October 06, 2008 12:00 PM

Kellie Pickler

COUNTRY

Kellie Pickler surprisingly turned a sixth-place finish on American Idol into Nashville gold with her hit debut, 2006’s Small Town Girl. With higher expectations for this follow-up, though, she comes up short. This passable but underwhelming effort doesn’t feel like the work of a major country artist. Most of the songs (five of which she cowrote, including one with Taylor Swift) aren’t strong enough for her to really dig her red high heels into. Despite her folksy charm, Pickler doesn’t possess the voice to elevate mediocre material like the girl-empowerment single “Don’t You Know You’re Beautiful.” But the bitter “Rocks Instead of Rice,” cowritten with the same tunesmiths who gave Carrie Underwood “Before He Cheats,” delivers some feisty fun.

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