Road Less Traveled

by: Lauren Alaina

Lauren Alaina traveled a long road to her second album, taking six years to deliver a sequel to her 2011 debut. Blame the delay on vagaries of the marketplace and also a 2014 vocal surgery, two elements that ensure a slow working pace, but the upside of this half-decade hiatus is that Road Less Traveled almost plays like a second debut album. It announces a new Lauren Alaina, one who is happy to be a country diva in the vein of Carrie Underwood. Wildflower, her 2011 album, also carried a debt to Underwood but it retained a bit of a twang, whereas Road Less Traveled is a big, bright country confection. Alaina co-wrote every one of the 12 songs and whether they're ballads or chipper pop tunes, they're usually sturdy numbers. She may drift into the saccharine when she slows the tempo -- the closing "Pretty" is a self-empowerment anthem that attempts to spin Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" toward Middle America -- but the faster cuts are usually jubilant and help propel Road Less Traveled, turning it into a strong modern country-pop album. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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