Y’all will want to remember this review in a few months, when Troy Gentry and Eddie Montgomery have seized control of the nation in a bloodless coup. Your new leaders will come striding down from the mountaintop like Bo and Luke Zarathustra, still gnawing on something they just cleaned, rousing the people with their combination of raunchy rock hooks, hard-ass soul vocals, and totalitarianism in libertarian’s clothing. It’ll be a landslide.
It’ll be fine living in MG’s America as long as you understand the rules. Troy and Eddie have been laying them down for a few albums now, but You Do Your Thing is the purest distillation of their philosophy. Rule One is, of course, Don’t Complain About Shit: We’ll all be repeating slogans like “It’s All Good” and “I Ain’t Got It All That Bad,” and the national anthem will be “Something to Be Proud Of,” where it is said that settling down and being a productive member of society even though you’re not a war hero like your daddy or a drag-racing hipster is the new purple achy breaky heart.
Rule Two is Ben Franklin’s good old Mind Your Business: Witness the paranoid crypto-fascist title anthem, where they passionately defend their right to hunt and fish and drive an SUV and pray “anywhere, anytime” and beat their children. This sounds like the same kind of city on the hill that Bush and Cheney are trying to build, but Eddie does ’em one better by crooning “You can bet I’ll pick up the phone/If Uncle Sam calls me up.” No chickenhawks they! Plus, it rocks. Very, very hard. And that’s Rule Three.
Because that’s the way the medicine goes down with MG: The gestalt is so huge that you end up not caring about the scary parts. Their vocals on power waltzes like “I Got Drunk” and Skynyrdysms like “Gone” are on some Kentucky-fried Sam and Dave shit these days, and the studio guitars squeal like stuck pigs. There’s honest-to-God turntable scratching in “If You Ever Stop Loving Me,” which isn’t about a woman but (like Toby Keith’s “I Love This Bar”) about country music itself.
But yeah, there’s an overbearing guy’s club vibe with this new administration, which is why they’ll probably try to draft Gretchen Wilson into the cabinet. She’s already capturing a large part of the NASCAR Mom vote with her very first single, “Redneck Woman,” a tsunami of Southern female pride that somehow manages to combine the research of Jeff Foxworthy and Carol Gilligan. It sounds rowdy but it’s actually tightly controlled—notice how “I say ‘Hey y’all’ and ‘Yee haw’ ” morphs into “Hell, yeah!”—and it’s all set to be the first No. 1 country single by a woman singer in about a million years.
Wilson co-wrote this great big fat slab of pop, and her five other compositions on Here for the Party are straightforwardly awesome things just like that, whether she’s working with hip neo-ists Big & Rich (the title track, where she boasts about how she’s gonna get her some cowboy ass) or crafty Rivers Rutherford (“Homewrecker,” which shoplifts the “Sweet Home Alabama” riff and talks much smack to a honky-tonk jezebel). She disses Dr. Phil in favor of whiskey, which sounds like a great idea to me, in “When It Rains,” and rips a page from MG’s old playbook by bigging-up her small hometown: in this case, Pocahontas, Illinois.
But the real secret of Gretchen Wilson is that, like Montgomery and Gentry, she’s a soul singer too. Right now, there is no finer vocal performance in the world than her wailing on the Bo Diddley-esque gospel tune “Chariot,” talking about how she’s gonna use her afterlife vehicle to drag race in heaven, and how Momma’s gonna kill her if she gets kicked out of the choir for it. And then, even though you’re already in love with the song, she busts out a rap. After this, it’s hard to think that Wilson would accept even a Condi Rice spot in Montgomery Gentry’s cabinet—she’d rather drink Billy Beer on the White House lawn. And besides, redneck women wanna be on top.