-label contract, and since Wilson owns the label, she's releasing it because she wants to, and the spunky joy she takes in singing these songs is obvious. It's not really a country record, and only the closer, a blues and rock-tinged version of "Blue Christmas," comes close to sounding anything like current country. Wilson works all over the map here, from the seasonally sweet and pretty "Christmas in My Heart" to the sassy "Santa, I've Been Naughty." She turns "If You See Rudolph" into a late-night jazzy shuffle, brings a lilting bounce to "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas," and gives "The Christmas Song" the feel of a late-night jazz piano bar. It's a pleasing mix, all held together by Wilson's joyous vocals. A lot of holiday releases sound like they're thrown together in the middle of the summer (which is really when you have to record them in order for a timely holiday release), warm and appropriate, but not too fervent. Wilson, on the other hand, makes it a fun and energetic affair.

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