Miranda Lambert

A finalist on Nashville Star and winner of the Cover Girl Fresh Face of Country Music Award, Miranda Lambert has a résumé that reads like the instructions on a bag of ramen noodles. It's clear that she was launched from the same bottomless box of blank ammo that spawned the lucrative careers of LeAnn Rimes and Carrie Underwood. But bushwhack through those dubious honors and discover a talent that is re-purposing the powers of this musical munitions factory to push modernizing ideas on an industry plagued by as much misogyny as a 2 Live Crew tour.

Unlike her hive-mind cohorts, Lambert actually writes the majority of her own songs, and that freedom does not go unflexed. Seek out "Gunpowder and Lead" to hear her exult in the righteous glory of confronting an abusive boyfriend with a shotgun. Don't be blinded by Lambert's prefab stardom; her talent and her vision were hand-built. brick by brick.

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Dave Hansen