Gretchen Wilson - All Jacked Up
Album Comparisons: All Jacked Up
In an era dominated by artists turning more and more toward pop conventions over those of classic country (*cough*Taylor Swift*cough*), Gretchen Wilson is a reminder of those things about country music that I like the most: the certain twang, the slide guitars, that certain old country style of playing, singing, and musicianship. This is not to say that I don't ever appreciate more pop oriented styles, but Wilson is a reassurance that there is still a place in the genre for the classic country style rooted in folk musicianship. Funnily enough, my introduction to Gretchen Wilson came not through country but through rock, from an amazing performance of Heart's "Barracuda" which teamed her up with Alice in Chains and with Heart's Nancy Wilson. While I'm admittedly not overly enamored with any of Gretchen Wilson's (or indeed anyone else's) "white trash," drinking anthems, it's the singing and style on the slower numbers in particular that do it for me on the admittedly infrequent occasions when I feel like listening to country music. My copy of All Jacked Up is the "DualDisc" version, featuring the regular album on one side and a DVD program on the other. The DVD side includes the entire album in "enhanced LPCM stereo." How does it compare to the CD side?

All Jacked Up

CD version

All Jacked Up

DVD version

All Jacked Up

California Girls

CD version

California Girl

DVD version

California Girl

Full Time Job

CD version

Full Time Job

DVD version

Full Time Job

Skoal Ring

CD version

Skoal Ring

DVD version

Skoal Ring

He Ain't Even Cold Yet

CD version

He Ain't Even Cold Yet

DVD version

He Ain't Even Cold Yet

One Bud Wiser

CD version

One Bud Wiser

DVD version

One Bud Wiser

Politically Uncorrect

CD version

Politically Uncorrect

DVD version

Politically Uncorrect

I Don't Feel Like Loving You Today

CD version

I Don't Feel Like Loving You Today

DVD version

I Don't Feel Like Loving You Today

Rebel Child

CD version

Rebel Child

DVD version

Rebel Child

Raining on Me

CD version

Raining on Me

DVD version

Raining on Me

Not Bad for a Bartender

CD version

Not Bad for a Bartender

DVD version

Not Bad for a Bartender

Good Morning Heartache

CD version

Good Morning Heartache

DVD version

Good Morning Heartache
And the winner is: Draw. I made this comparison hoping to detect an improvement in the DVD audio version of this record, with its higher bit rate and wider potential dynamic range. Alas, despite the promised "enhanced LPCM stereo" it seems to be the same as what's on the regular CD, with the levels coming in only a miniscule bit quieter (on the order of 0.1 dB). In general, Nashville is not quite as loud as the rest of the popular music industry, and this release's levels are in keeping with that overall trend. It's worth noting that this album came out in 2005, at a point in time when the levels of most popular music releases had already reached ridiculous extremes. While I would prefer that the mixing and mastering on this album had been a little more conservative, by today's pop and rock standards this is downright quiet. As an aside, the final, unlisted track, a cover of "Good Morning Heartache" (originally introduced by Billie Holliday in 1946) is a stunner, a completely unexpected foray into what is perhaps my favorite musical genre to experience live - jazz. Wilson hints here at the diversity of her influences and at her range as a performer, an indication of talent that is all the more exciting given that this track was recorded live in a single take with only one microphone. Should Wilson ever release a full, bona fide jazz album, or perform such anywhere near my hometown of Dallas, Texas, I will be there.

As a side note, this CD is technically HDCD encoded, though not labeled as such. Decoding of the tracks, however, yields no improvement in dynamics.