On her 2011 album, 100 Proof, Kellie Pickler stepped away from the confines of pop-based country with a decidedly traditional sound. Though she subsequently parted with her label after the project’s release, 100 Proof was met with critical acclaim as the American Idol alum delivered one of that year’s best traditional albums. Now on her new project, The Woman I Am, hitting stores November 11, Kellie stays the course with 12 songs ranging from Honky Tonk to heartbreaking while consistently celebrating strong women.
Working with the team behind 100 Proof, Kellie joins up with producers Luke Wooten (Dustin Lynch, Dierks Bentley) and Frank Liddell (Miranda Lambert, David Nail) to recreate much of the sound and feel of her 2011 project. Pairing acoustic/electric guitars with a healthy dose of fiddle and pedal steel, Kellie seizes the reins on The Woman I Am to show that a strong traditional foundation was not some sort of passing fancy. Songs like the worldly lead single “Someone Somewhere Tonight” and sexy struttin’ “Buzzin’” relish in hardline country concepts that include ¾-time, box top dobro pickin’ and intricate tempo shifts. With a smooth Carolina drawl, Kellie delivers line after line on The Woman I Am with palpable feeling and rich emotion. Belting it out on the swampy “Ring For Sale,” Kellie sings, I’ll throw in the dress for free, with fire when looking to get rid of a cheating man’s engagement ring. Finding the strength to move on in “I Forgive You,” her vocal bends and easy inflections hint at a subtle combination of Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire while the freewheeling “Little Bit Gypsy” carries notes like a Southwest Loretta Lynn.
Kellie celebrates strong women throughout the album and her female characters don’t often back down. “Selma Drye,” which Kellie co-wrote in tribute to her tough-as-nails grandmother, thumps to a powerful backbeat as open guitar chords ring. If I can stand up for myself it’s because her gunpowder’s runnin’ through my blood, she sings after noting tendencies that include keeping a .38 in her apron. The defiant “No Cure For Crazy” bangs to a rockabilly beat where Kellie proclaims, Daddy taught me how to cuss like a sailor, and the title track (which Kellie co-wrote with her husband Kyle Jacobs) is marked by beautiful, soaring vocals while giving a nod to independent women and wishing for more artists like Patsy Cline. Kellie always seems to have a grasp of the bigger picture and songs like “Tough All Over” allow for vulnerability with tender lines while still remaining confident about her place in the world.
Just because the album is rooted in traditional concepts doesn’t mean there aren’t contemporary moments as well. The daydreaming “Closer To Nowhere” strikes a radio-friendly tone with slick electric guitars and the spellbinding “Where Did Your Love Go” moves fluidly with a winding vocal and one of project’s best performances. Kellie gives an inspired performance on The Woman I Am as she continues to prove herself as one of the best traditional-based singers in the genre. With a new project that continues her artistic ascent, Kellie shows fans the woman she is while also providing an exciting glimpse of the one she is becoming.
Key Tracks – “Selma Drye,” “Where Did Your Love Go,” “Ring For Sale,” “Little Bit Gypsy”