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Lauren Alaina

Wildflower – 2011 (Mercury)

Reviewed by Andrew Greenhalgh

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CDs by Lauren Alaina

It's a bit surprising that, in a world where hip-hop and power pop tend to rule the airwaves that a mainstream show like" American Idol" has been so welcoming to the country music genre. Yet they have, helping to launch the careers of such stars as Josh Gracin, Kellie Pickler, and, of course, Carrie Underwood. And the latest season upped the ante, with the finishing tandem of Scotty McCreary and Lauren Alaina representing the genre finely while McCreary took the crown. Yet, with her release, "Wildflower," Alaina might walk away the true winner.

Fans of the show know that the artist is at her best either when she's serving up sassy, countrified attitude or wringing tears out of heartfelt ballads, and producer Byron Gallimore takes this to heart. Alaina rocks out with great 'hell on high wheels' country credibility on tracks like Georgia Peaches, I'm Not One of Them, and the radio-ready One of Those Boys. She also finds some solid footing on the nearly autobiographical title track. It's on these songs, each fueled with plenty of fiddle and electric guitar, that Alaina's youthful flavor really finds its footing.

And of course there e are ballads as well. Idol fans will be familiar with the showstopper Like My Mother Does and it's no less impressive here. Alaina also delivers a great story song in The Locket, which allows the artist a chance to deliver more mature material in a great setting.

The rest is in the mid-tempo range, with songs like the Taylor Swift-flavored The Middle and Funny Thing About Love, co-written by Alaina, alongside the crazy in love of Eighteen Inches that round out the best of the best. Through and through, Alaina asserts herself as a "Wildflower" worthy of being picked.