Kristin Chenoweth's goal for her debut country album was simply to get people to listen to what she has to say, and hopefully force a few smiles. The actress turned country singer does that and so much more on 'Some Lessons Learned,' an album that radiates like many of the her finest on-screen or Broadway characters.

At times she verges on impersonating her hero Dolly Parton, but songs like the sassy 'What Would Dolly Do' and plaintive 'Change' (written by Parton) win us over because she enthusiastically wraps her heart around each performance. Chenoweth mostly relies on non-Nashville based songwriters to help her with the 13 cuts, but she clearly scrutinized each song closely to make sure it fit with the country music she's listened to and loved since her childhood in Broken Arrow, Okla.

The adorable singer would have benefited from a Music City production team, however. At times the vocals are a tad heavy, even theatrical. One can almost see a team of hunky, young men snapping their fingers and singing along on 'What More Do You Want.' When the song comes to a stop before vamping to the finish, it's like the actress has scurried off stage to allow a set change.

There are more than enough feel-good moments and clever lyrics to make up for this one nitpicking criticism. "What finally tore our love apart was a matter of religion / He thought he was God, but I didn't," she sings on 'I Didn't.' Chenoweth tells Taste of Country the song was about a guy she dated. Although she didn't write this one or others like the moving 'Fathers and Daughters,' she's obviously performing them with a very personal memory in mind.

'Mine to Leave' is her one songwriting credit. "I hope people don’t judge me," she said about this song that paints her as "the other woman." While it's a beautiful lyric, it's the only time on the album that Chenoweth seems sapped of confidence. The normally open-and-honest singer sounds not quite at peace with her story, and it shows in a rushed performance. However, this could be part of her personal healing process, and sharing her vulnerabilities is a courageous move that should be lauded.

4 Stars


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