Gretchen Wilson continues her baffling descent from the promise of her debut album, Here For the Party. Its follow-up, All Jacked Up, suffered from overconfidence, a cocky attitude of entitlement based on a misreading of the popularity of “Redneck Woman.” There was a universality to that track, which had people from all background embracing the attitude of it, even if they couldn’t relate to the actual lifestyle. Wilson apparently thought that she’d stumbled on a nation of redneck women and she’d been chosen as their leader, so we had to suffer through more confrontational versions like the West-coast dissing “California Girls” and the drunk-driving, teeth-busting “All Jacked Up.”
Rather than regrouping and returning to the balance of her first set, Wilson’s gone sharply in the other direction, sounding unsure of herself and surprisingly meek on most of the cuts on her third album, One of the Boys. She’s trying her damndest to show her soft side on ballads like “Heaven Help Me”, and while she doesn’t sound disconnected from the lyric like she did on “I Don’t Feel Like Loving You Today”, she still sounds as if she thinks we don’t really want to hear her showing her soft side. There’s a defensiveness to songs like the title track and “The Girl I Am”, fairly generic songs in their own right that she could’ve sold with a bit more bite in her vocal.
She still takes a stab at rave-ups, and its on tracks like “There’s a Place in the Whiskey” and “You Don’t Have to Go Home” that she sounds most engaged in what she’s singing about. The latter is especially well-written, and is one of the highlights of the album, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that we’ve heard all this before from Wilson, as if she said all she needed to say two albums ago and she’s just repeating herself now.
There’s a cuteness to “If You Want a Mother”, and the album starts getting very interesting just as its coming to a close. “To Tell You the Truth” shows that there just might be more that Wilson has to bring to the table, but it shows up just as the party’s coming to an end. There are some good moments here and there, but the album as a whole is a disappointment.
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