Gretchen Wilson | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Gretchen Wilson 

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Gretchen Wilson knows how to brand herself: she's already introduced at radio showcases as the "Redneck Woman," after her debut smash, the first country chart-topper from a solo female in over two years. And on her album, Here for the Party (Epic), she seems hell-bent on making Pocahontas, Illinois, country music's most familiar hometown since Butcher Holler, Kentucky. Despite Wilson's sass and her willingness to dispatch the wanton title character of "Homewrecker" to Fist City, comparisons to Loretta Lynn are as inaccurate as they are numerous. Wilson sings far more like Dixie Chick Natalie Maines (though she sounds less pinched) and her taste in other people's music is far crappier: on "Redneck Woman" she name-checks Charlie Daniels, Tanya Tucker, and Hank Williams Jr. Fortunately Wilson's own music, largely generated by songwriters Kenny Alphin and John Rich--aka weirdo recording duo Big & Rich--surpasses anything in her record collection. Whether she's squeezing into tight jeans on the title track to tease the boys ("I'm not a ten but the boys say I clean up good") or wringing lust and fear from "When I Think About Cheatin'," Wilson's drawl allows her backup boys to shuttle between pop, rock, and hard honky-tonk without worrying if the end product will sound country enough. Biz-savvy as her collaborators may be, Wilson comes across like she'd be proud of where she came from even if it didn't move units. Kenny Chesney headlines and Uncle Kracker plays second. $27.75-$59.75. Thursday, September 9, 7:30 PM, Tweeter Center, I-80 & Harlem, Tinley Park; 708-614-1616 or 312-559-1212.

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