The title track for "All That For This" defines Bowersox's "emancipation from judgment" that began on season nine of "American Idol" and continued thereafter with the making and selling (not that well) of her major-label album debut, "Farmer's Daughter."
Bowersox was very much a musical oddball/novelty item on the TV talent contest - a messy-haired, guitar-strumming hippie chick doing her "street busking" thing and beating the drum for original music in the company of karaoke-style soul-pop divas and country rock crooners.
"I begged them to let me do original songs on the show," she said. "But the only one I slipped in was a song scoring my homecoming segment. Then the next year they changed the rules. That sure worked well for Philip Phillips" - winner of Season 12, and now quite a draw as a folkie singer/songwriter.
Because she could also belt the blues, "A.I." judges were calling her "the new Janis Joplin," a "great compliment," she now says. Bowersox also caught the public's imagination, and overcame long odds. She never fell out of the top three in votes and lasted all the way to the season finale. But when she then lost to the more conventional and instantly forgotten Lee DeWyze, this Bowersox booster gave up on watching the show.
Producers of her first album then tried to shoehorn the woman into Top 40 pop-rock territory. She resisted as best she could and now says that she was "generally proud of the results." Snubbed, though, by radio programmers, the project moved a mere 200,000 copies. Bowersox is slotted at a lowly 27th place in the accounting of "Best-Selling 'American Idol' Recording Artists." (List toppers: Carrie Underwood, at 14 million "units"; Kelly Clarkson, 12 million; Chris Daughtry, 6.6 mill.)
And, in terms of overall career visibility, Bowersox isn't even a blip on the screens next to fellow "Idol" losers like Jordin Sparks, Jennifer Hudson and Katharine McPhee - the latter two now glowing bright on the NBC musical series "Smash."
Still, the resilient Bowersox says she's thrilled with the way "All That For This" came out. Broadening its reach, she believes, the album's a swirl of folk, rock and soul/gospel flavors (and, yes, she also recorded all the spirit-minded backing vocals herself "in my closet"). And the songs' lyrical lift goes hand-in-glove. We're talking worldly-wise notions like, "If you're holding onto dead weight, it's just holding you down."
Bowersox is hoping that alt-rock stations will get interested in "Stitches," her duet with Jakob Dylan, whom she met through a diabetes-charity project. (She has the ailment, as does "someone close to him.")
Most commercial, to these ears, are the rousing, drown-your-sorrows, country rock original "Til The Whiskey's Gone" and her vivid version of The Sundays' "Here's Where the Story Ends."
Bowersox agreed with my thought that if she were competing today on "American Idol," she'd be pegged an "Americana" artist and earning radio respect alongside The Lumineers and Mumford and Sons - "who get lumped as 'Americana,' though they're from England," she shared with a laugh. "That's why I prefer the description 'heartfelt music.'"
Crystal Bowersox, with backing band/opening act Montee Mar, play Tin Angel, 20 S. 2nd St. 8:30 p.m. (sold out) and 10:30 p.m. Friday, $15, 215-928-0978, tinangel.com.