“crazy girl with a shotgun”

miranda lambert. photo by randee st. nicholas.

miranda lambert. photo by randee st. nicholas.

Sometimes the elements simply refuse to get with the program.

Take a Friday evening last September when Miranda Lambert opened a sold out show for headliner Jason Aldean. No sooner did she take the stage at Applebee’s Park than the heavens opened.

The rain fell at a steady but manageable clip when Lambert fused honky tonk gusto with vintage pub rock by covering The Faces’ Stay With Me,. When the storm picked up enough for the beer stands to start handing out plastic ponchos, she answered with a makeshift but solemn version of the 1970 Creedence Clearwater Revival hit Have You Ever Seen the Rain. Then as the showers turned to a deluge, Lambert got as drenched as the crowd bringing her set to an electric close by playing Joan Jett’s I Love Rock and Roll side by side with her 2008 signature hit Gunpowder and Lead.

“It was a hard night, but shows like that just help you grow,” said Lambert, who returns to town on Thursday to open a bigger and unconditionally drier Rupp Arena concert by Brad Paisley.

“I did learn one thing, though – don’t wear heels for rainy day shows. But I just took my shoes off halfway through the set that night.”

As it turned out, a far more potent (and anticipated) storm awaited the Texas-born country star last fall. The Applebee’s Park show came only four days before the release of Revolution, Lambert’s third album. As was the case with her two previous recordings – 2005’s Kerosene and 2007’s Crazy Ex-GirlfriendRevolution entered the Billboard Country Albums chart at No. 1. She now stands as only the third female country artist to chalk up three charttopping album debuts.

Such is the meteoric rise of the singer from Lindale, Texas who came to prominence as a finalist in the 2003 season of the American Idol-like Nashville Star. Once Kerosene introduced her decidedly rockish country sound and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend cemented her popularity, Lambert became viewed as something of a wild country child.

Kerosene‘s title tune, after all, was a bit of a social kiss off anthem (“Forget you high society, I’m soakin’ it in kerosene; light ‘em up and watch ‘em burn”). Then there is Gunpowder and Lead, the breakthrough hit from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend where the protagonist waits at home for her jailbird lover in anything but a fretful state of mind (“Gonna load my shotgun, wait by the door and light a cigarette; if he wants a fight, well, he’s got one”).

Is this a sign of the country times? A rough riding, tough talking Texas lass packing heat? As it turns out, the only thing about the image that seems to bug Lambert is how limiting it can be.

“I was kind of thinking that I might be getting pushed into a corner, you know, where people just thought of me as this crazy girl with a shotgun. But I think Revolution took me out of that risk. I’m definitely more open on the new album.”

A touch of the vengeful spirit still surfaces on Lambert’s current hit, White Liar, but the tune is more of a country confessional than a tale of retribution. However, Revolution‘s first single, Dead Flowers (not to be confused with the Rolling Stones rocker of the same title) is an anthemic country weeper. There are no guns, no kerosene blazes – just pure, lyrical remorse.

“I think making records gets harder as you go,” Lambert said. “You’re just trying to outdo what you did before, so it’s a challenge. But it’s also fun. I love a good challenge. To learn more about myself so I can portray that in music is something I take a lot of pride in.”

While Lambert wrote or co-wrote much of the Revolution material, just as she did on her two preceding albums, there is also a choice selection of cover material. On Revolution, Lambert interprets tunes by Americana faves John Prine (That’s the Way That the World Goes ‘Round), Julie Miller (Somewhere Trouble Don’t Go) and Fred Eaglesmith (Time to Get a Gun).

“I already loved those artists,” Lambert said. “I was already a fan of Fred Eaglesmith and Julie Miller, so it was kind of a no-brainer. If I already loved their songs, already knew their songs and already felt I could do them in my style, then I felt I should go ahead and recognize those great writers.”

A fair amount of recognition has been heading Lambert’s way, as well. Since the release of Kerosene, she has opened concerts for just about every country star in or out of Nashville. Along with Aldean and Paisley, she has shared bills with George Strait, Toby Keith and, most recently, Kenny Chesney.

“We have done about every major country tour you can do,” she said. “Touring now with Brad is kind of icing on the cake. It’s a new crowd, a new stage, different elements and different people. It will be another learning experience.”

Brad Paisley, Miranda Lambert and Justin Moore will performs at 7:30 tonight at Rupp Arena. Tickets are $39.75 and $54.75. Call (859) 233-3535, (800) 745-3000.

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