Randee St. Nicholas

Four The Record

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October 26, 2011 at 04:00 AM EDT

Miranda Lambert has had one heck of a year. In May, the 27-year-old Texas native married fellow country star Blake Shelton, then earned a No. 1 debut with her Pistol Annies side project in August. And now she’s releasing the follow-up to her award-sweeping 2009 smash Revolution — proof that the onetime Nashville Star contestant has officially become Nashville royalty. So does Four the Record ditch the scrappy rebel yells we’ve grown to expect after early hits like ”Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and ”Gunpowder & Lead”? As if. ”You got the bullets, I got the gun,” she sneers on ”Fastest Girl in Town.” ”I got a hankerin’ for getting into something.”

But wild-child indignation is just one of the many moods Lambert explores here. Far more than peers like Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift, she’s invested in the full range of human feeling: ecstasy, grief, confusion, even those weird hybrid emotions for which only the Germans have names. Four is her most vivid effort yet, with brilliantly observed songs about lust (”Fine Tune”) and disappointment (”Same Old You”), as well as a stirring celebration of diversity (”All Kinds of Kinds”).

The album also features several cuts about weddings, but true to Lambert’s mission, they don’t all turn out happily ever after; on ”Dear Diamond,” a ring symbolizes a bride’s guilty secret (let’s just say she might not yet have forsaken all others). By the time she finally goes just-married idyllic on fairy-tale closer ”Oklahoma Sky,” the singer’s commitment to reality has earned her the right to a little fantasy. A-

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Four The Record

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RCA Nashville
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Four The Record

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