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Redneck and proud: Gretchen Wilson

Gretchen Wilson is quite the redneck woman.

The scrappy country singer showcased her back-country roots on Saturday night at the Star of the Desert Arena.

“Do we have any rednecks in the house tonight!?” she asked the audience in Primm before launching into her hit, “Redneck Woman.”

A thunderous, raucous response was precisely the answer she wanted to hear and it’s exactly what she got.

A giant inflatable figure accompanied the lowbrow anthem, erected at the back of the stage depicting a woman riding an ATV. The blow-up figure was waving with one hand and holding a baby with the other.

While other stars who have gone from rags to riches try their best to distance themselves from their humble beginnings, Wilson fully embraces her past.

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Beyond the Weekly
Gretchen Wilson

She was born to a single, 16-year-old mother, grew up in a trailer park and was a high school dropout. Since catching her break in 2004, however, she’s gone on to record 10 top 10 singles, win a Grammy and earn her GED.

She has also been named Female Vocalist of the Year by the Country Music Association and Top Female Vocalist of the year by the Academy of Country Music.

What’s more, the singer recently left Sony Records to start a record label of her own.

As if she needed to reassert her statues, Wilson named her new company Redneck Records.

Indeed, she is a proud redneck woman.

She famously proclaims, “I’m a redneck woman and I ain’t a high-class broad. I’m just a product of my raisin’ and I say ‘hey y’all’ and ‘yee haw’...” in “Redneck Woman.”

The song is Wilson’s musical self-portrait, and her rough-and-tumble image has not faded through her fame. Despite record sales in the millions and international success, the 36-year-old still seems hungry, looking for a fight.

“Don't make me take my earrings off, I'll show you what a catfight's all about,” she warns in one of her more recent singles, “The Earring Song.”

If there’s a country singer you don’t want to mess with, Wilson would be her. She’s the female equivalent of Kid Rock: They’re both from the Midwest, they both drink straight from their bottle of Jack Daniels, and they both seem like they’d not just be able, but completely willing to hold their own in a bar fight.

They’re both surprisingly good performers, too.

While Wilson’s brand of music may not be for everyone, there’s far more to her than brazen bluster and cleverly phrased threats: She’s a versatile, talented singer who knows how to use her pipes.

The cowboy hat-sprinkled audience was on their feet for much of the show, singing along as Wilson worked through her twangy, “y’all”-filled redneck retrospective and mixed in a handful of classic rock covers.

It took four guitarists (along with one back-up singer, drummer and bassist) to sufficiently support the small-but-mighty star but the performance was balanced, despite the abundance of strings and what proved to be a scattered set list.

The band worked through a rock-heavy montage during one of the few times Wilson left the stage, touching on Lynyrd Skynyrd, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Van Halen and Roy Orbison, among others, before the singer returned to the stage.

From Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever” to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” the musicians made it clear that there’s more to their music than country.

Wilson reappeared to perform one of the her longtime favorite cover songs, Heart’s 1977 single, “Barracuda,” which her fellow Republicans may remember from her performance at a McCain-Palin rally last year. Meanwhile, more left-leaning fans may remember how Heart subsequently requested their song not be used at rightwing events.

The campaign may be over but “Barracuda” remains in Wilson’s set list, along with a rendition of Foreigner’s “Hot Blooded.”

While Wilson may embody all that is “Hot Blooded,” she is no foreigner: Patriotic themes feature prominently throughout her live show, including a salute to the flag, a shout-out and dedication to the troops, and an instrumental rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

After 90 minutes the message was clear: Wilson is one hot-blooded, patriotic, redneck woman. And she does far more than dance.

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Melissa Arseniuk

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