K.D. LANG "Absolute Torch and Twang." Sire *** 1/2: Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to five stars (a classic).

On her third album, Lang takes a few jaunts accompanied by some venerable ghosts of pop music past, the most spectacular result being a superlative version of the Faron Young-Willie Nelson song "Three Days." Imagine Patsy Cline seeing Judy Garland through the eyes of Billie Holiday (no joke) on this tune about the utter self-abasement that can hit when love vanishes.

But Lang is only guided by those musical spirits, not possessed by them. While she can summon up their emotional vulnerability, the difference for Lang is that loss, no matter how painfully expressed in some of the songs here, never gives way to despair. The tone is set in the opening tune, "Luck in My Eyes," which Lang delivers with a sense of inner strength that hovers over even the most downtrodden tales that follow. Through the record's Western swing/honky-tonk musical milieu, Lang taps into characters who, like the frontier women of old, mostly know what they want and know how to get it.

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