Miranda Lambert

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend ****

Josh Bell

You don’t mess with Miranda Lambert. The former Nashville Star contestant threatened to set fire to her ex on the title track of her 2005 debut, Kerosene, and her follow-up, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, contains not one but two songs in which she hints at pumping some bullets into people who’ve done her wrong. On “Gunpowder & Lead,” she lies in wait for an abusive boyfriend (“His fist is big but my gun’s bigger”), and on the title track, it’s Lambert who’s the unhinged ex, not her rival. To call the singer self-assured is a serious understatement, and that brash, attention-getting confidence infuses the whole album, even the songs on which Lambert isn’t brandishing firearms.

She doesn’t have the powerhouse voice of some of her contemporaries, but Lambert more than makes up for it in personality, and as on her first album she writes or co-writes most of the songs here. There’s the plaintive twang of “Love Letters,” the down-and-dirty Southern rock of “Guilty in Here,” the sly humor of “Dry Town” (co-written by Gillian Welch). Even the soft ballad “More Like Her” is quietly cutting.

With a directness that contrasts sharply with much of the blandness on country radio, and a deep, rich musicianship, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is easily a contender for the best country album of 2007. And I’m not just saying that because Miranda Lambert could kick my ass.

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