Kellie Picker, on her new album "The Woman I Am," merges the tradition-minded sound of her previous album with contemporary country touches in a manner that proves how well the two can blend and still speak to the modern world.
Continuing to mature into a top-class country singer, the former "American Idol" competitor has grown from a competent interpreter of others' songs into an artist with her own vision and style. As a songwriter and vocalist, she's held onto the charm of her back-country personality while growing into a confident stylist who can adapt to the glossy entertainment world that sometimes has tried to push her aside.
The title song references Patsy Cline as a salve for difficult nights, then cites all the personal weaknesses, quirks and strengths that make her who she is. She leans on current themes in country music in "Closer To Nowhere," about drinking with a friend and disappearing into a rural hideout, but makes it believable.
She's at her best on sensitive ballads ("Tough All Over," ''Someone Somewhere Tonight," ''I Forgive You") yet nicely handles roots-rich stompers like "Selma Drye" (about her grandmother), "Buzzin'" and "Ring For Sale."
Pickler wrote three of the songs on the new album, including the title song.
"When I write a song," she says, "I just wrote about who I am and where I've been, where I am and what I'm going through, or about people who have had an impact on me....
"I want to feel what I'm saying. I want it to mean something. I go back to people like Patsy and Tammy, Loretta and Dolly, who can make you cry. You don't always hear that kind of song today. And no matter how good the song is, I have to believe you as you're singing it," according to the Los Angeles Times.
Billboard Magazine describes Pickler as "one of the most charming and personable acts in the business. "The Woman I Am" represents a down-home sound for the singer -- much like her previous set, the critically acclaimed "100 Proof" -- The 615's pick for Best Country Album in 2012. Though the new disc is a little bit more contemporary in places, it's clear that Pickler opted for a similar organic approach."
Add Pickler's name to the list of women making outstanding albums in a year where men dominate country radio and the media.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.