Miranda Lambert, Revolution (Columbia)
Miranda Lambert still rocks harder than just about anybody on either country radio or the Americana charts on her third album—check out the paint-peeling "Sin for a Sin" and Julie Miller's "Somewhere Trouble Don't Go." She shows off a credible softer side here, too, on lead single "Dead Flowers" and "Makin' Plans," and straddles contemporary country and the anti-Nashville crowd well enough that Revolution could be the kind of crossover hit Nashville's been missing since the Dixie Chicks.
The surprise on Revolution is the strength of the material in between the hard-rock rave-ups and quiet ballads—the ringing power-ballad coda to "Dead Flowers," rueful mainstream rocker "Me and My Cigarettes," the pop-twang of "Airstream Song," and her version of Fred Eaglesmith's working-class anthem "Time to Get a Gun" ("I could afford one if I did just a little less drinkin'"). She even adds complexity to her bad-girl image in "Heart Like Mine," where wounded introspection ("My brother got the brains of the family/So I thought I'd learn to sing") mixes it up with a classic country Sunday-morning hangover ("I heard Jesus, he drank wine/And I bet we'd get along just fine"). Lambert has gotten better with each album, and Revolution is her most assured and consistent disc yet—and she's still just 25.