Gretchen Wilson

One of the Boys – 2007 (SonyBMG)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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CDs by Gretchen Wilson

Gretchen Wilson became a superstar with her ballsy chick, white trash persona anthem "Redneck Woman" from the equally anthemic "Here for the Party." She delivered a big, bold voice real comfy with a honky tonker. And while "All Jacked Up," the second release was generally solid, it did nowhere near the sales of the debut. So, Wilson may at a career crossroads already. Fortunately, she tones it down without going for the big, ballsy sound of the first 2 CDS with a lot of emphasis on ballads and pure honky tonkers among the 11 songs.

Wilson sounds particularly vulnerable on "Heaven Help Me" where she asks God for aid because "I can't help myself." In fact, she shines on a number of the ballads, including "Pain Killer" where she pours her voice into the song where less is far more works great. Production by Mark Wright, John Rich of Big & Rich (who lends backing vocals to the soft "Come to Bed") and Wilson is smartly done with no need to go for the jugular musically too often and letting the singing and music mesh.

And instead of going anthemic la "Redneck Woman" and its tough sounding shtick, Wilson tones it down also on the humorous "There Goes the Neighborhood" with the white trash moving into town on the honky tonker. Wilson exposes her (southern) rock side a bit - "There's A Place In The Whiskey" - which sounds fine, albeit a bit predictable.

While Wilson sings on the opening "The Girl I Am" "I never make apologies 'cause I don't give a damn," there's a quieter side coming through. At the potential fork in the road, Wilson responds to the challenge with tenderness and a sense of musical ownership, ingredients for artistic success often missing nowadays.