Kellie Pickler's 'The Woman I Am' album is full of hope, optimism and forgiveness. These aren't words one could hang upon any of her previous releases; time (and a loving marriage) seems to have healed old wounds. The result is like that first breath of clean air after three enjoyable hours spent in the sweaty pit of a concert arena.

'I Forgive You' is the most obvious example. "This hurt is drowning me inside / It's like an ocean deep and wide / And you were an anchor pulling me down," she sings. Fans will recognize this discourse and wonder which of a half dozen people she's thinking about. 'I Wonder' and 'Mother's Day' are two that carried a similar weight on previous albums, but for the first time, Pickler seems to truly be past that drama. Those three simple words, "I forgive you," lift a dark cloud from her life and music -- two things that are intimately intertwined.

Unlike the feisty, gritty '100 Proof' album, Pickler works best beneath the sunshine on 'The Woman I Am'. 'Buzzin' is a playful love song with a sweet chorus that really looks good on her. Prior to that, 'Little Bit Gypsy' and the somewhat obligatory 'Ring for Sale' set a tone the remaining nine tracks faithfully follow.

While the title track is a beautiful and honest reflection of who the singer is and where she comes from, the most enjoyable moments on this album come after the midway point. 'Selma Drye' works equally as well as an autobiography. The uptempo song is about her great-grandmother.

"I know Selma she'd be proud of me / Because I'm the only apple on the tree / That didn't hit the ground and stick down in the mud," Pickler sings to begin the chorus.

'Where Did Your Love Go' might be her best chance for a radio hit. The entire album is very strong lyrically, but Kalisa Ewing and Rivers Rutherford are the songwriting stars.

"I know what happened to my innocence / It flew off in that summer wind when I laid down with you," Pickler sings to open a second verse, her sweet melody every bit as captivating as her message. "And I know what happened to the dandelion / Ring you tied on my wrist and now you forgot that, didn’t you / Well it’s pressed inside a little pink bible / I got graduating summer school."

'Someone Somewhere Tonight' closes an album that finishes as strong as any released in 2013. '100 Proof' was a statement album. Pickler wanted to show her traditional country roots and prove she's as strong an artist as any female in the genre. With that task accomplished, she's able to take a step back and allow room for a diverse set of songs and emotions to step forward. The result is the best album of her career.

Tracks to Remember: 'Buzzin',' 'The Woman I Am,' 'Where Did Your Love Go,' 'Someone Somewhere Tonight'

Did You Know?: Pickler's husband Kyle Jacobs helped write a number of songs that made 'The Woman I Am,' including 'No Cure for Crazy.' She tells Taste of Country she asked him to write her a song one day, and that's what he came back with. Those who've heard the song will agree: A guy needs to be very confident in his marriage to offer this type of song to his bride.

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