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Kellie Pickler

Small Town Girl – 2006 (BNA)

Reviewed by Rick Bell

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CDs by Kellie Pickler

Don't blame Kellie Pickler, American Idol's country bumpkin who engaged millions of viewers and charmed the socks off the normally surly Simon Cowell, for the pre-fab shortcomings in her debut. Rather, fault a music industry salivating at a chance to reprise last year's multi-platinum debut by fellow Idol Carrie Underwood.

Except, Pickler's no Underwood. Pickler's lengthy run on Idol wasn't because she could sing, but because of her Dolly Parton-like appeal. With more personality than Underwood and Kelly Clarkson combined, but talent fitting a Wal-Mart grand opening, it seemed natural to pick songs playing to her folksy naiveté. Instead of spunky and cute with teenage sass, Pickler is bland and predictable.

This holiday rush job is riddled with shoddy workmanship. Liner notes exclude songwriting credits (Pickler hints she's one of the songwriters) and the musicians. Worse, the web site listed the day her album debuted, kelliepickler.com, links to a site called NetNames.

It's no stretch to assume execs selected undemanding songs and quickly tracked them before Pickler was even bumped from the show in mid-April. Pickler merely showed up, added her vocals, posed for a few album cover glam shots and voila.

And, it could sell, despite Pickler's unpolished performances. She's not yet a powerful enough vocalist to carry the ballads. That seductive Southern minx Simon raved about never appears, even on the opening "Red High Heels." The biographical title cut is hardly convincing.

So, just in time for your holiday shopping, we have a record company banking on you to pick Pickler; just don't pick on Pickler once you hear it.