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5.0 out of 5 stars Pickler's "100 Proof" that Music Still Moves the Heart, January 24, 2012
This review is from: 100 Proof (Audio CD)
Prime Cuts: Mother's Day, The Letter (to Daddy), 100 Proof

With "100 Proof" Pickler has morphed from a ditzy, spunky Telecaster celebrity into a real country singer. Prior to the release of this disc, Pickler has been known more for her role in American Idol than her music. Somehow trailing in the limelight of Carrie Underwood and yet never really possessing Underwood's dynamic pipes, Pickler has never really found her voice. Her last pop country-lite couple of discs did not produce any significant radio hits until Taylor Swift co-penned with her the top 10 blazer "Best Days of Your Life." Though it was a substantial hit but Pickler was still trailing on the coat tails of Swift. With "100 Proof" her third disc things are about to change. On this album Pickler has found truly found her voice. Instead of trying to hit and sustain the high notes as most American Idol alum are tempted to do, Pickler's vocals here are more restrained. Rather than trying to show off she tries to emote the fragility and the ache of a broken heart with more layers of thought and feelings. At times she even exhibits some of the smoky sassiness of a Tanya Tucker while maintaining the sensitivity of a Dolly Parton-like ambiance. Partly responsible for such a metamorphosis is that Luke Wooten (Joe Diffie & Dierks Bentley) and Frank Liddell (Miranda Lambert & Chris Knight) were brought on to produce this album. As a result, instead of going for the hip and dashing writers, songs with a more heavy-handed twang were chosen from such traditional writers such as Dean Dillon, Don Poythress & Leslie Satcher.

Some of the most charming moments of this disc reside in the songs co-written or written by Leslie Satcher. In the past Satcher has penned such quirky delights such as George Strait's `Troubadour" & "House of Cash," Gretchen Wilson's "Politically Uncorrect" and Martina McBride's "When God Fearing Women Have the Blues." This time round Satcher has a hand in crafting 5 out of the 11 cuts here. The best among her compositions is the crazily romantic ballad "100 Proof." A song that tells of the comfort of an abiding love in the midst of the storms of life this song presents love in the finest. Another close favorite is the 80s sounding melodious pop "Turn on the Radio and Dance." Though the song title pretty much captures what the song's about but it's so infectious that you'll find your feet tapping in no time. While the romping stomping lead single "Tough" is a tough chick anthem where Pickler explains that the harshness of life has made her tough. And yet despite her toughness Jesus still loves her. Satcher also has a hand in crafting two of the album's rootsier moments "Where's Tammy Wynette" and "Unlock the Honky Tonk." Though name dropping songs are plenty it's amazing that Tammy Wynette has not been the subject of such tributes until now.

Outside of the Satcher canon, Dean Dillon, Marty Dodson and Pickler contributed "Long as I Never See You Again." With a backing full of fiddles and steel over a heart wrenching set of lyrics, this old fashioning sounding waltz is what George Strait would die for. Another Dillon/Dodson/Pickler composition is the tearful piano ballad "The Letter (To Daddy)." Calling to mind Emmylou Harris' "To Daddy," the sentiments on "The Letter" are by no means less raw and devastating. And isn't finally time someone writes a song entitled "Mother's Day"? "Mother's Day" written by Pickler and her new hubby Kyle Jacobs is not a sugar coated maudlin piece. Rather, it tells the story of a girl dreaming of what she'll do on Mother's Day if she ever had a mom. Be warned: have your Kleenex next to you if you listen to this track.

There are many albums that will come and go. Many may make it to the penthouse of the charts but they might be forgotten in a year's time. Not so with Pickler's new one. The songs, especially the ballads, are intricately written. They capture the heart with its emotional stirrings of the lyrics and Pickler's emotional deliveries. "100 Proof" is proof that music still moves the heart.
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