In 2004, Gretchen Wilson burst onto the scene with a game-changing, industry-shaking single, "Here For The Party," which was one of the best bad-girl country songs since "Fist City." Wilson defied the prevailing trend in Nashville of female singers specializing in sappy, bombastic pop ballads, and made it clear there were still some hillbilly gals who could drink Toby Keith under the table. She topped the charts and became one of the biggest stars of the decade, and in her wake a wave of new female singers broke through, many of them also adopting tough-talking attitudes. Wilson wasn't just a gimmicky singer -- her albums also had some of the best real-deal, hard-country honkytonk music anyone'd heard in years. Here's a quick look at her work...
Gretchen Wilson "Greatest Hits" (Sony-Epic, 2010)
Gretchen Wilson "Snapshot" (Redneck Records, 2014)
Gretchen Wilson "Here For The Party" (Epic Nashville, 2004)
A huge surprise hit, Here For The Party may be one of the biggest artistic shots in the arm that commercial country has gotten in the last five years or so. Sidestepping the bland, overproduced soul-pop diva schtick of Shania Twain and Martina McBride, Ohio-based Gretchen Wilson bursts forth with a raunchy, raucous, guitar-heavy novelty song, "Here For The Party," with riffs worthy of Southern rock revivalists like Montgomery Gentry and Travis Tritt, a tune which lets us all know she can hold her own with the boys, and probably even drink half of 'em under the table. The album's second song, "Redneck Women," is an irresistible hit which shot to the top of the charts -- funny, good-natured, and catchy as all hell -- the perfect antidote to the drippy Celine Dion-isms that Nashville women have been miring themselves in for years. The whole album isn't as perfect as these two two tunes, but it's pretty damn good. She sings some ballads, and it's here that her vocal shortcomings come to the fore -- tonally, she's sort of a mix of Natalie Maines and Tanya Tucker, though she starts to frazzle a bit on the high end. But hey, with George Jones-y weepers like "When I Think About Cheatin' " and "The Bed" to back her up, and with the fact that she wrote or co-wrote most of this material, Wilson proves herself to be the real deal. The more we can hear country gals singing real country, the better off we'll all be. Highly recommended!
Gretchen Wilson "All Jacked Up" (Sony-Epic, 2005)
Gretchen Wilson "All Jacked Up" (Dualdisc) (Sony-Epic, 2005)
(Produced by John Rich, Gretchen Wilson & Mark Wright)
Well, the title track is disappointing, but the rest of the album kicks ass. What's wrong with "All Jacked Up," you ask? Well, the song's just too damn obvious, and the video really sucks, although Wilson's willingness to cast her allegiance with raspy old-timers like Hank, Jr. and Merle is quite admirable. Once she gets into the real nitty gritty, though, this gal shreds the competition. Really, hands down, this is pretty much the best "real" country album to come out of Nashville this year -- Wilson can belt out novelty songs like nobody's business, but when she sings a ballad, dancing around the sweetest pedal steel licks I've heard in years. Folks who like good, dumb novelty songs and heartwrenching, twang-filled weepers will find plenty to cheer about here. Plus, she's got a great, great voice. Wilson sings with more conviction and genuine feeling than just about anyone else in the Top 40 these days. Her redneck posturing may be kind of a marketing schtick, but frankly she does it way better than Toby Keith -- or, for that matter, Moe Bandy -- and I say more power to her. Wilson's gonna be around for years, and I plan to be there, too, cranking her records up loud and singing along. Definitely recommended! (Note: the dual disc option includes the "All Jacked Up" video, which is pretty lame, along with a few other extras, but nothing super-amazing. Some folks seem to have a hard time playing it in their computers, so unless you're sure it's compatible with your system, you might wanna stick with the regular CD version.)
Gretchen Wilson "One Of The Boys" (Sony-Epic, 2007)
Gretchen Wilson "I Got Your Country Right Here" (Redneck Records, 2010)
Gretchen Wilson "Under The Covers" (Redneck Records, 2013)
Hick Music Index