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Gretchen Wilson

Here for the Party – 2004 (Sony)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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CDs by Gretchen Wilson

Gretchen Wilson could be a one-hit wonder, given the huge success of her breakout debut single, "Redneck Woman," but that would be to the detriment of a very strong debut from the southern Illinois native.

Wilson, 30, got a big, tough sounding voice, recalling Natalie Maines. She isn't afraid to belt it out on the bluesy, rocking title track or the gospel/blues/funk of "Chariot." The anthemic "Redneck Woman" keeps the pace hopping.

But Wilson isn't afraid of a ballad either. "When I Think About Cheatin'" shows she's a lot different from other female country singers out there today, who wouldn't touch this subject matter. She comes off as tender on "The Bed." What helps Wilson is that she has a slew of very strong songs - she co-wrote 6 of the 10 - on which to show her vocals. And Wilson, who seems to emphasize her rural roots, puts it across like she's lived the songs (the great honky tonker "When It Rains").

Nothing is certain about music these days and Wilson could end up being a one-hit wonder, but don't blame her if that happens. Give Wilson credit for dishing out a ballsy album filled with very high quality music.