I’m not exactly sure what Kellie Pickler is all off into these days, starring in some CMT reality TV series I could never bring myself to watch, and apparently now hosting some syndicated morning show where she’s undoubtedly wearing flowing ponchos with exposed shoulders and sharing pumpkin spice recipes like every other personality on daytime television. Hey, God bless her. She’s figuring out ways to keep the cash coming in and her name in the spotlight after Sony completely screwed her over after the release of her excellent record 100 Proof.
Some recent converts to Saving Country Music might be surprised to hear Pickler’s 100 Proof was SCM’s Album of the Year in 2012, and still holds up. With contributions from Chris Stapleton and Brent Cobb, today the record looks like a precursor to the insurgency in the mainstream we are currently experiencing, even though it still hasn’t sold 100,000 copies, and Kellie Pickler’s country music career seems drowned in the television floodlights, and slowly waning towards non-existence. So maybe there’s no better time to self-release a new song, and remind people why she’s a celebrity in the first place.
Kellie Pickler is at her best when she writes her own material, and when she makes it personal. That was at the heart of 100 Proof‘s critical success. Of course she was just finding her strongest voice right as Bro-Country was on the rise, so nobody was paying attention. But Pickler’s shattered upbringing of an absentee mother and alcoholic father have made for some excellent country music over the years, and her personal history is what inspires her latest song “If It Wasn’t For a Woman.”
Not necessarily a single—or at least not announced as one yet—the song is about Pickler’s late grandmother Faye who passed away in 2002, and was Kellie’s primary guardian growing up. It is written by Picker with her husband Kyle Jacobs and Brian Bunn. The song initially emerged in a debut performance at the CMA Fan Fest in June, but has recently been released in studio form.
Part tribute, part empowering anthem, and all Pickler, “If It Wasn’t For a Woman” is full of reminiscent memories of Pickler’s grandmother, and affirmations about the importance of role models and upbringings. If you’ve ever known someone who was raised by their grandparents, you know they’re special people, with manners and values that weren’t diluted by a generation, and a level of respect and gratefulness for themselves and others not found in most. Grandparents raising kids is obviously not the way life was designed, and puts an undue burden on those later in life. But it’s often a gift for those involved. Willie Nelson was also raised by his grandparents.
“If It Wasn’t For a Woman” is pretty quintessential Pickler, with steel guitar and emotional-laden lyrics making for a very sweet song. This is not a Song of the Year candidate, but it does get you frustrated that an artist like Pickler with so much talent has to resort to the reality TV and talk show circuit for her daily bread, when she should be making country instead. Hopefully the song is a precursor to a new project, and with Pickler’s new audiences, she can sidestep the gender bias of mainstream country radio, and find the support her music deserves.
1 1/2 Guns Up (7.5/10)
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