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Susan Hickman - Self titled
Review By: George Peden, CSO Staff Journalist
3/4/10

You can’t help but compare Texas new country act Susan Hickman to Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood. Lambert and Underwood both have made remarkable and speedy inroads courtesy of fans and radio, and they have done it with a style and pleasing appeal that’s charged and fresh. But if we look, just off the main stage, and listen to what’s waiting in the wings, we’re sure to see Susan Hickman. Those very same qualities that have catapulted Lambert and Underwood are keenly on show with Hickman’s debut.

This young and married songbird has pulled together an energetic and hit-filled album. With songs penned by Brett James, Bobby Pinson, Gregg Allman, and Doug DeForest ( serving overtime duty as producer and band member), the 10 tracks showcase a talent whose time is close.

There’s no microphone shyness here; Hickman tackles belters and ballads with equal doses of confidence. The voice is clear, rock-tinged and country inspired.

The album bounds from the chute with the opening track, “Wrapped Up In Me”. Fiddle rich and drum pounded, the track powers along with its toe-tappin’ appeal of romance that’s no further than a glance away. “RED” is a plaintive cry of anger, couched in betrayal. “Hell Still Ain’t Frozen Over” -- It’s not your typical cryin’ in your beer country tune,says Hickman – is a power ballad with an easy hook, wrapped in a voice that’s both expressive and strong.

Humor comes in the phone call to a former beau in “Sunday Paper”. Riddled with sarcasm and indifference, the tune could serve as a rollicking salvo to dumped boyfriends in need of finding someone who cares. The advice is clear: put your pain in the Sunday paper, write it in the sky, hang it on a billboard or tell it to your dog walker…there’s no interest here anymore.

The radio single, “Whipping Post” penned by Greg Allman, rounds out the album. Hickman’s take is bluesy, edged with a dynamic vocal that paints the picture of hurt, loss and betrayal with convincing passion.

While this is a knockout first-up effort, filled with possible radio fare, the best track, to my sensitive ears at least, is the cut that probably won’t get the spins, the emotion moving “One Of Those Who Make It Up There”. Hat tips and kudos to Doug DeForest for writing the song; it’s one that shines brightly on the overlooked good deeds of good people. Moody and reflective, Hickman delivers her message of hope in a pure vocal that can’t help but inspire.

Sure, Susan Hickman has arrived with first glance similarities to Lambert and Underwood. But rather than have that serve as a frustration, it’s a compliment. Susan Hickman is no wannabee clone. She’s striving and, with this album, she’s arriving. Looks, voice and product – here at CSO we think she has it all.

The best is yet to come.

The album is out now.

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