Fall Guide: Country: Miranda Lambert serves another full tank of kerosene atop the fall's standout releases 


Sept. 29, Columbia Nashville

From the start of her career, Miranda Lambert discovered that the modern country music industry doesn't wholly embrace female performers who try to walk the balance bar between rebellious attitude and commercial success—at least not for very long. Just ask Gretchen Wilson and the Dixie Chicks.

Yet so far the spitfire Texas blonde has managed to assemble critical support, a fervent fan base and solid sales figures while maintaining an uncompromising vision that blends Texas roots rock with sensitive singer-songwriter fare—which has little to do with the current Music Row formulas. Notably, she's achieved mass-market credibility without the help of country radio, where she's only scored one Top 10 song—the raucous "Gunpowder & Lead," which stood out on country radio like a shotgun blast at a family-friendly backyard cookout.

Lambert's third major-label album, Revolution, continues to pull from the Americana side of roots music by covering superb songs by Fred Eaglesmith, Julie Miller and John Prine while presenting a few fine, self-written tunes that country radio will probably treat like an outrageous cousin who is tolerated but not encouraged. Her first singles, "Dead Flowers" and now "White Liar," find Lambert in less strident voice, delivering nuanced, real-life messages in lyrics packed with emotion and colorful imagery.

While some radio stations continue to withhold support, fans and the rest of the industry have her back. Revolution almost certainly will launch at No. 1 on the country album sales charts, as did her previous two collections. Her last album, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, won the Academy of Country Music's Album of the Year honors, and the Country Music Association just nominated her for Female Vocalist of the Year and for Single of the Year ("Gunpowder & Lead"). She may be country's token female rebel, but she's making the best of it. • Sept. 29: Patty Loveless, Mountain Soul II (Saguaro Road) Delivering a sequel to one of the decade's best country albums, Loveless again draws on bluegrass and Appalachian folk for an acoustic-based epic.

• Oct. 20: Tim McGraw, Southern Voice (Curb) A dispute with his record label led to a long delay of an album, which gave McGraw and his band plenty of time to tweak and fine-tune.

• Oct. 27: Taylor Swift, Fearless Platinum Edition (Big Machine) Basking in the glow of her multiple CMA nominations, among them Entertainer of the Year, Swift issues a special edition of her

quadruple-platinum-and-counting album Fearless. Included: six new songs and a separate disc of DVD extras, featuring the very funny "Thug Story" put-on with rapper T-Pain from this year's CMT Music Awards. Not included: a duet with Kanye.

• Nov. 3: Carrie Underwood, Play On (Arista Nashville) The first single, "Cowboy Casanova"—a pointed blast at a certain Dallas quarterback, perhaps?—amps up the big-chord stomp and was co-written by Mike Elizondo, who's worked with Eminem, Pink and Rilo Kiley. Does it mean Underwood is ready to stretch beyond country's borders?


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