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Kerosene ()

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It's arguable that Miranda Lambert's debut album, Kerosene, is the first true Nashville product produced in the wake of Gretchen Wilson, crafted with an eye on the audience that Wilson's stylized redneck raunch won. Of course, with her golden blonde hair and good looks, Lambert seems like she would be crushed by the rampaging Gretchen, and there's a certain truth that Miranda is a bit fabricated and polished. After all, she started out as an actress, appearing in the long-shelved Piper Perabo teen comedy Slap Her She's French (finally released under the lamentably tame title She Will Have Way), and only got a foothold in the music industry by participating in USA's countrified American Idol knockoff, Nashville Star, where she placed in the top three. All this suggests that Lambert will be as slickly packaged as, say, a Southern Diana DeGarmo, but pop music works in mysterious ways: as it turns out, Lambert wrote all of the tunes on her debut, whereas the seemingly more genuine Wilson only wrote about half. That said, Kerosene lacks the gonzo humor that Big & Rich brought to Here for the Party, and Lambert's sweet girlish voice seems too tame for some of the livelier material. But that's not to say that those tunes don't work as well as the gentler pop tunes (the ballads tend to be a little treacly and nondescript), all of which are sturdily written, delivered with conviction, and given just enough gloss for an appealing sheen. Against all odds, this a rarity in modern mainstream country: a piece of product that's friendly, tuneful, sharper, and more genuine than it initially seems. Maybe Miranda needed a show like to Nashville Star to jump-start her career, but the show gave her the opportunity to make this thoroughly winning debut. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi Hide synopsis

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