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Miranda Lambert

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – 2007 (SonyBMG)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Miranda Lambert

Even though it sounds like a cliche from the big book of country songwriting, the truth is that, when the timing's right, a loser can end up being the biggest winner of all. Today's object lesson comes from Miranda Lambert and her sophomore album, the follow-up to her 2005 near-platinum debut, "Kerosene."

Imagine for a moment if the then-19-year-old had actually taken the crown in 2003's Nashville Star and then been forced into the studio within weeks to be primped and preened by industry spin witchdoctors into that week's idea of what a country chanteuse should have been. In that scenario, Lambert would never have taken two years to develop "Kerosene," which under her incredibly young and capable direction debuted at number one on the country charts, earned her CMA Horizon and Grammy Award nominations and sold a buttload. Being punted by Nashville Star was the best thing that could have happened to her.

Considering domino theory, it's also the best thing that could have happened to the sophomore disc. With two more years of experience and perspective, Lambert has fashioned another album's worth of tracks infused with the twist and twang of young country's current pop/rock energy while paying homage to country's rootsy and traditional past. Lambert can haul out the country authenticity on the Gillian Welch/David Rawlings Southern swinger "Dry Town" and the weepy waltz of "Love Letters," acoustic folkie melancholy on "More Like Her," crackling contemporary sparks on Patty Griffin's "Getting Ready" and the raucous title track and various blends of all of it on "Gunpowder & Lead" and "Guilty in Here."

Lambert writes or co-writes nearly everything here, making her wirewalk between country's future and past all the more impressive, although so is her gorgeous take on the Carlene Carter/Susanna Clark-written, Emmylou Harris-owned "Easy From Now On."

Lambert is the perfect confluence of youthful roots rock edginess and pure country heritage and passion, and "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" is the energized proof.