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Wilson shows her vintage self

Harv Theater, New Cumberland, West Va. , April 27, 2019

Reviewed by Michael Rampa

After Gretchen Wilson decided to take a break for a few years, many wondered if her career would suffer. It did seem an odd time for the Redneck Woman to step away from her meteoric rise. But seeing her live now should assuage any concerns that anything had been lost during her hiatus. She came out looking fit and ready with guns blazing on her standard opener "Here For The Party."

From then on, Wilson led a face melting set featuring a band that was heavy on the rock side of country. The 15 songs packed a stadium sized punch for the duration. She is technically not touring in support of an album on the "Workin' Women" tour. Rather, she is slowly releasing songs from 2017's "Ready To Get Rowdy," this case "Stacy" the tale of a woman who always has to be the center of attention for any man she's with while showcasing Jessie G, the first artist she signed to her label, Redneck Records.

Jessie G was slated to open with a full set. Unfortunately, she was not able to do so due to venue restrictions. Instead, she joined Wilson for a midway mini set. She was able to feature her patriotic single "Army Ranger." The Oregon native and former fishmonger scored on a subtle acoustic duet with Wilson on Heart's "Dreamboat Annie." Later in the set in her absence, Wilson said, "Here's a little Heart for ya'" and kicked "Barracuda" in the tail with vocals that seemed to challenge the structural integrity of the venue.

The band performed a 10-song medley of snippets in a classic rock/metal mashup. Guitarists Justin Butler and Matt Hauer dueled on a Les Paul and a vintage Telecaster which amped up the twang factor on countrified versions on songs ranging from Foreigner to Zeppelin.

Of course, songs from her five-time platinum debut "Here For The Party" seemed to resonate the most, but quite a few of the highlights came from 2010's "I Got your Country Right Here." The title track is a full-on rocker and she seemingly autobiographical "Work Hard, Play Harder" is full of equal energy

The only time she slowed down was for two cuts from "Right On Time," the title track and "Grandma;" a ballad about a 92-year-old woman who becomes 420 friendly in her waning years. Written by fellow Muzik Mafia member John Nicholson, Wilson delivers the song in a breathy mezzo that underscores the levity of the song.

Her energetic performance did not come off as if she had something to prove. It just felt like vintage Wilson. And maybe a bit of a prophecy. If patrons were here for the beer and the ball busting band, they got what they came for. And left with no doubts.