Gretchen Wilson — “Redneck Woman”

Released: 3.23.04

Peak: #22

Wilson’s carefully crafted everygal populism made me squirmy enough with a Yalie cowpoke running the country. Once an even more synthetic embodiment of the titular heroine’s qualities ran for VP, I suspected the whole shebang as some AEI-funded plot. (It didn’t help that Wilson, predictably, stumped for McCain-Palin, rocking out on “Barracuda,” to Heart’s principled chagrin.) But conspiracy theories are unnecessary when capitalism does all the heavy lifting itself. Music Row, like other conservative power bastions, empowers women in symbolic ways to fend off the potential for feminist demands. Hell yeah?

Lotsa baggage here, so I try to convince myself I prefer the breezier “Here For the Party,” with its freewheeling goal to “get me some” and proud “the boys say I clean up good,” or even the Loretta-like “Homewrecker.” But “baggage” is just another word for “resonance,” and that’s what pop is meant to accumulate. Unlike Toby Keith, Wilson’s shitkickers boogied rather than plodding–the way the snare lands between “red” and “neck” and “woman,” and then “high” and “class” and “broad,” announces “Redneck Woman” as an anthem that’s built to last. And unlike lib’rul-or-ain’t-they? Big ‘n’ Rich (the latter of whom co-wrote “Redneck Woman”), she doesn’t flaunt her eclecticism. Let’s just avor the irony that a woman who considers Tanya Tucker, Charlie Daniels, and Hank Jr. the essence of country sounds like she learned her stuff from Natalie Maines.

Of course, she’s open-minded enough to own posters of “Skynyrd, Kid, and Strait,” (though I fear she prefers Johnny Van Zant to his wiser, deader brother) and to testify in Congress in favor of adult education funding. So figure “Redneck Woman” as an expression of pride in who you are–personally, I got nothing against identity politics, and I’m not much for the “Barbie doll type” or “designer tag[s]” myself. I accept Wilson as my equal, ask that she’d do the same for me, and am curious how she believes the 13.8% of redneck women living below the poverty line back home in Pocahontas benefit from cuts in federal spending.

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