Miranda Lambert - The Weight Of These Wings
Nashville has long been the centre of a slick production line of artists promoted and supported by the music-making machine. In fact if you can sing, you’ve paid your dues and look the part and then with, granted, a hell of a lot of luck you can be pushed out front with a contemporary Country album with Top 20 hits. Providing you get on the road to work the USA then you’re made.
It’s easier for the boys and the current appetite for bro-country appears insatiable on American Country radio. Only two girls might make the playlist – Carrie Underwood and the Texan Miranda Lambert.
Despite the airbrush photos and PR then Miranda defies the convention and lives her life like many of her songs. Her former husband, the mega Country star, Blake Shelton, described her as ‘complicated’…. I’ll say.
This latest album comes on the back of that turbulent divorce and the general view by many in the Country establishment that Blake was well shot of her. A double album is a difficult project to pull off but there are few clunkers out of 22 tracks. Relationships and her difficult nature are to the fore in the often raw lyrics as she name checks the broken hearts, the highway (‘Highway Vagabond’), its towns, drinks galore and sometime casual sex (‘Vice’). You think that this is probably personally researched despite her co-writing status on nearly most songs.
So why is the record that good? Frankly she’s able to dictate to the record company that she’s not doing a bright and shiny Nashville product and so much of this has a traditional or roots feel like Chris Stapleton’s 2016 Academy of Country Music album of the year – ‘The Traveller’. The arrangements are moody (‘Tin Man’ and ‘Runnin’ Just In Case’) when they need to be and as usual exquisitely delivered. However there is the usual flippant levity that can chuck up a Top 20 hit (‘Pink Sunglasses’). This is an artist putting down her mark as the real deal and not simply reliant on a good set of lungs and a platinum rinse.
Let’s be fair anyone who includes ‘Tush’ by ZZ Top as part of their stage set clearly demonstrates that they had the cajones and independence in place well before they embarked on this defining album.