John Ruhlman writes on allmusic.com
In late May 2004, Gretchen Wilson's debut single, "Redneck Woman," became the first by a solo female singer to top the Billboard country singles chart in over two years; it also reached number one faster than any single in the previous decade. At the same time, her debut album, Here for the Party, entered the country album chart at number one and the pop album chart at number two with sales of 227,000 copies, the biggest opening week for a new country artist on record. Given the overtly country style of her music at a time when much country had been leaning toward pop, Wilson was immediately hailed as the latest in a long line of country artists leading the music back to its roots.Wilson went through a dispute with her label Sony after several hit albums and now records on her own label. Her albums have continued to get high marks, so if you haven't followed her closely since her early mega-hits, you might want to check out I Got Your Country Right Here,Right on Time, and Under the Covers .
Her own roots went back to the tiny town of Pocahontas, Illinois (36 miles east of St. Louis, Missouri), where she began singing as a child. Her mother was 16 when she was born on June 26, 1973; her father left when she was two. She grew up poor, living in a succession of trailer parks. She went to school only through the eighth grade, and at 14 was working as a cook and bartender in the same club where her mother worked. By the age of 20, she was singing in two different bands in the area. She moved to Nashville in 1996 and tended bar while singing on demos and in clubs for the next seven years. During this period, she became part of an informal group of singers and songwriters known as the Muzik Mafia who met once a week to try out new material. She and John Rich, another member of the group (and a former member of Lonestar), wrote "Redneck Woman," an autobiographical song in which she unabashedly celebrated her redneck, white-trash background.