- The Washington Times - Friday, August 28, 2009

Miranda Lambert is the new bad girl of country music, a blond bombshell who takes action against those who’ve wronged her.

Her songs are the stuff of revenge, filled with tales of cheating boyfriends, abusive husbands and their spectacular downfall. Brought to life by a backing band more indebted to rock ‘n’ roll than country, the Texan’s first two albums sold more than 2 million copies, establishing her commercial status while highlighting a reluctance to play by Nashville’s rules.

Country music has seen its share of fiery females. Gretchen Wilson most recently popularized the role with “Redneck Woman,” a chart-topping single that boasted the singer’s appreciation for cheap beer and Wal-Mart clothing.

However, while Miss Wilson often performs songs written by outside writers, Miss Lambert maintains a leading role in the composition process. “Kerosene,” her 2005 debut, featured her byline on all but one track, while 2007’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” included eight originals.

To compose her third album, “Revolution,” Miss Lambert retreated to her farm in Oklahoma.

“It’s kind of my sanctuary,” she says. “It really helps me focus and get in the mood to write.”

The result is her most diverse album yet, a combination of love songs and “angry anthems” fueled by the influence of Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Allison Moorer and Jack Ingram. The album’s happier moments were inspired largely by Miss Lambert’s own life — from her relationship with fellow country star Blake Shelton to her recent string of chart successes.

“I’m a pretty happy girl these days. I have a great career going, a good relationship and good people around me. So to write a love song, I don’t have to stretch too far,” she says.

Nonetheless, the volatile girl who torched ex-boyfriends’ homes during “Kerosene” isn’t gone for good.

“The revenge songs and the sad songs still come to me,” Miss Lambert admits. “I just have to put myself back in that place. I had my heart broken, and I dated some losers, so I can pull from those experiences. Plus the revenge stuff is just so fun. Not everyone can live out their fantasy, but I sure can sing about it. That’s not breaking any laws.”

After spending some time at her farm, the singer returned to Nashville to co-write additional material. She eventually decamped to Blackbird Studios with her longtime production team, Frank Liddell and Mike Wrucke, to begin the recording sessions for “Revolution.”

“My producers bring in some ‘vibe’ elements like lava lamps and disco balls,” she says of the studio experience. “It makes it feel more like a live gig or a party, which in turns helps me out. I also have a pair of dog slippers that I wore while recording. I think they brought me good luck. I can’t be a tough girl all the time!”

“Revolution” will be released Sept. 29, five days after Miss Lambert and her band are slated to perform the entire album at Nashville’s storied Ryman Auditorium. In the meantime, the singer can be found touring the country with Kenny Chesney.

Miranda Lambert and Kenny Chesney visit the Nissan Pavilion on Saturday. Doors open at 7:30 p.m., and reserved tickets are still available at $71.

An American band

“Everybody’s first question is always, ‘How do you guys practice?’” says Jesse Elliot, lead vocalist and primary songwriter for These United States, with a laugh. “We explain that we play a couple hundred shows every year, so the road is basically all the practice we get.”

With its five members split between Lexington, Ky., and the District, the band faces an unusual set of scheduling conflicts.

To compensate for the situation, the musicians have remained on tour at a near-constant rate since 2007. The roadside imagery that fueled the group’s debut effort, “A Picture of the Three of Us at the Gate to the Garden of Eden,” has since become a familiar site, flying past the band’s windshield for nine months out of every year.

Such touring can be relentless and demanding, but it also justifies the band’s name. In a relatively short time, These United States has become one of America’s most dedicated acts, regularly crossing the country with a blend of rock ‘n’ roll muscle and country twang.

“Our hometown shows are always great,” Mr. Elliot says. “But we also love cities like Brooklyn, Chicago and San Francisco, places we’ve visited often enough to make them feel like home away home. Eventually, every place starts to feel like that, which is a really good feeling.”

Nonetheless, the nation’s capital played the most important role in the creation of These United States’ upcoming album, “Everything Touches Everything.” The band took influence from 2008’s presidential race, looking past the candidates’ platforms and focusing on the cultural energy generated by such elections.

“We basically planned two different albums,” the singer explains, “one that was the ‘McCain’ album and one that was the ‘Obama’ album. Neither album was about a specific political stance. “Instead, we focused on the mood of the people, the country and the world. We thought it would be nice to let the outcome of the election serve as a proxy vote for our own album and to put something out that was more reflective of the times.”

Set for release on Tuesday, “Everything Touches Everything” will keep These United States on the road through the end of November. The band returns to the District on Saturday for a hometown gig at the Black Cat.

These United States, Junior League Band, and Riffs alumni Hoots & Hellmouth will visit the Black Cat on Saturday for a 9 p.m. performance. Tickets are $12 at the door.

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