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LeAnn Rimes has a big voice for a young girl

Newest country star has big plans for her first record, ”Blue”

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Red-hot on the heels of her smash album, Blue, 13-year-old country singer LeAnn Rimes has learned a couple of crucial showbiz lessons. The first is that she’d eventually like to be known by ”that one-name thing, like Reba’s Reba and Wynonna’s Wynonna,” partly in emulation of two of her idols, but mainly because it would speed the autograph process. After signing for hundreds of fans at a Blockbuster store in Houston in mid-July, Rimes admits, ”My hand is dead.”

The second lesson is that when the Mississippi-born, Dallas-bred phenom plays Texas’ amusement park circuit, she no longer needs to wait an hour for the roller coaster. ”I opened for Tracy Lawrence at Six Flags in Dallas and then went out in the park and rode everything, but I didn’t know they’d let me cut in line,” she explains. The folks who will line up later this evening for Rimes’ Six Flags AstroWorld gig in Houston will range from young girls with cameras to cowboy-hatted suitors bearing flowers to older fans marveling at her uncanny vocal echoes of country legend Patsy Cline.

Though ”Young Country” doesn’t get much younger than Rimes, she already shows more poise and maturity than many artists twice her age. While her peers watched Sesame Street, Rimes began developing her big, belting voice by supplementing a diet of country favorites with records by Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland. She has been singing on stage since she was 5, cut her first independent album at 11, and performed more than 100 dates last year, well before ”Blue” — the hit single that has propelled Rimes’ album to No. 3 on the Billboard pop chart and No. 1 on the country chart — saturated the airwaves.

If Rimes is an overnight success, ”it’s been a long night,” joked her father and comanager, Wilbur Rimes. ”I always knew she had something special, but we never expected it to hit like this.”

Blue showcases Rimes as more than a teenage novelty — Tiffany with a Texas twang — and suggests that she might have more staying power than some recent country supernovas. The smoky balladry of ”Hurt Me” has already earned favor with radio stations that are still spinning ”Blue,” while some of the friskier-sounding material edges closer to Shania Twain territory, going well beyond puppy love.

”Like an actress interpreting a script, I’m an interpreter of a song,” explains Rimes, who will turn 14 on Aug. 28. ”I know what the songs are all about, though I haven’t lived it yet.”

No doubt, that day will come. As her proud papa puts it, ”Once she gets her heart broke, look out.”