September 26, 2022
Ithaca, NY | 57°F


‘100 Proof’: American Idol sweetheart calls on country diva roots

With a public persona that includes big hair and unfavorable comparisons to Carrie Underwood, Kellie Pickler has created a new caricature in her latest album “100 Proof.”
The release came with a promise from Pickler that her attempts at shimmery country-pop à la Taylor Swift are far behind her and that a more traditional country style is much more to her liking. The album proves that some promises are worth keeping, because “100 Proof” pays homage to the country divas of old with passion, finesse and just enough contemporary production value to keep the collection from feeling dated.
Producers Frank Liddell and Luke Wooten keep the album from sounding cheap by accompanying the decadent use of old-time steel guitar and autoharp with modern string arrangements that make the melodramatic lyrics of “Long as I Never See You Again” sound powerful, but never kitschy.
In “Mother’s Day,” Pickler recounts the way her mother neglected her as a child and how she wishes for a child of her own as a way to give to another what she never had. The emotional punch of tracks like this are hard to handle — a haughty reminder to Pickler-haters that seem to forget that, given the same material, Underwood would simply shout the lyrics out of context into her reedy upper register with reckless abandon. Instead, Pickler uses breathy, soft, cooing vocals to tell her story.
The album does suffer from a serious case of overindulging its country roots with themes of boozing, cheating and road trips running rampant over its half-hour run time. Besides this flaw — if you can even call it that — “100 Proof” goes down smooth but packs a sting while it wallows in its own sorrow-drenched glory.