Gretchen Wilson, One of the Boys

Gretchen Wilson
One of the Boys
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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.

More Gretchen Wilson:

Single Review: “One of the Boys”

Carrie Underwood Joins the Five Million Club

Grammy Flashback: Best Country Vocal Performance, Female

2007 Grammy Nominations

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6 Comments

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6 Responses to Gretchen Wilson, One of the Boys

  1. JordanNo Gravatar

    I respect you opinion on Gretchen’s new album, but I think that it can almost compare to her first one. It at the very least is better than All Jacked Up. The best songs here are the rave up ones like You Don’t Have To Go Home and Place In The Whiskey, but I also like some of the ballads like Come To Bed which I think is the most interesting song on here. I you Want A Mother is anothe rhigh light, It’s not the greatest song in the world but it’s a very catchy and very cute song. The only real mistakes on This album is Painkiller and Heaven Help Me I don’t find they suit her vocals. If her radio carreer is to be saved she should release You Don’t Have To Go Home, This could be a big hit for her. I give this ablum a 4 / 5

  2. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar

    I agree that this album doesn’t reach the heights of HERE FOR THE PARTY but that is to be expected since her debut album defined her persona. THis album is one that grows on you with repeated listening. I’d give it 3.5 stars – like Jordan, I regard “Painkiller” as a mistake and feel that she could have sone better by “Heaven Help Me”.

    I do feel that she has almost exhausted this vein of music and will need to diversify her approach in future albums in order to remain interesting

  3. J.T.

    I liked the album myself. Thought it showed a different side of Gretchen.

    And I’ll be honest, never understood the whole “she just does the same thing every time” argument. How many guys can we say the exact same thing about, who have been doing the exact same type of songs year after year, album after album. I do feel its a bit of double standard.

    I think if you are a singer I think your damn lucky to find what works for you pretty early instead of just jumping from one style to the next to the next trying to find what fits.

    Do you really want to her sing some kind of Martina-type song. I don’t think it would sound believable at all. Its just not her. I think she sings the songs that she can relate to or that fit her well.

    I will agree that “Heaven Help Me” sounded better on the DVD that came with her book. It was a stripped down acoustic version with just her, a banjo and guitar. That was the version they should have used.

    Best track is actually the bonus track at Circuit City “Wasting Whiskey”….a knockout song…best she might have ever done. Darn shame it will never get released to radio. This is the type of song Loretta or Tammy would have sung years ago and had a massive hit with.

  4. J.T.,

    First, thanks for all of the intelligent and thoughtful comments! If you ever want to write for the site, you are more than welcome to!

    You make an interesting and very valid point regarding Wilson being criticized for repeating herself. It is definitely true that male artists get away with that all the time. From my point of view, that’s why I tend not to enjoy many male country artists, and why it was the female country artists of the early nineties that hooked me into the format. Every album was different, with its own sound. You can put all of Kathy Mattea’s albums on shuffle, and still tell by the sound of the track which album it came from. Same with Patty Loveless and Pam Tillis.

    That’s the standard I’m comparing Gretchen against (and I do it with the male artists, too.) I absolutely love the most recent Alan Jackson album, and it’s precisely because it’s so different from what he’s done before. I always buy Willie Nelson records as soon as they come out to hear what he’s experimenting with this time around.

    As for Gretchen, I liked her first album but she’s lost my interest over time. I think it’s not just that she’s repeating herself thematically, but that the songs and performances are getting less interesting as she goes along. I thought “When It Rains” from her first disc was incredibly clever, and “Chariot” made me think she was going to push some boundaries with the format. Now she just sounds like she’s in a rut to me.

  5. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar

    You can go broke trying to keep up with Willie’s recorded output and that’s without accounting for all the gueest appearences he makes on albums of people you will never be familiar with. Willie’s CDs run the gamut from dreadful to excellent, so I tend to pick up Willie’s CDs used unless I can give it a listen before purchase

    Obviously tastes vary and Kevin would probably like a few of Willie’s albums that I consider to be garbage, just as I regard Alan Jackson’s lastest album as the weakest of his career as an album, despite a number of excellent songs

  6. PatrickNo Gravatar

    To be honest, Here for the Party is the only Gretchen album you need :\

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