Kellie Pickler and hubby Kyle Jacobs on the big video screen at Mystic Lake Casino
If there were any justice in reality TV – we all know there isn’t—Kellie Pickler would be viewed more seriously as an entertainer after her impressive (current) run on “Dancing with the Stars.”
Yes, I know she’s a singer. And she got her start on “American Idol” in 2006. But Nashville and much of America typecasts Pickler,as the ditzy country bumpkin. Now she is finally asserting her own vision and personality.
You can see it on “Dancing with the Stars,” on her 2012 old-school country album “100 Proof” (one of the best country albums of last year) and in person Thursday night at Mystic Lake Casino.
There ain’t many acts in mainstream country music as refreshing as Pickler. She’s not scripted. She’s in the moment and says whatever pops in her head. It can be silly, poignant, goofy, sweet, kind, thoughtful, generous, honest, whatever. And then she brings out her two trump cards – her songwriter husband from Bloomington, Minn., Kyle Jacobs, and her “Dancing with the Stars” partner Derek Hough. Hello!
It was a highly entertaining evening – much more than was expected, in both length, content and overall fun. And, to top it off, Pickler stood onstage for 15 minutes after her 95-mintue performance and signed autographs – on T-shirts, cell phones, arms, shoes, baseball caps, handmade posters, tickets – you name it.
Pickler, 26, demonstrated the kind of small-town, fresh-faced, nutty charm of Dolly Parton before her jokes became canned. Pickler talked with a Carolina twang and sang with an even more pronounced twang (except when she offered a spontaneous accent-free “Happy Birthday”; she also did a spot-on impression of her mother-in-law’s Minnesota accent right in front of the woman).
To be honest, sometimes it was hard to decipher the twangy words Pickler was singing (though she does have a strong voice with nice range). And, quite candidly, she could use some better lyrics. Some of Pickler’s pieces are garden-variety Nashville, including “Small Town Girl.” She impressed more Thursday when she threw down tunes from “100 Proof.”
“Where’s Tammy Wynette” had a killer opening line (“I stay torn between killing him and loving him”) and a terrific premise. “Stop Cheatin’ on Me” resonated like classic Loretta Lynn. But the swampy sass of “Unlock the Honky Tonk” sounded too much like a Gretchen Wilson number.
Pickler let her songwriter hubby sing one of the biggest hits he’s penned, Lee Brice’s “Hard To Love,” and they did "Mother's Day" -- from "100 Proof" -- together.
Hough (he and Pickler must rehearse while she's on tour) came onstage twice – once when Pickler invited him from the wings (he said his Kellie Pickler T-shirt made him look thinner) and for the encore of "Red High Heels" (she wasn't wearing heels she said because her feet were swollen from dancing) when Jacobs called him out and he arrived with Pickler riding on his back.
But, frankly, with all her personality and talent, Pickler didn't need anyone else to help her carry the show.