Kellie Pickler "100 Proof" (BNA)
Pickler's voice drips with syrupy-sweet femininity and a heaping helping of country twang. She breathes her songs as much as she sings them, yet the emotions still come through as though she was belting out the lyrics in full-power mode.
This is Pickler's third album since finishing sixth in the fifth season of American Idol. She doesn't hesitate to show off her songwriting chops, with co-writing credit on six of the 11 tunes. It's a wide-ranging package, with a large measure of traditional country infused with a contemporary freshness.
Pickler harkens to the heydays of her idols -- Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, and Kitty Wells. The opening track offers up homage to one of the greats with a tongue-in-cheek tune called "Where's Tammy Wynette?"
Pickler doesn't shy away from personal messages, calling on her life's experiences and emotionally charged memories of her parents in "Mother's Day" and "The Letter." Try some of "100 Proof," straight, no chaser, and see if it doesn't warm you too.
-- KEN ROSENBAUM
Roy Trevino "Roy Trevino" (Troubadour Records)
This self-titled debut by South Texas blues guitarist-singer Roy Trevino offers the spicy flavor and soul of South Texas blues, but is not limited to just one genre.
Trevino's fiery and passionate licks include Mexican and Latin influences and hints of other styles, from gospel to funk to rock. His band includes former John Mayer drummer J.J. Johnson. The disc is produced by Grammy-winner Jim Gaines, who has worked with Santana, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Luther Allison.
A student of the great Ronnie Earl, Trevino has performed at gigs with Three Dog Night and Marcia Ball. His band has backed up Lazy Lester during recent performances in Texas by the great blues harmonica player.
This disc is all Trevino originals, save for a funky rendition of reggae icon Bob Marley's "Lively Up Yourself." Trevino also pays tribute to those who have influenced him, including Robert Johnson, Son House, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Johnny Winter, and the Vaughan brothers. Trevino's one to watch.
Luke D. Rosen "Portraits: 14 Improvised Meditations for Piano" (Self-released)
Toledo pianist Luke D. Rosen has a gorgeous sound, one that obviously draws from and embraces his church influences yet remains distinctive.
He has a style of improvisation that is bold, creative, adventurous, and heart-warming. This little-known disc is a pleasant surprise from the Cincinnati-born Rosen, who has received his bachelor and master degrees in choral music from Bowling Green State University and who serves as director of choral music at St. John's Jesuit High School, where he is in charge of the school's Fox Music Technology Lab.
Rosen also is director of music ministry at Corpus Christi University Parish, where he writes music for the church and debuts many of his compositions there.