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On the Scene: Miranda Lambert at NYC's Mercury Lounge

Lambert_l

Lambert_lHey, howdy, PopWatchers! While we’re on the subject of adorable blond chicks who write pissed-off songs to/about their ex-boyfriends, might I present Exhibit B, Grammy-nominated country chick Miranda Lambert?

I got a last-minute invite to her showcase last night and headed on down to the Mercury Lounge on Houston Street to see my fellow Texan blow through about 45 minutes of both old and new material in a scrubby little low-ceilinged rock club. Weird place for the down-home sound, perhaps (unless we’re pronouncing “Houston” proper, not like Manhattanites do, “HOW-ston”), but her bass player was sporting a mohawk and anyway, Miranda’s never been a back-porch lemonade party sort of gal. Her breakout single from 2005 was called “Kerosene,” a foot-stomping breakup ditty that inspired Blender to write up an entire profile completely misinterpreting the song (it’s called a metaphor, kids). And from what I heard yesterday, the new stuff doesn’t back down from the manslaughter.

New album due May 1 is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and after she kicked things off with two tracks off Kerosene (“What About Georgia?“and “New Strings”) she launched into the first new song: “Gunpowder andLead,” which features the line, “I wanna show him what little girls aremade of,” and is mainly about going postal on a man that’s done herwrong (and yes, Blender, this time she’s being literal). She also pumped out the title track, which you can hear on her MySpace page(although that version omits some of the choicer profanities from thesong). It’s a little like the Dixie Chicks’ “Sin Wagon,” except it’sabout a girl who is most decidedly not having any sex at the moment.

For those trying to picture why all this fire and guns and cussin’ is so splendidly incongruous: Imagine cheerleader Hayden Panettiere from Heroes.Now piss her off. Now give her a guitar and a band with a mohawked bassplayer. This kid’s not messing around. There’s some Reba in her voice,some Wynonna, a lot of Natalie Maines—but there’s also some ShelbyLynne and, frankly, just a little Courtney Love. And Miranda’s strengthlies in her rage: On new ballad “More Like Her,” which she playedacoustic and alone, her voice was strong and clear, but all thevulnerability all of a sudden seemed a little out of place. That’sprobably just a function of being in a low-ceilinged rock club andtrying to take it down a notch right after playing a song that involveda lot of handgun gestures, but I also can’t help but think as she getsolder, the ballads will get stronger.

Couple more tracks to look forward to: “Desperation,” a driving,finger-pickin’ ballad, and “Famous in a Small Town,” the mostconventionally “country” song of last night’s set, but still damnstrong. Then she wrapped it all up with her “big  ol’ top 13 hit,”“Kerosene,” her blond head cranking up and down over her guitar as thecrowd hooted and hollered. On my newly minted concert scale, with 1being Crucifictorious and 10 being U2 at Irving Plaza, I’m giving Ms.Lambert a solid 6 yee-haws, a score that would be higher had she playeda full set. She’s on the road with Toby Keith right now; if you canhandle his constant threats to put his boot up your ass, that might beworth seeing.

Originally posted January 31 2007 — 5:06 PM EST

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