ALBUM REVIEWS / POP : Loveless' 'Truth' Is Just Shy of Daring : ***, PATTY LOVELESS, "Trouble With the Truth", Epic/Nashville

Following her best-album honors at last fall's Country Music Assn. Awards, this most reliable of today's female country singers offers another solid but unspectacular showcase for her blend of taste, intelligence and conviction.

Richard Thompson's "Tear-Stained Letter" is the most noteworthy stretch, and Loveless (who appears with Vince Gill on Sunday at the Pond of Anaheim and Tuesday at the San Diego Sports Arena) attacks its comically exaggerated grief with appropriate gusto.

Her unforced exuberance also illuminates Matraca Berg and Tim Krekel's chiming, pop-flavored anthem "You Can Feel Bad," a sprightly riposte to a guy who's walking out, and the blues-rocking "She Drew a Broken Heart."

The ballads, highlighted by the philosophical title song, are less consistent, with "Lonely Too Long," a lugubrious rationalization of a one-night stand, breaking the momentum. The album closes with Tony Arata and Scott Miller's "Someday I Will Lead the Parade," a song that evokes the mountain hymns of her native Kentucky.

Loveless' ability to keep an eye on country's roots while venturing into contemporary areas is her distinguishing feature, but you wish she'd follow the lead of her Pikeville homeboy Dwight Yoakam and be a little less cautious in mixing things up.

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