Swiping a page from the Book of Adele, Jana Kramer calls her second album Thirty One, an allusion to her age at the time of its creation, but this 2015 album doesn't sound a thing like the work of a neo-soul diva. No, Thirty One plays like a Miranda Lambert tribute, with Kramer swapping out the overly manicured, polite country-pop of her eponymous 2012 debut for a swaggering rebel yell. She's a self-styled spitfire, warning troublemakers not to touch her radio and getting ready to pop a bottle of beer, strutting her stuff alongside Steven Tyler, the latest rocker to relocate to Nashville. Kramer is also a transplant to the Music City -- the native of Rochester, Michigan arrived there by way of Hollywood -- and while there isn't much twang in her voice, there is a fair amount of determination, which is a key ingredient for making the better Lambert-alikes work: "Boomerang" stomps hard, and if "Don't Touch My Radio" feels somewhat forced, its hook nevertheless lands. Still, the moments that really click on Thirty One are the numbers that are softer and sweeter, songs where she's either gliding along with a ballad, easing into well-polished crossover adult contemporary ("I Got the Boy," co-written by Jamie Lynn Spears) or, better still, indulging in a spot of unabashed bubblegum ("Said No One Ever," which would feel at home on Radio Disney). None of these tunes support Kramer's Thirty One narrative of how she's now a tough redneck woman, but they do show how she can turn out pleasing country-pop whenever she lets down her guard.
(CD - Elektra Nashville #9362492691)
Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine