Pain To Kill (Mercury Nashville)

Everyone should handle a broken heart as well as Terri Clark. Fully half of her fifth and latest album consists of break-up songs -- but nearly all of them boast a resilient heroine who doesn't waste time crying in her beer.

Tough-chick tunes have always been Terri's trademark, like her previous hits "You're Easy On The Eyes" and "Better Things To Do." Pain To Kill is packed with similarly saucy gems, like the bad-date ballad "Better Than You," which builds to a priceless pay-off line: This heart of mine's been broken by better than you.

If you're tempted to write off these ditties as a series of snappy one-liners, think again. Under the surface is a message of empowerment and self-esteem. Take the woman in "Not A Bad Thing," who realizes that to be alone is to be in pretty good company: I used to feel sorry for someone like me / In a corner booth pretending to read / On a Friday night ... but it's not a bad thing.

Terri avoids male-bashing by infusing her vocals with a healthy dose of humor and sly self-awareness. The heroine of the hard-driving title track may be determined to speed up the grieving process, but there's a wink in her voice that suggests she doesn't quite believe her own bravado.

Pain To Kill does include a few highlights that don't revolve around heartbreak, such as the bouncy "I Wanna Do It All." But as usual, Terri's at her best when she's facing down her pain - and discovering her own strength in the process.

-- Katie Dodd

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