Faithful readers of this column are aware that the conventional, cotton candy crop of modern-day Country music doesn’t’ exactly get my senses brimming with jubilation. I find the majority of the genre’s output to be either overproduced pop debris or cliché-ridden pseudo-patriotism that runs of out of steam after the listener’s buzz wears off.
That said, I do have a short list of artists whom I consider worthy of the legacy they inherited, because it wasn’t that long ago that being able to sing, write, and play instruments at a high level were signifiers of greatness.
I don’t hate Country music. I simply despise what the industry has allowed to transpire in the wake of legends such as Johnny Cash and Lefty Frizzell.
It was with that frame of mind that I walked into the Seneca Niagara Events Center on Saturday night to experience Gretchen Wilson. Not only was the show my first of 2013, but also the first time I had set foot in Country territory since 2010.
The Illinois-bred Wilson opened with the title track from her 2004 debut “Here for the Party” and led her band through a breezy 70-minute set that failed to seize my attention as other casino shows have. Her voice is strong, but the combination of passable lyrics and an uninspiring stage presence made for an evening absent of any authentic points of transcendence.
Songs such as “Work Hard, Play Harder” and “I Got Your Country Right Here” are typical foot-stomping ditties that sound decent in the moment, but quickly exit your consciousness upon their conclusion.
Her band, however, is a voracious ensemble anchored by two guitar players that could easily be taking on more exploratory material. They trade leads with ease and attempt to get as much out of their Gibson axes as the music will allow.
Their instrumental medley of classic rock standards added a spark to the set’s second half while their full-on cover of “Stay With Me” from The Faces saw Wilson really putting her heart and soul into it.
Outside of the covers and the occasional sign of fervor from Wilson, what did we really get?
I have no doubts about her vocal ability or dedication to the cause, but I would like to see her dig a little deeper into the repertoire to deliver something beyond “Bring it On (Grandma).”
Sure, the room sounded fantastic as it always does, and the night offered some hard-hitting moments.
I just wish there had been more of them.