Loretta, Tammy, Dolly ? Gretchen? That's newcomer Gretchen Wilson, who's being lauded by music critics for putting the "country back in Country music." The 30-year-old single mother proudly refers to herself as a "Redneck Woman."
Gretchen Wilson's debut album, Here For The Party, is predicted to become one of the top releases of 2004. The Country industry has spent the past several years marketing pop-oriented artists. But, this honky-tonk newcomer is showing Nashville that Country fans are ready for a change.
Gretchen Wilson been called "the antidote to Shania Twain and Faith Hill." One music critic wrote, "She is exactly what country music has needed desperately for a long time a woman who is earthy, raucous, passionate, and extremely talented. You have to look to Tanya, Loretta, and Dolly to find someone this real, this country, and this good. Her debut album is a big, big deal."
Gretchen grew up in the small town of Pocahontas, Illinois, population 727. As she sings in "Pocahontas Proud," her dream of becoming a Country singer began while she was only in her teens.
By the time Gretchen was 20, she was singing in two of the most popular bands in the Saint Louis, Missouri area. She made her way to Nashville in 1996, and quickly became known among her peers as a talented singer and songwriter.
Gretchen was one of the most sought-after demo singers in Music City for the past three years. But, securing a recording deal proved to be more of a challenge. To support herself, she worked as a bartender and sang with the house band at a local club. One night, John Rich, a former member of the popular group Lonestar, and his new bandmate, Big Kenny, heard her sing. Rich introduced himself to Wilson, and they began writing songs together. Last year, she auditioned for Sony Music executives, and was signed on the spot.
Gretchen co-wrote six of the 10 songs on Here For The Party. The collection debuted at Number One on the Country Albums chart, pushing Kenny Chesney out of the top spot he held for 14 consecutive weeks with his latest CD, When The Sun Goes Down.
And, Gretchen has already made the record books with the album's first single, "Redneck Woman." She's only the fourth new artist to enter the Top 10 in seven weeks or less. "Redneck Woman" was the fastest song to climb into the Top 10 since LeAnn Rimes hit the list in 1996 with "Blue." And, it took Gretchen only 12 weeks to reach Number One on the Country Singles chart. A female artist hasn't reached that position since March 2002.