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The American Idol finalist releases an album of comfortable country.

Music Review: American Idol‘s Kellie Pickler – Small Town Girl

On this first release, Kellie Pickler displays the same quirky sense of humor and small-town innocence that won her a special place in many viewers’ hearts as well as a vote of confidence from Simon Cowell, the tough to please and quick to critical judge.

Small Town Girl isn’t an accidental title for this debut album from Pickler. A native of Albemarle, North Carolina, she was one of only about 15,000 residents. In 2005, having won Miss Stanly County and competed for Miss North Carolina, she went to Greensboro to audition for American Idol. The rest, as they say, is history.

The first single, “Red High Heels”, which is also the opening track, is an okay song of country-female empowerment – a sort of “wash that man out of my hair” type of tune. It has Shania style, and her delivery (not only on this track, but the entire CD) reminds me a lot of Jo-Dee Messina. There’s just something about the quality of her voice that calls the other woman to mind.

Pickler seems very much at home in the genre, which suits her style. She is able to spread her country wings, something I believe she held back for the American Idol audiences, catering to the judges who ask contestants to accommodate the pop music listener. That quirky personality shines through on “Things That Never Cross a Man’s Mind,” a humorous comparison of the sexes, which is very reminiscent of Mindy McCready’s “Guy’s Do It All the Time.”

Are you starting to see a pattern here?

Much of Pickler’s debut album is reminiscent, in the style of, or similar to something that’s already out there. They’re all original songs, but not one stands out as unique, though some are closer to hitting a special mark than others. Small Town Girl not bad – It’s far from it. All of the songs have catchy hook-filled choruses or lyrics, and she delivers them with the same wholesome purity that garnered her a solid fan-base on last season’s Idol.

“Got to Keep Moving” and “Girls Like Me” are two toe tappers with pop-cross over appeal. “Didn’t You Know How Much I Love You?” and “I Wonder” are beautiful ballads that give Pickler a chance to show off her vocal abilities. That latter is probably the strongest song on the entire album. It’s one she wrote asking questions to the mother that abandoned her when she was two years old. Her delivery of the song makes it clear it comes from her heart and it draws the listener in, most likely bringing tears to their eyes.

“Small Town Girl,” the title track she co-wrote with Aimee Mayo, has an autobiographical feel, even referencing the Calamari jokes from her Idol interviews. On the tracks she wrote or co-wrote, Pickler has a passion that is lacking in some of the others, and if she continues to put so much of herself into her writing, it could make the difference between a perfectly good album and something that is truly break-out.

Small Town Girl is a nice album, which blends seamlessly with what the other top women of country music are producing. There are a few top-notch tracks, mostly the ones she wrote or co-wrote, and it is surely one that will please the great number of fans she acquired while on American Idol. If she learns from this release, and puts more personal touches and self penned material in future albums, I think Kellie Pickler will be around for quite some time.

Check out the video to the albums first single, “Red High Heels”:

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