The first of three new albums from Gretchen Wilson scheduled for 2013, Right On Time stretches out stylistically as the Redneck Woman incorporates a few new sounds into her repertoire of gritty Southern rock and traditional country. With a strong mix of jazz and blues balancing out her trademark arena-ready Honky Tonk, Gretchen shows off impressive range on her most diverse album yet.
Right On Time, in stores now, is Gretchen’s second independent release on her own Redneck Records and first featuring herself solo behind the dials as producer. Though she’s only credited with one co-write on the project (The Eagles-esque road song and current single, “Still Rollin’”), it’s most certainly her vision that drives it. The country blues, Hank Jr.-inspired, “Get Outta My Yard” (co-written by Kacey Musgraves) is classic Gretchen with heavy distortion and an aggressive vocal. She might be playing the other woman here, but she’s also adept at playing to listeners’ emotions by turning the tables on the cheater. “Dust & Bone,” a swampy, muddy water rocker, wades through thick backwoods blues to get to the roulette tables and dice with an electric message of carpe diem. And though the vocal mix runs a little low through the chorus as guitars roar, the message and feeling come through just fine.
Whether in her iconic hit, “Redneck Woman,” or follow-ups like “California Girls,” Gretchen has a history of strong female characters and a sense that girls can do anything the guys can. Right On Time is no different. The Americana leaning, “Grandma,” full of loose harmonies and Texas tumbleweed rhythms, spins a humorous tale of Grandma livin’ it up at the end of her life. The ZZ Top-influenced, “The Well Run Dry,” sings of female bootleggin’ while the bluesy waltz, “The Gypsy In Me,” subtly recalling The Eagles’ “Take It To The Limit,” showcases one of the album’s most inspired vocal performances with a story of building yourself back up. And when Gretchen’s rolling on ridiculously big 66-inch tires through the foot-stomping, “My Truck,” the simple hook, My truck’s bigger than your truck, is aimed at all the guys.
Where Gretchen really shines, however, is on the project’s blues and jazz-inspired material where her voice has a chance to carry the music without the need for buzzing guitars. The smoky title-track, built from acoustic guitars and piano, beautifully shows off her delicate agility and ability to pack rich emotion into every line. I count myself among the fortunate ones who made it to the other side, she sings with a sweet mixture of tension and relief. The ¾-time, “One Good Friend,” dives deep into electric R&B and the Motown-bound, “I’ve Been In Love,” gets a little funky with fun-loving melodies. Dropping into straight, 12-bar blues, “Hey Love,” comes across with control and fire through an impassioned performance.
The range of influence on Right On Time creates an engaging record where Gretchen reaches new depths. Songs as diverse as the standout track, “Crazy,” which blends her love for power chords with a silky smooth chorus, and the countrypolitan-baked, “Birds of a Feather,” combine to make Right On Time an adventurous and immensely-creative project start to finish. Kicking off a year in which she’ll almost double her studio album catalog, Gretchen makes a fine opening statement that’ll leave fans wanting to hear what’s next.
Key Tracks – “Crazy,” “Right On Time,” “Hey Love,” “Get Outta My Yard”