Here For The Party -
Gretchen Wilson

by Ray D'Ariano

3/2005

The only reason I tuned into the Grammys was to see Dickey Betts and Lynyrd Skynyrd in a promised tribute to southern rock. The segment didn’t disappoint; it was great to see Dickey with original Skynyrd members Billy Powell and Gary Rossington rocking out on national television – a true historical match up.

It was cool to see ol' Elvin Bishop up there, and it was damn spooky seeing how much Donnie Van Zandt looks like his late brother Ronnie. This super group did great material as well – Freebird, Ramblin' Man, and Sweet Home Alabama too.

I was really enjoying the whole thing and thinking it can't get better than this, and then it did when a sensational looking southern belle wearing jeans and a t-shirt joined the ensemble and not only kept up with them, but took the whole thing to another level.

Turns out it was Gretchen Wilson. I had never seen or heard of her before. When she won the Grammy for best Female Country Performance for her tune Redneck Woman I knew I had some catching up to do. I went out and bought Here For The Party" the next day and I've played it at least once every day since.

This is a real deal, kick-ass country album. How could you not love a CD that starts off with guitar, drums, and fiddle and then the first line . . . "Well, I'm an eight ball shooting double fisted drinking son of a gun."

This isn't from Hank Williams Jr., it's from a woman who announces right from the get go, that "I'm here for the party" – one of the best and defining opening cuts on any album from any time.

Cut two is the Grammy award winner, Redneck Woman and it's another foot stomper. When it kicks off we hear a whole bunch of the girls waitin' for the young singer to tell their story to the world. Wilson said, "I wanted to give a little high-five to the women from small town America. The woman I grew up around are strong and proud of who they are." This has to be the only song in history where both Charlie Daniels and Tanya Tucker are mentioned in the lyric. Hell yeah!

The pace gets slowed down a little on When I Think About Cheatin'. Pour another shot of Jack and play this one on the jukebox as you dance with the person you came in with one more time. A smash for Loretta, Dolly, Tammy, or any of the lady legends if they had put it out anytime in the last 4 decades. A classic with amazing steel guitar from Russ Paul.

Homewrecker –"Look out mama," Gretchen's got your number and "if you get to messin' with my man, you don't stand a chance." Nice guitar work in the middle and a great arrangement overall, but it's her straight forward delivery of her straight forward message that makes the tune. Back off lady or else.

Holdin' You – Acoustic guitar and Gretchen's sweet vocals start it off. You can really appreciate her rich tone on this ballad. She sings with effortless perfection. Excellent lyric, performance and production. This cut really demonstrates this lady's soul. There's a short, but great instrumental break in the last third of the tune . . . real nice . . . smooth. If Ann Wilson of Heart did a country song it would sound something like this.

Chariot –- A little Allman's acoustic blues and Janis kind of raw vocal from Ms. Wilson start things off. Then the pace picks up with piano and a laid-back southbound kind of feel . . . bam, it explodes with the chorus and a gospel background and then – I don't know how this works, but it does - RAP . . . with the gospel back up singers . . . back to a haunting bit about turning your life over to Jesus. Jesus, what am I hearing here? This is some cut, some amazing cut.

What Happened – Softest tune so far . . . voice and acoustic guitar, proving she can do it all. I mean this is Emmy Lou Harris, not the beer drinking wild child from cut one. A good old fashioned love ballad and a beautiful job by all.

When It Rains – We're back to the roadhouse . . . and the band shuffle through this one, as country as it gets. It's another one that could have been recorded by any of the greats of years gone by. Once again the lady pays tribute to her music's history.

The Bed – As modern as Shelby Lynn, as classic as Tammy Wynett, a classic country song. At this point I'm wondering why the entire album didn't win the Grammy.

Pocahontas Proud – When I hear this tune I think about and miss Waylon Jennings. It has that chuck along funkiness that he created in the last ten years of his career. Lyrically, once again the lady puts it all on the line . . . and after all her success, the glitter, the glamour, and the Grammy she knows what's what and what's important.

This is a great album. The songwriting on this CD by Ms. Wilson, John Rich, and others (sorry, real hard to read the miniscule credits under each tune) is killer. The production by Mark Wright and Joe Scanfe is on the money.

Gretchen Wilson is an immense artist. Looks like she's gonna be a big star too.



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