All Jacked Up [DualDisc]
By far the most interesting artist to emerge from the overhyped Muzikmafia in Nashville, Gretchen Wilson rode her breakthrough "Redneck Woman" single for all it was worth, and it made her a big star. Her debut album, Here for the Party, revealed unexpected depth -- a quality Wilson carries through on her sophomore effort. She again emphasizes her hard side, kicking things off with "All Jacked Up," an account of a barroom brawl between dueling dames that touches all the appropriate country-rock bases, via jittery fiddle lines, screaming guitars, and a wild-ass call-and-response background chorus. That'll appease the yahoos, but there are more provocative ideas afoot here. Crying out in her best Natalie Maines tone, Wilson brings to vivid life the frustrations of the unappreciated housewife/mom in "Full Time Job," supported by her band with fiddles, pedal steel, and snarling electric guitars. The steady, pulsing arrangement of "Politically Uncorrect" is the ideal backdrop for a litany of personal preferences that place Wilson squarely on the side of traditional values, and Merle Haggard ups the ante by tossing in his two cents' worth, in a song that the Hag of "Fightin' Side of Me" can profoundly relate to. What Wilson can really do with a lyric is exemplified by her low-key, whispery reading of the beautiful honky-tonk heartbreaker "I Don't Feel Like Loving You Today," a masterful performance of subtle but moving interpretive skill, which is topped by a terrific bonus track, a seductive take on Billie Holiday's "Good Morning Heartache," with guitar, fiddle, and brush drums cushioning Wilson's delicate, piercing vocal. It's a real "Wow!" moment -- this Redneck Woman is just beginning to reveal her true colors.