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Update: Country

Nashville Stars

Miranda Lambert throws more kerosene on the fire, and more.

****

MIRANDA LAMBERT
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Sony/BMG Nashville

Garth Brooks fan turned Nashville Star discovery Lambert stormed the country charts with the incendiary "Kerosene" in 2005. Now she tops herself on what will likely remain the country album of the year. Just twenty-three, Lambert plays the rebel girl, revving up the mood of the Dixie Chicks' "Goodbye Earl" and Gretchen Wilson's "Redneck Woman." On the lead track, she waits on an abusive boyfriend with her shotgun; on the title track, she leaves her pistol in the car and wades into the bar barehanded. Lambert does have a thoughtful side, but the violent moments define a little lady who also cites the Rolling Stones' "Under My Thumb" and rocks a Patty Griffin cover. Smoking.

***

BLAKE SHELTON
Pure BS
Warner Bros.

Now a close personal friend of Miranda Lambert, troublemaking new traditionalist Shelton cut this album mid-divorce, which is how he explains the thoughtful tone of songs that play on received language like "She Don't Love Me" (worse, she doesn't hate me either), "What I Wouldn't Give" (to make up for what I wouldn't give) and "I Don't Care" (actually, I do). The finale ponders suburban developers displacing farmland and honky-tonks. "The Last Country Song," it's called. You can bet it isn't.

***

JOHN ANDERSON
Easy Money
Warner Bros.

Aiding Shelton along with George Jones on Shelton's finale is new traditionalist stalwart Anderson, returned to the label of his Eighties heyday by producer John Rich of Big and Rich. Rich co-composed five songs, most notably the pre-breakup "A Woman Knows" and the rambunctious "Brown Liquor." This is a committed set, but Rich is overextended, and Anderson, 51, needs zippier material than he used to. On its finale, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard themselves come to the rescue -- a little too late.

Rolling Stone, June 14, 2007