My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

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Album Review: Gretchen Wilson – ‘Ready To Get Rowdy’

I had rather soured on Gretchen Wilson in recent years, and I wasn’t inspired by the title of her new album or the uninspired southern rock of the title track when released as a lead single last year. However, I have been quite pleasantly surprised by the full album, all the songs on which were written or co-written by Gretchen. Blake Chancey produced the set.

Her current single ‘Salt Mines’ will get no airplay, as it is musically quite the most traditional country song she has ever recorded. It is a ballad about the hard grind of staying married to a drunken layabout who can do nothing in the house but keep his wife satisfied in the bedroom, while she goes out to work all day to replenish their funds.

Also drawing on tradition is the sassy threat to get ‘A Little Loretta’ with her straying husband:

I’m feelin’ a little Loretta
And I’m on a warpath tonight
I’m tossin’ your things right along with this ring
On the porch of this house full of lies
I’m feelin a little Loretta
And lovin’ you aint’ on my mind
So stay where you are
Don’t come back from that bar
You ain’t gonna like what you find…

I’m feelin’ a little Loretta
And I know just what she would do
To any one of them blondes you’ve been lovin’ upon
Or maybe she’d just do it to you

There is a charming Cajun feel to ‘Big Wood Deck’ and while the lyrics are slight, the arrangement makes the track a delight.

I have often felt that Gretchen is at her best when she is vulnerable, rather than playing up the rough-edges. ‘Mary Kay & Maybelline’ is an excellent song, a stripped down and sensitive story song taking us from a child watching her mother use makeup to hide the tear stains from an unhappy marriage, to the adult woman who discovers her own kind of pain:

You make a choice cause you gotta choose
When it comes down to him or you
I wouldn’t go diggin’ up the truth
Cause a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do

I learned early and I learned hard
What to do when love leaves scars

In more impassioned vein, another protagonist uses a combination of ‘Whiskey And My Bible’ as she reaches rock bottom.

‘Letting Go Of Hanging On’ is pretty good too, a midpaced song calling the bluff of the protagonist’s husband who is threatening to walk out yet again, by declaring:

The ties that bind us ain’t that strong

‘Hard Earned Money’ is a likeable tribute to those who work hard for low pay, and ae grateful to have a job at all, and make the most out of life. The midpaced harmonica-led ‘Summertime Town’ is a catchy rejection of a vacation romance with no commitment.

‘I Ain’t That Desperate Yet’ is a rocker which lacks melody (it is almost on a monotone) but has energy and a strong lyric about not pretending to be someone she’s not in order to find love or to fall back on an ex, because:

I still have my self respect

‘Stacy’ is a strong country rock number (with more harmonica) gleefully criticizing a broken hearted young woman for not moving on:

Twenty-five times he’s hit decline on his cell phone
Quit driving by ’cause you cry every time when he ain’t home
I know you saw a diamond ring
Babies and an SUV
Bless your little broken heart
And how you fall apart

Oh Stacy, why you gotta be so crazy
Honey, don’t you thnk that maybe
You’re the one to blame for running them boys away
Oh Stacy, poor little “someone come and save me”
Ain’t it something sad when girls like you make women like me look bad

There is only one song I hated (I also disliked ‘Rowdy’). ‘Bad Feeling’ is a duet with Kid Rock. Gretchen sings her part well enough, but it is not country, or even southern rock, but a brassy rock ballad which is not to my taste at all.

Overall though, this is possibly the strongest album of Gretchen’s career.

Grade: A-

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