Small Town Girl by Kellie Pickler

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the spate of singers launched by reality TV competitions like American Idol and Nashville Star, it’s that winning and losing are relative. First place isn’t a guarantee of hits, and also-rans have established solid careers.

So it’s no surprise to see Idol finalist Kellie Pickler groomed for country stardom. After all, the 20-year-old North Carolinian enters the Music City sweepstakes with a ready-made fan base—all she had to do was make an album strong enough to overcome the inevitable comparisons to that other young, country-singing blond Idol vet, Carrie Underwood.

Happily, Small Town Girl exceeds those expectations. It’s a lively, vivacious collection of songs that reflect her rural upbringing, dreams of stardom and a tart-tongued (if predictable) perspective on gender politics, and Kellie sings ’em all with poise and power. She may have come in sixth on American Idol, but on Small Town Girl Kellie sounds like a winner.

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