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Julianne Hough

Julianne Hough – 2008 (Mercury)

Reviewed by Michael Sudhalter

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CDs by Julianne Hough

Julianne Hough has spent much of her 19 years building a successful professional dancing career. If her self-titled debut is any indication, she may have a bright future moonlighting as a country singer.

The Utah native's brand of country fits squarely into the young, energetic and playful mold of contemporaries like Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift and Kellie Pickler with light-hearted songs like the single "That Song In My Head" and "You, You, You," which features the repetition of words throughout the lyrics.

Hough, who didn't write songs for the CD, enlisted the services of several top songwriters/fellow singers for the 11-tracks, including Jessica Andrews, Marcel, Rebecca Lynn Howard, Craig Wiseman, Hillary Lindsey and Scooter Carusoe, and it paid off with an album that's equal parts fun and serious. The two-time winner of Dancing With The Stars is versatile enough to go from bubble-gum material to a Christian Contemporary feel with "Hallelujah Song" to a trip down memory lane about an old flame, "Jimmy Ray McGee." "Hello," co-written by Howard, is the tale of a conscience telling a girl to stop dating losers; it's humorous and original. More affirmation comes into play with the friend-to-friend message of "Love Yourself."

Hough tackles material far beyond her years with the album's most serious song, "Help Me, Help You" about a recovering alcoholic. It's perhaps the best country song about the subject since Kenny Chesney's "I've Been There" a decade ago.