Kellie Pickler – ‘100 Proof’ – Review Roundup

Kellie Pickler is getting the very good reviews, the best of her career for making an album that showcases her traditional country influences. Nearly every review compliments her for leaving behind the ditzy pop/country stylings of her 1st 2 albums for something more grown up and natural for her.

New York Newsday gives 100 Proof a B+ saying “The first third of Kellie Pickler’s “100 Proof” (Sony Nashville) is so far from the sassy/kooky persona she has crafted for herself that she’s almost unrecognizable.” The reviewer prefers the first half of the album saying “‘100 Proof’ gradually gets soggier and watered down, but the potent opening casts Pickler in a new leading-lady light.”

The Associated Press says Kellie:

deepens the line in the sand with the hardcore country of her third album, “100 Proof.” One of six tunes the singer co-wrote, “Unlock That Honky Tonk,” rings the battle call; its plea to open a locked dancehall could be an allegory that country music shouldn’t forego the down-home sounds that gave the genre its identity. The quality of her performances proves Pickler is right.

Brian Mansfield of USA Today does a track by track review, saying:

On her third album, Kellie Pickler puts aside the Nashville pop of her earlier albums and goes looking for her country soul. It’s a big departure for the singer, who had her biggest hit writing with Taylor Swift. But it’s also a particularly satisfying album, especially for those fans who fell for her during American Idol’s 2006 season.

The fact that he lists 5 out of the 11 songs as his favorites is a pretty good sign he likes the album.

Washington Post gives 100 Proof one of its few weak reviews, saying “Pickler isn’t demonstrably sassy or rebellious, torchy or tough. As a substitute for a point of view, ‘100 Proof’ her third album and first in almost four years, uses Tammy Wynette as a kind of honky tonk spirit guide” and that the songs are “decent [but] thoroughly unremarkable.”

NY Daily News gives 100 Proof 3 stars out of 5 but is full of compliments for Kellie’s new direction (and harsh words for the 70s soft rock that’s a big part of country radio lately, saying

Pickler’s vocals have deepened and matured. She no longer sounds pinched in the choruses, and she’s far more resonant in the ballads. The melodies have a vintage integrity, enough to help Pickler carry off the album’s riskiest songs — those odes to her troubled mother and father. (Pickler’s check-bouncing mom abandoned her as a child; her father was an alcoholic for decades.)

All Music gives the album 4 stars out of 5 closing its review by saying:

She merely plays it clean and simple, sometimes adopting a heavy-handed twang but usually sounding comfortable in these down-home surroundings of Telecasters, steel guitars, and acoustic guitars.
….In short, 100 Proof is the album where Kellie Pickler stops being a TV star and turns into a genuine recording artist: it’s an album that’s not just good when graded on a curve, but good by any measure.

All Music also prefers the front half of 100 Proof to the back half.

Slant Magazine gives 100 Proof 3 1/2 stars out of 5, saying:

what impresses most about 100 Proof is the extent to which it capitalizes on Pickler’s relative strengths as a performer in a way that’s shockingly self-aware. Though the album lacks a cohesive through line or consistent depth of material that would make for something more accomplished and challenging, it’s a deeply personal record that explores country music’s conventions in a creative, respectful way and gives Pickler ample opportunity to prove her chops as an interpretive singer. Whether or not the album allows her to boost her commercial profile remains to be seen, but 100 Proof proves that Pickler is capable of far more than she has previously let on.

Country Weekly gives the album 3 stars out of 5, saying:

Kellie may not possess the octave-jumping range of Carrie Underwood or Martina McBride, but much like Tammy and Loretta Lynn, the tear in Kellie’s voice is hard to deny. The return of mournful steel guitar, crying fiddles and a voice that’s country to the core is a refreshing change from the recent stream of rock-infused country.

Entertainment Weekly gives 100 Proof a B+ saying that she channels Tammy Wynette more in name than in spirit but that 100 Proof is her meatiest, most adventurous out put yet.

Check out this blog’s review of 100 Proof here.

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About Deb B 432 Articles
Also known as Windmills, I cover country music news and live televised country events, in addition to recapping ABC's 'Nashville.' Additionally, I occasionally do long-form chart analysis that has been cited by Entertainment Weekly, Pitchfork, The Guardian, The New Republic, NPR, and more.