Remember when Michael Portillo told us that a reformed Tory Party had found a warm place in its heart for gays and single mums? Well, something similar is going on in mainstream country right now. Nobody votes for the hat acts any more, so Nashville has gone faux-progressive with Big & Rich’s improbable mix of honky tonk and hip hop, novelty songs such as “Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy)” and outrageous stage act. It’s a shameless gimmick, but not without merit, based on formidable musicianship and clever songcraft. The duo’s John Rich (once of lame country act Lonestar) turns up again writing half the songs on the debut by Gretchen Wilson, whose album and single “Redneck Woman” both recently topped the US country charts. And guess what? Halfway through the album, Wilson starts hick-hop rapping, too. Yet for all the new attitude, it remains mainstream Nashville, just as the Tory Party is still full of hangers and floggers.