Friday, June 21, 2013

Gretchen Wilson

For a female, country music is such a small window of opportunity, then if Tammy Wynette or Loretta Lynn came along in the late 90s and even the 00's they would be here for about a minute and then off into the bargain bins.  The staying power has been limited although Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert have been the two exceptions in a male dominated genre.

But before American Idol cheapened the music and country became the monthly pin up girl, there wasn't much for pure singers. Warner Brothers couldn't figure out how to market a pure country singer like Elizabeth Cook who basically came over from a Atlantic Records fire sale.  Jennifer Hanson made a decent Capitol debut and then fell victim to piss poor A and R direction, her album didn't get released till a good six months after Beautiful Goodbye.  And whatever did happen to Jessica Andrews or Lila McCann?

About ten years ago, a spunky beer drinking, cigarette smoking queen from Pocahontas Illinois took country music by the storm by doing Redneck Woman, a hard charging ode the woman who shops at Wal Mart, goes out mud racing pick up trucks and if you dare her enough, outfart you, although she says she's country she's more of a Southern Rock woman that name checks Hank Jr, Charlie Daniels and Tanya Tucker.  Perhaps the finest discovery by John Rich from Big & Rich fame, Redneck Woman was Gretchen's first single but it also topped the country chart, a first for a woman in many a year.  And Here For The Party sold 3 million copies to boot.  And you would have thought that Gretchen Wilson was here to stay.

Amazingly the shelf life was limited and although All Jacked Up and One Of The Boys sold decent, Sony Music gave up the ghost and probably that she was an older woman continued to hinder Gretchen's development into what could have been a career just like Miranda Lamberts but Sony Music rejected what would be I Got Your Country Right Here and cut their losses with a brief Greatest Hits that covered all the basics.   Gretchen Wilson was more rock and roll than Sony Music would have liked, she's almost note for note perfect on the cover of Barracuda from Heart.  If you don't think she's rock and roll then you haven't heard her Under The Covers collection to which she covers the likes of Bad Company, Hot Blooded and even Led Zeppelin's Over The Hills And Far Away.  Without being limited to Sony Music's antics, Gretchen's albums under her own Redneck imprint, Wilson could double as the second coming as a Pat Benetar or even Bonnie Raitt (vocal wise). 

The Playlist series from Epic/Legacy, gives us three more songs not available on Greatest Hits but includes the rockers (All Jacked Up, Here For The Party), Trailer anthems (California Girls, Redneck Woman) and southern rock (Homewrecker which borrows a riff from Sweet Home Alabama) but her weakness remains the ballads, Come To Bed or When I Think About Cheating although if she doesn't oversing, she can be convincing as well (Most of Sunday Morning Coming Down to which she needlessly goes into vocal overkill on the last chorus  where she tries for American Idol oversing and the subduded I don't Feel Like Loving You Today).  Playlist also gives two lesser known singles a spin, the rocker Don't Do Me No Good and the overblown If I Could Do It All Over Again to which I don't think I've ever heard on the radio.

With I Got Your Country Right Here, Wilson was no longer a country star but rather a Southern Rocker with a bit country on the side but her later albums the country is left further and further behind which explains why Sony Music couldn't deal with her.  A woman who doesn't cut corners and does it her own way and if you like it fine, if not you're left behind.  A no bullshit woman that does it her way.  Her latest album Right On Time does acknowledge the present with a song co written by Kacey Musgraves but also borrows a bit too much from Bekka Bramlett (3 songs).  Wilson's strengths remains songs that Vicky McGehee has her name on and maybe somewhere down the line Gretchen can write a complete album with Vicky in tow.

The Redneck Woman may be gone from country radio with the exception of that song but we all know that Gretchen has always been a Southern rock and roller from the get go.  If you don't agree check out Under The Covers, not a single country song in there.