On 2009′s Revolution, Miranda Lambert made mainstream Nashville her personal whipping boy: Her confessional, rough-around-the-edges brand of country was a welcome kick to the genre’s butt. On her aptly-titled fourth solo release, Four the Record — which follows the debut by her stellar trio the Pistol Annies — Lambert, who prefers flashing a Remington over rose petals, retains her signature no-nonsense attitude. But she also noticeably reins it in, revealing a Southern gal that knows you have to relax before reloading.
Despite help from seasoned songwriters, the album remains distinctly Miranda. “My reputation follows me around,” she chuckles in “Fastest Girl in Town,” before letting her steely vocals smother a man who simply can’t keep up. While sensually sweeping, the confessions “Oklahoma Sky” and “Dear Diamond” feel too forced, and noticeably deliberate. With Lambert, we’ll take a bullet over a ballad any day.