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Reviewed by Red Rocker
I realize Katie Armiger just turned 17, and her best friend and songwriting companion, “Nashville Star” contestant Ashlee Hewitt, is only 20, so their collective interests go no deeper than a Taylor Swift song. But do they all have to be fed the same nausea-inducing, overdone clichés that every reality-based talent show thrives on? The real shame about Armiger playing up the shallowness of everyday high school life is that she has legitimate, even old-school, country credibility by way of her sophomore release, Believe.
Teaming up with singer/songwriters Rebecca Lynn Howard and Hunter Davis (Willie Nelson, Reba McEntire), as well as a very talented producer Jonathan Lawson and the aforementioned rising star Hewitt, this could be Armiger’s time. Clearly, she wants to rock more than whine, favoring gritty guitars and fiddles over bubblegum nonsense. Cuts like “Jealousy,” “Break Yours First,” and “The Road Is Calling” (a killer duet with Lawson) are as bona fide and rugged as anything on modern country radio today. As easy as it is to cast off Armiger as just a pretty face without substance (see her adolescent Taylor Swiftness in the video for “Make Me Believe,” which was previously released and would have best been left off this album), the bulk of Believe is rooted in all the worthy elements of classic country. Even the ballads inspire. “Wash Away,” one of the Hewitt collaborations, is a gloomy slow dance that cries without tiring. The lyrics from a teenager’s pen are nothing profound or Earth-shattering, but these songs carry the load and deliver the message of a skillful lass who’s wise beyond twice her years.
Watching Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood dominate the current country class must have a gal like Armiger as hopeful as ever about her own future. In an age where text messaging votes on a Tuesday night determines whom we hear on the radio and CMT waves for the next year, it’s hard to make a case for raw talent and authentic country chops anymore. As such, Armiger may not be the most popular girl in the schoolyard, but she has more potential than anyone who might be passing notes behind her back.