In 2004, when Jennifer Nettles co-wrote and sang on Sugarland’s breakout hit, “Baby Girl,” the then-trio was signed to the Nashville offices of Mercury Records. In 2014, the Georgia native released her solo LP, That Girl, on the same label, which shares its name with one of rock’s most iconic vocalists, the late Freddie Mercury. Tying all of those seemingly incongruous things together is Nettles’ fearless – and utterly flawless – cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which Freddie Mercury wrote and sang as lead vocalist of Queen in 1975.
Currently headlining CMT’s Next Women of Country Tour with Brandy Clark, Lindsay Ell and Tara Thompson, Nettles was in Grand Ronde, Oregon, when she performed the sprawling mini-opera which was a Top Ten hit for Queen years before it reached an entirely new audience via the lip-synched version in the 1992 comedy film, Wayne’s World.
Nettles’ version, which is nothing short of miraculous, is all the more so considering it was reportedly the first time she’d ever performed the song in concert. Nettles, her band and the backing vocalists may have limited experience with the tune when it comes to live shows but they’ve obviously studied the intricate details of the original closely. They played almost note-for-note and clocked in at nearly the exact length of the much-beloved hit, which remains one of the top-selling singles in the U.K., having spent 14 weeks at the Number One position there during 1975 and 1991, following Mercury’s death. In 2004, the song joined the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Never missing a beat, Nettles’ epic take on Queen concludes with the singer unleashing a delighted cackle, as she segues right into a snippet of the hard-rocking “Playing With Fire,” the title cut from her sophomore solo album, which is due to be released next month on the Big Machine label. CMT’s Next Women of Country Tour continues Thursday, March 10th in Waukegan, Illinois, and the following night in Milwaukee. See more of Nettles’ upcoming tour dates here.