Miranda Lambert, Kerosene

Miranda Lambert
Kerosene
2005

It’s fire and fearlessness, it’s volatile and vulnerable and veers closer to the rootsy, rustic sounds of Americana and the raucous rhythms of rock music than most mainstream Nashville releases do. Kerosene, the introduction to Texas born-and-bred singer-songwriter Miranda Lambert, is a high-octane set with its share of both sweet ballads and hard-rocking uptempo numbers. This debut album establishes a musical identity, and while there’s room for growth, it fits nicely among the finest major-label efforts of the decade. Her brimming-with-attitude singing is the stuff of which great country records can be made, and the production of Frank Liddell and Mike Wrucke prompts Lambert’s voice into remaining sturdy even as she chronicles a young woman’s trials and troubles.

Borrowing liberally from Steve Earle’s “I Feel Alright”, the title track crackles with great energy and rage. As Lambert admonishes her man for his cheating ways, the sheer importance of her message builds with great intensity, assisted by an electric guitar that squeals with urgency. Blurring the line between fury and insanity, Lambert holds a grudge like nobody’s business. A three-minute metaphor for romantic frustration, the song’s brilliant in its bite.

Lambert’s no stranger to a clever turn of a phrase, and the sassy, brash way that she tackles the tracks on this collection show a real feel for country music’s basic lovin’ and leavin’ themes. The one small weakness on Kerosene is its ballads. Save “Bring Me Down”, a left-of-center slow song that builds into a begging-for-more chorus, Lambert just misses when she slows the pace. Although she’s quite capable of pulling off slow songs such as “Greyhound Bound for Nowhere” (a plaintive ballad adorned with an acoustic setting) and “Love Your Memory”, they’re not quite as lyrically compelling when surrounded by a number of more powerful ripostes of love gone wrong.

Another example of the need for a narrowing focus is the first single. “Me and Charlie Talking” is a well-written ode to young love, but it doesn’t quite meld with the rest of the album’s vision, that of a determined young woman who loves the thrill of the chase despite its challenges. The potential exists, though, to expand on this songwriting vein, and Lambert imbues all of these tracks with an honesty that suggests the material will soon match the performance. This ability, to be susceptible in love’s wake and understand the heartache behind her volatile emotions, makes Kerosene a more diverse album than the hard-charging, rock-tinged numbers suggest.

But of course, Lambert gives as good as she takes on a number of the album’s best tracks. The only one she didn’t have a hand in writing, “I Can’t Be Bothered”, is a neat Texas shuffle that shows off her sharp wit, and it exhibits a hint of desperation in her drawl. But ultimately, she’ll go down swinging furiously. And “What About Georgia” is a wise-beyond-her-years story about a man whose grand design is to disappear from his troubles, an idea that Lambert herself never wants to entertain, choosing instead to clash with any challenge in her path. Feisty and fearless, her voice is gritty and unwavering, and her sense of self is the deciding factor on Kerosene.

Miranda Lambert possesses a wide range of vocal talent, able to delicately maneuver around moving-on songs such as “Mama, I’m Alright” and “New Strings.” She’s a young woman with a master plan, a state map and a tank of gas, and Lambert fills this role with a real purpose. Her future travels are sure to be of great interest to the country music audience. Kerosene is an appetizing debut that promises a wealth of success for the seemingly fearless singer.

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8 Comments

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8 Responses to Miranda Lambert, Kerosene

  1. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    “Me And Charlie Talking” made me think that I wouldn’t like Lambert at all (I never caught her on Nashville Star). I’m still not wild about that song, but it’s amazing how she’s turned into one of my favorite current artists. This is a great album, though I *do* like her sophomore effort even better.

  2. I love the title cut. I’ve never warmed to the rest of it, but I recently caught her singing “New Strings” acoustically on GAC and I enjoyed it. I love her second album, though.

  3. Chris D.No Gravatar

    I also like her sophomore album better, but I’ve warmed up to this one recently. I love “Greyhound Bound For Nowhere”, but it’s a little to vague to understand very well, and “Kerosene” is a great song. Nice review!

  4. I agree her second was better. I loved her first, but the second was better.

    Just to throw this out, I was under the impression the retro reviews were albums from years and years ago like 90′s and back. I wouldn’t really consider this a retro album at this point, maybe career wise for Miranda, but in relation to other works I think it’s still too new. Thank you for paying it its dues though. I also loved that you brought Cash into the picture with these reviews, that is a classic.

  5. Lynn DouglasNo Gravatar

    Nice review Blake. Miranda has about a 55% hit ratio for me on her albums. My ideal Miranda album would be a combo of Kerosene and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. I agree that slower songs tend to be her weakness, however I actually prefer the slower songs on Kerosene to the ones on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

    I know a lot of people aren’t crazy about her voice, but I love it. It has so much character and she uses it very effectively to convey emotion. She’s not a belter; she understands nuance.

    I also think her musical choices are excellent. In this day and age, when every album coming out of Nashville sounds vaguely the same, Miranda’s always sound different. Thank goodness.

  6. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    I think I like everything on Crazy Ex Girlfriend to varying degrees and about 80% of Kerosine.

  7. Carson

    Nice review.

    I really love this CD, however like “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” better.

    My favorite track on this CD is “What About Georgia”. I also love the title track that spawned Lambert’s “tough chick” image.

    The reason I love “What About Georgia” is it’s wise story and clever lyrics and sayings inside the song. It’s one Lambert penned all by herself and the lyrics “I looked in his big blue eyes/And I saw you again/He’s hungry for the life/That he ain’t ready to begin”, well I just love the song.

  8. She really is a remarkable talent and I think this is one of the most remarkable debuts in modern history. Also, if Kevin or any editor for that matter read this what are the chances of you guys doing reviews of the “essential” albums of the people you have in the retro single reviews similar to this and the Patty and Pam reviews?

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