Between 2004 and 2006, Gretchen Wilson songs were inescapable. In that time span, the "Redneck Woman" singer came seemingly out of nowhere to light up the Billboard charts and win numerous awards, including a Grammy.
With reference points ranging from George Jones and Loretta Lynn to the classic rock band Heart, Wilson seemed like a female Bocephus with an appreciation for her roots, an affinity for clever wordplay ("One Bud Wiser") and an unwillingness to always fit a traditionalist mold.
After that brief yet rewarding run of success, Wilson continued working with songwriter John Rich (Big & Rich) on albums as recent as 2017's Ready to Get Rowdy, featuring honorable mention song "Salt Mine." Had that song come along a decade earlier, it'd be one of her greatest hits.
Wilson might not be old-school country's only mainstream hope anymore, but she never stopped being a hard-working touring act and a voice for the types of underdogs that'd fit right in with her song's hardened characters. For examples of how she spoke for many among the 5 million-plus to purchase Here for the Party, check out her 10 best songs.
10. "Into the Mystic"
While it seems wrong to leave out "The Earrings Song," "Rebel Child," "You Don't Have to Go Home," "Pocahontas Proud" and Rich duet "Come to Bed," we'd be remiss to skip the best cut off Wilson's Under the Covers project. It's worth listing because good cover songs are measuring sticks for talented song interpreters.
9. "One of the Boys"
With Wilson's reputation, it would be easy to assume that a song with this title might be about a hell-raising redneck. Instead, it's an empowerment anthem sang by a woman with a full-time job in a male-dominated business.
8. "When I Think About Cheatin'"
Wilson's talent as a vocalist shined when she tackled slower material like "I Don't Feel Like Loving You Today," "Heaven Help Me," "Pain Killer," "Raining on Me," "Good Morning Heartache," "I'd Love to Be Your Last," "The Girl I Am" and other album cuts. The showpiece of her gentler material has to be this cut from her opening career statement, Here for the Party.
7. "Skoal Ring"
"That worn-out circle on his jeans makes him my kind of man." Small-town folks don't need this description of Wilson's ideal good ole boy interpreted into king's English. After all, it probably describes two or three of their uncles.
6. "Politically Uncorrect" (with Merle Haggard)
To celebrate both the American way and classic country music, Wilson looked to the land of "California Girls" for a Bakersfield legend to join her in longing for the old-time way.
5. "Trucker Man"
This less obvious and more recent selection from 2010 is as much Southern rock as it is country. It should come as no surprise that Wilson shines as a rebellious rock n roll singer. She displays similar rock sass on "I Got Your Country Right Here," "There's a Place in the Whiskey" and "Work Hard, Play Harder."
Wilson takes verbal aim at a foe with her sights set on a "Redneck Woman's" man in a song that offers a more introspective look at what makes her leading ladies tick.
3. "All Jacked Up"
This fast, furious fiddle tune about getting into trouble is good, clean fun. Think of it as describing a night on the town for the singer's infamous "Redneck Woman."
2. "Here For the Party"
Wilson sang about parties, tight britches and off-the-chain tailgate parties before those topics were drove into the ground in the other signature tune from her mid-aughts run of mainstream success.
1. "Redneck Woman"
Few songs better speak for the average small-town bar patron than this sing- and drink-along hit and music video that's a shout-out to redneck women, Kid Rock and Wal-Mart--and there's nothing wrong with that!
This story originally ran on Sept. 7, 2018.