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Underrated, but another fine Gretchen Wilson album
on July 23, 2007
A little background before I ever review ONE OF THE BOYS for itself. Bear with me.
Honestly, this isn't the way it should've gone down for Gretchen Wilson. When HERE FOR THE PARTY bowed in 2004, it was the most (or atleast one of the most)anticipated country album(s) of the year. It slid in behind the unstoppable Usher who'd had the no. 1 spot locked for several weeks and sold 228,000, not bad for a debut artist. It spawned the massive crossover hit "Redneck Woman", which peaked in the top 30 of the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, a very esteemed achievement for a country single. It propelled her debut album to multi-platinum status - approximately 4 million sold in just the U.S. alone. With the processes of propelling a debut artist to success with here debut album, all looked like it was set it stone that Gretchen Wilson was country's next big superstar in the league of Faith Hill or Shania Twain. Then 2005's ALL JACKED UP arrived to debut at no. 1 with 264,000, more than here debut. However, the "Redneck Woman" styled single "All Jacked Up" failed to rack up reviews even close to that of the single that made Gretchen Wilson, well Gretchen Wilson. Sure, the album didn't go unnoticed in the sense that it didn't sell, but how does 1.1 million compare to 4 million. Making a promising career's problems worse, ONE OF THE BOYS just maybe the sinker. With a tepid no. 5 debut and a devastatingly low 73,000 copies sold, first week sales and follow-up week sales of this fine country album by Wilson have been disappointing.
Sure, ONE OF THE BOYS is a credible, strong effort. But ONE OF THE BOYS lacks two things that made even the underrated ALL JACKED UP a moderate success. One, it lacks "Redneck Woman" which will probably never be replicated by Wilson, ever and two, it lacks anything that remotely sounds close to "Redneck Woman". Even ALL JACKED UP had "All Jacked Up", despite how unnoticed it ultimately went. It's that 'bad-girl' appeal that Wilson had on HERE FOR THE PARTY that disipated with her forthcoming albums that lost some of Wilson's fans. That coupled with the growing devastation of album sales has practically sunk ONE OF THE BOYS. Enough chit-chat about commercial success, let me discuss the album itself.
The album opens with "Girl I Am", which is solid G.W., though not as energized or as exhilarating as the openings of previous G.W. albums ("Here for the Party" and "All Jacked Up"). Vocally, Wilson is great and there is still an air of catchiness as Wilson sings lines like "I don't ever make apologies/ because I don't give a damn..." which leaves hope to the fans that left Wilson that the 'redneck woman' is still in her. "Come To Bed" features John Rich from none other than crazy country duo Big & Rich and the blend is magnificent between him and G.W. The songwriting is top-rate and the hook is more accesible for singing along here than it was on "Girl I Am". Sure, it isn't the second coming, but what is these days? "One of the Boys" serves to buck the trend with title-tracks and despite its conservative tempo, the songwriting is ever vigorous with its comical overtones and Wilson as always is at her best, 'redneck woman' or not. Three for three ladies and gents.
"You Don't Have to Go Home" is the best track up to this point from ONE OF THE BOYS with its country-rock feel and sick guitars. Despite the repetitive nature of the track, it keeps the air of 'traditionalist' country alive and that is very important. "Heaven Help Me" shows an even mellower Wilson (which seems to be an adverse effect for some fans unfortunatly) backed by acoustic sounds of piano, guitar, and strings. Despite her mellow turn, the bluesed-out "There's a Place in the Whiskey" is more production than vocal, but it is a welcome addition to G.W.'s catalogue of songs. Sure it's a bit too busy, but none can deny the potent nature of the blues licks. "If You Want A Mother" is solid while "Pain Killer" is a bit awkward, though still a solid track. What is notable about "Pain Killer", which is by no means my favorite track, is that vocally Wilson is at her strongest and the songwriting is nearly flawless. Eight for eight and still going strong.
"There Goes The Neighborhood" is a personal favorite of mine once again employing blues-influenced riffs. "Good Ole Boy" uses 'cutesy' songwriting, which the unstoppable G.W. pulls off perfectly. Finally the closer "To Tell You the Truth" is heavier in its overall tone as Wilson tackles serious songwriting, which may/may not be a hindrance. It isn't catchy like the rest of her tunes, but if you commit yourself as a true Gretchen Wilson fan, you will appreciate the message and the idea that Wilson is trying to emote on the closing track.
Overall, ONE OF THE BOYS would be a fine album if it was another country artist besides Gretchen Wilson, which is unfortunate. No, it isn't as memorable as her first and maybe in some respects as her underrated second, but it is still very fine in my eyes, despite what the charts or anybody says. I hope that ONE OF THE BOY'S commercial woes don't sink the career of a very promising, young country star. 4 stars.