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Gretchen Wilson blends rock, honky-tonk at rodeo show

Cow Palace, Daly City, Cal., April 12, 2007

Reviewed by Michael Sudhalter

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Gretchen Wilson took a gamble Thursday night at the Grand National Rodeo. The Illinois native played a slew of songs from her upcoming album to a crowd of 3,000 after the rodeo concluded and asked the crowd to "tell us what you think."

Wilson's third album, "One of the Boys," set for release next month, is more of the same blend of rock and country as her first two albums. Her risk paid off as the new tunes sounded received the same positive response as her early hits "Redneck Woman" and "Here for the Party."

The new songs had a rowdy rocking vibe, but Wilson's versatility during the 70-minute show was especially commendable and rare among contemporary country singers. She started the set with a "A Place in the Whiskey," a rockin' drinking song, but followed that up with the traditional-sounding "Politically Uncorrect," the duet with Merle Haggard. She even delivered The Hag's part of the lyrics admirably.

Wilson and her eight-piece band went through the evening with few breaks, but the singer did joke with the crowd, saying "I wrote this song before I'd ever been here" about the tongue-in-cheek "California Girls."

The most impressive part of the evening was the back-to-back pairing of honky-tonk songs, "When It Rains" and "One Bud Wiser." Wilson was able to showcase the talent's of her band with a gospel song "Working on a Building" that had a definite bluegrass feel.

The title track from next month's album is the most noteworthy of the new material. "One of the Boys" could be a sequel to "Redneck Woman" where Wilson sings that she is "more than just one of the boys." She introduced it as her next single, and it combines traditonal country with a healthy dose of humor.

With heavy focus on her own material, Wilson only played one cover song, Heart's "Barricuda." Wilson showed that she has the ability to sing classic rock but also proved that her voice is better suited towards country.

The only negative of the show was a 10-minute introduction to "A Country Girl Can Survive," the Hank Williams Jr. song with boy changed to girl, blared on the speakers. It was unclear whether it was Wilson's voice on recording, but sounded like it. It was anticipated that Wilson would come out and start singing the classic, but she didn't. Instead, she appeared about 10 minutes later.