Christmas In My Heart by Gretchen Wilson

Gretchen Wilson has been busier than Santa Claus in 2013, releasing the albums Right on Time and Under the Covers in the first half of the year. And now she drops the holiday collection Christmas in My Heart for the hat trick.

Fortunately, the Redneck Woman has not lost any of the gritty wail that captured our attention nearly a decade ago, and she proudly shows off her chops on “Blue Christmas” and the whimsical “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” She’s equally adept at the restraint needed for standards like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and its slightly tweaked arrangement, or “The Christmas Song.”

Some of the other familiar holiday tunes, like “Nuttin’ for Christmas” and “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” feel like they could have been sung by anyone.

But the original tunes really shine, like the gentle title track, and the swing-influenced “If You See Rudolph,” where Gretchen steps into the role of a deer hunter who can’t bring herself to shoot that red-nosed Christmas buck.

Nice to see that the gun-totin’, rough-and-tumble Gretchen also has a soft side. 

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