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Lauren Alaina

Road Less Traveled – 2017 (19 Recordings/Arista Nashville)

Reviewed by Michael Rampa

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CDs by Lauren Alaina

It's been six years since Lauren Aliana tasted mega success as runner up on American Idol. She was anxious to get out her first full-length effort since 2011's "Wildflower." She reflected, "I wrote for it for three and a half years. I've grown so much as a person, a songwriter and an artist in that time. These songs are a true representation of who I am, where I've been and where I'm going. This album has pushed me to accept who I am and be 100% honest about it. "Road Less Traveled" is truly ME." The result is a deeply honest, introspective effort where she has a co-write credit on each of the 12 songs. The album was produced by the award-winning busbee (Lady Antebellum, Keith Urban, and Maren Morris). Meghan Trainor is a fitting collaborator who has built a career based on being comfortable in her own skin.

Thematically, the album is generally dark where she chronicles topics ranging from her bout with bulimia to her father's alcoholism. But there are some lighter moments like "Next Boyfriend" and "Think Outside The Boy" which feel like they're directly marketed to tweens but are fun and even out the tone. In line with her commercial success, the production is glossy and fitting and there are some surprises. The danceable "Crashin' The Boys Club" has an unexpected funk groove and there is scorching honky tonk pedal steel on pedal steel on "Same Day, Different Bottle" and is interspersed elsewhere. Alaina successfully allows for different voice textures, be it going supersonic or keeping it at a silky mezzo.

She puts the exclamation point on the closer, "Pretty;" a self-empowerment anthem where she disavows plentiful makeup and skipping dinner and touts judging yourself from the inside.