By Gili Malinsky
By Bob Ruggiero
By Hilary Hughes
By Peter Gerstenzang
By David R. Adler
By Devon Maloney
By Brian McManus
By Jessica Hopper
Blond-haired, blue-eyed Miranda Lambert is a pretty, young, Texas-based country singer-songwriter who finished third in last year's inaugural Nashville Star, an American Idol for c&w acts, and has just released her major-label debut, Kerosene. She is also eminently capable of inhabiting the role of man-stealing tart in songs more convincingly than . . . well, there's never really been a youthful Nashville gal as hot to curl up to the contours of otherwomanhood with as much perky insistence and screw-y'all zeal as this wizened 21-year-old. "And that ring that you were wearing/Don't mean everything," Lambert emotes twangily on the weeper "Greyhound Bound for Nowhere," echoing in vibe the guitar-fueled locomotive of a title track, in which the singer states plainly that "cheatin' really ain't a crime" and that she, "smoking gun" in hand, will find somewhere to lay her blame the day the "other" woman "changes her last name."
This is all hot stuff, and it's given the penultimate treatment on "Bring Me Down," a smoldering plea to be romantically enslaved that vacillates between backroads billet-doux and marquee hair-metal ballad, with a hugely sung chorus whose dip into minor-chord melancholy lifts an otherwise brilliant three minutes of songcraft into bona fide art.
The glory of Lambert's heating up is ably matched by the production. Every plink, plank, and plunk, smeared with the fingerprints of a dozen Music City vets, burns gold; un-ladylike behavior thus comes off as not fake but like so much comfortable confusion.
Maybe a little too gritty for her intended audience, Lambert's rocking backdoor-woman 'tude will have a place on the club circuit: The title track has been lifted straight from the Book of (Steve) Earle; the tiny, tear-inducing guitar figure intro'ing "Greyhound" could have been coerced to life by the tiny, tear-inducing fingers of Lindsay Buckingham; and "Me and Charlie Talking," Kerosene's toe-tappin' single, comes on all splashy cymbals and summery, strummed guitar like the best Southern-fried par-tay, a gathering of high-spirited creatures of circumstance, everything and everybody run through with the suggestion of sweaty, pulse-popping self-gratification. Yeah.