She was born a coalminer’s daugh . . . er, Redneck Woman.
The story of country-music superstar Wilson’s rise to success dutifully follows the standard show-biz script—early hardships, partially alleviated by the joy afforded by her talent; some lean, journeyman years spent honing the craft; and the Big Break that Changed Everything. Wilson’s stubborn pride in being an unrepentant, unsophisticated “redneck” may be admirable, but it has unfortunately precluded her from learning that invaluable memoirist’s maxim: Just because it happened to you doesn’t make it interesting. Actually, Wilson’s spectacular success, based on her defiantly crude party-girl anthems in a contemporary country scene that exalts bland, soccer-mom-friendly pop mannequins, is kind of interesting, but it’s a point that is grasped immediately and repeated ad nauseum. Most of the rest is taken up by accounts of Wilson’s various bartending jobs, early band experiences and fond descriptions of band mates and family members (invariably described as “awesome”—one assumes that co-writer Rucker’s contributions were primarily structural), which should make for engaging reading for said band mates and family members. The earliest chapters, detailing Wilson’s rural Indiana upbringing, are awash in alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence, soul-killing low-wage jobs and general despair, but, in their regional detail and peculiarity, they are alive in a way the later career-oriented sections are not. Some of these passages, which include a small pet dog rendered psychotic by eating psychotropic medications dropped by elderly relations, are offhandedly hilarious. But the deluge of sordid horrors—such as her miserable grandmother’s halfhearted attempts to murder her miserable husband—begins to beg the question of why Wilson is so intent on celebrating this lifestyle, as she seems to grasp its catastrophic effects. As a songwriter, she has profited from that other chestnut of authorial wisdom: Write what you know. Unfortunately, minus her punchy backup band and startlingly pure, aggressive vocal tone (Wilson is a thrilling singer and live performer), what she knows isn’t particularly compelling.
We’ve heard this tune before, and better.