2014 CD REVIEW
MIRANDA DIALS PRISCILLA FOR CHART IGNITION
“Priscilla, Priscilla, how did you get him to yourself?/ between the whistle calls and Southern dolls/ it's enough to put a home through hell/ Priscilla, Priscilla/ he's always in high demand/ how do you or don't you get the love you want when everybody wants your man/ It's a difficult thing being Queen to the King, and I feel ya.” - Priscilla - Nicolle Galyon-Natalie Hemby- Jimmy Robbins.
Lambert's frequent co-writer Natalie Hemby hooked up with fellow songwriters Nicolle Galyon and Jimmy Robbins to write Priscilla after visiting Lambert and Oklahoma born Shelton's Nashville home one day.
"It was one of those weeks where we were on the tabloids every day for some dumb story that wasn't true," Lambert revealed.
"She was like, 'how is this all happening? How do you deal with all of this?' I got this song two weeks later, and it was like, 'OK, she wrote what we talked about.' "
Although Lambert, 30, wrote eight of the 16 songs on her new album she says Priscilla was partly inspired by rumours that her 2011 marriage to the Voice judge and mentor Blake was on the rocks.
You know those salt soaked outcrops - similar to those that also helped expat Australasian superstar Keith Urban and thespian wife Nicole Kidman fan their fame flame in the mass circulation chattering class organs.
“I never thought I would actually hear from the Queen herself,” Lambert joked about her comedic response to those rumours.
“It does it in a fun way, though. It happens, and it's happening a lot, lot more to Blake and I than ever before, and I thought it was a really smart take on how it happens, and I definitely don't want people to think I'm comparing us to Priscilla and Elvis in any stretch of the imagination.”
So how does the daughter of former Dallas undercover drug squad cop and private detective Rick Lambert handle fame?
“I wish there was a handbook someone hands you when you start your career that has chapters so that you can turn a page whenever you hit a new spot,” Lambert explained.
“But there isn't, and it sort of comes out of nowhere sometimes. Things hit you out of nowhere at different times in your career - and in your marriage, too. So it's something you have to get used to.
“With Blake and I and all the things that have been going on with us and tabloids and this new kind of level that we're at. It just came out of nowhere a little bit, and you had to adjust to it a little bit. Not just us but our family and adjusting as a couple.
Priscilla just addresses it in a smart way and in a fun way. I never could have written this song, but that's why I love it so much. I think it was written so well and really has a good perspective on what it's like.”
Urban, who followed Shelton , 38, onto The Voice down under before ascending to American Idol , is unlikely to bemoan public prying on his latest return tour in June.
That helps fill the void for absence of commercial radio airplay for the trio on our musically challenged corporate chains.
It's understandable that Lambert is keen to harvest hay and lucrative publishing royalties from the speculation that local footy buffs might describe as a free kick with the wind in front of goal in the final quarter of the Grand Final.
There's a vast cast of rappers and rockers who would kill, and often have, for that sort of sales stimulus.
“If we drove all the way to Dallas / just to buy an Easter dress/ we'd take along a Rand McNally, stand in line to pay for gas/ God knows that shifting gears ain't what it used to be/ I learned to drive that '55, just like a queen three on a tree.” - Automatic - Miranda Lambert-Nicolle Galyon-Natalie Hemby.
"They both identified with some of the references in it like laundry on the line and sun tea because that's part of my childhood. I think about driving around in an Expedition and playing at bars, then driving around in a crappy motorhome that broke down once a week, just keeping going because the dream was so strong, I couldn't stop.
“I made these Texas cowboy hats - I would buy these plain ol Jane cowboy hats and paint them like Texas 's flag. And at bars I played in, I would ask the bartender to save bottle caps for me and just give them a tip, so I'd have these huge, giant tubs of bottle caps when I'd leave a gig. I'd crimp the caps around the edge. I remember having blisters all over my hands one day, and I'm like, "I'm not gonna make these anymore," and people asked for them, so I'd keep on going. I sold the hats for gas money to get home.
“Just little stuff, that's the memories that you're like, "Well, those memories are kinda what got me here." It does take work, but the reward is so much better when you worked for it.”
Cynics may think Miranda borrowed the idea from When A Buck Was Still Silver by her septuagenarian former convict, country star idol Merle Haggard.
Well, I don't.
I still send smoke signals down on the farm when the Shipwreck Coast is clear - from fire danger.
If not there's always courier pigeons on those high fire danger days.
Might be labour intensive but there's always the vicarious glee of leaving a lasting impression on the lasses' hats and frocks and male clothes horses at the spring and summer carnivals.
But I digress.
What else has Miranda given us apart from a fair dinkum CD instead of a digital distraction?
TOM T AND DIXIE HALL - TIME JUMPERS PARACHUTE
“Get your shoes on, get your suitcase, your stereo and all of your CDs/ no more talking, just start walking/ cause all that's left for you to do is leave/ tell your lawyer it's all over/ forget what he's got up his sleeve/ no more signing, no more whining/ cause all that's left for you to do is leave.” - All That's Left - Tom T Hall-Dixie Hall.
So it's fitting Lambert balances her cutting edge creations with something that honours the genre's roots, now poisoned with pop more potent than 1080.
“ All That's Left is another one of my favourite songs on the record,” says Miranda.
“I went to see Beyoncé in Dallas and was driving home the next day by myself, listening to Bluegrass Junction on Sirius XM . I heard this song, and I immediately loved it. We decided to record it western swing and get cool harmonies, and have fiddles, which meant we had to have The Time Jumpers on it. They're the most talented people in the whole world, in one band. It's ridiculous.”
Lambert is the first country artist in the history of the charts to have all five of her major label albums debut at No. 1.
“There's humour on this album, and nostalgia, and it's feminine,” confessed the singer who finished third on Season 1 of now-defunct TV talent show Nashville Star in 2003
“There's girl power, not in the ‘I'm gonna burn your house down and kill you,' but more where I am as a 30-year-old woman and wife. I'm more settled in life, embracing the good and the bad, and that's all reflected on Platinum .”
So is her sense of humour.
"What doesn't kill you only makes you blonder" she jokes in the title track of an album that reflects her sales status and hair colour.
Lambert has won a Grammy Award and is reigning four-time CMA and five-time ACM female vocalist of the year.
Her albums are generous - 2009 album Revolution had 15 songs and 2011 disc Four the Record featured 14.
Here her entrée Girls telegraphs her eclectic approach - “imagine your best friend and your worst enemy” - and pays homage to the feminine spirit.
The latter day Tishomingo resident also includes covers of Oklahoma singer Audra Mae's Little Red Wagon that exploits a swagger akin to her duet with another Okie gal pal Carrie Underwood on Somethin' Bad .
Miranda and Carrie adopt the persona of Thelma & Louise protégés on the lost highway to New Orleans .
“I respect Carrie so much as an artist, as a singer and as a female,” Lambert says.
“She's strong and smart, and we're two of a kind the way we've had to work to get where we are. I was nervous to ask her because I didn't know how she'd feel about it, but she was right on board.”
Platinum doesn't have the domestic violence vengeful ignition of anthemic 2005 album Kerosene but it's edgy and fuelled by alcohol mentioned in most of the tracks, including gospel-inspired finale Another Sunday In The South that references bands Shenandoah, Restless Heart and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band .
“When I hear '90s country, I feel happy,” Lambert confides.
“I feel like something takes me back to everything I grew up on and why I wanted to be a country singer in the first place. And it just puts me in this great mood. Even if you're listening to Better Off in a Pine Box , somehow you're in a good mood, you know?
“And Jessi Alexander and Ashley Monroe and I were all talking about that whole sentiment one day on the road, and we just started writing it. Even the title is another song title, and it's hard to write a song with all those song titles in it. We didn't want it to not make sense to somebody that may not have heard any of those songs, so we were trying to make a story out of it, as well. But we could've written 15 more verses. We had so many artists and songs we left out, so we'll have to do a to-be continued version.”
GRAVITY IS A BITCH
“You're hanging over but you're hanging in/ you're starting to look like all of your old friends/ conversations turning from rock and roll to politics and how much money you owe/ got bags under your eyes, bigger hips and bigger thighs/ you got places that you can't even itch/ you can nip it, tuck it, squeeze it but you're never gonna beat it/ cause gravity is a bitch.” - Gravity Is A Bitch - Miranda Lambert-Scotty Wray.
"Mastering was scheduled for Wednesday, and we were gonna mix the last song, which was Old Shit on Tuesday," Liddell recalled.
"By Monday morning, we still didn't have a background vocal on it. I wasn't panicking, but I knew it needed to be something special. W.B. and I were supposed to get together that day, so I rescheduled the meeting for my office, where I could be across the street from the studio."
Liddell didn't have much time to talk that afternoon until Givens picked up an acoustic guitar and ripped into one of his own songs, singing with a voice that reminded Liddell of "a country-er Grateful Dead ."
"When I was done playing that song," Givens added.
"Frank said, 'play another one.' So I did. Then he said 'play another one,' so I did. Then he said, 'Man, can you sing harmony?' and took my guitar and started singing Old Shit in a high, falsetto voice."
Givens, who grew up harmonising in bluegrass bands, has a brassy, Southern-steeped baritone that couldn't be faked.
Liddell invited him to the studio the following day where Givens laid down harmony vocals for Old Shit in 30 minutes.
"When I recorded my last album," Givens revealed, "we tracked it in my friend's house. The vocals were cut in a walk-in closet. Going to Music Row and doing Old Shit for Miranda's album was different. It was a bizarre experience to walk into this giant live room, where you've got a Grammy-winning producer and audio engineer, and people are offering you room-temperature water for your voice."
Months after that half-hour recording session Platinum topped Billboard and Givens received a basic sideman's fee for his work.
"I was just honoured to be there, to be able to turn her voice up in my headphone mix," says Givens who won't earn extra royalties.
BATHROOM SINK NOT JUST PINK
“It's amazing the amount of rejection that I see in my reflection/ and I can't get out of the way/ I'm looking forward to the girl I want to be/ but regret has got a way of staring me right in the face/ so I try not to waste too much time at the bathroom sink.” - Bathroom Sink - Miranda Lambert.
Lambert also sings about glamour as a facade in Bathroom Sink and true romance in Holding On To You .
“I've been so blessed in my career to be able to sing the songs and write the songs that I really believe in,” Lambert revealed. “A lot of people have struggled to keep going. I feel so lucky to always write songs like Bathroom Sink and for people to come up and go, ‘Hey, I really relate to that.' It's not an easy thing to do, to lay your heart out there.”
“A few guys have mentioned that they feel like they're learning about women through this record. And it's not so much just speaking from a woman's point of view, but it's letting guys inside our head a little bit, which might be a scary place. You might not want to be in our head but I feel like it's less about screaming about it but more introspective and talking about some of the harder issues to talk about but also some of the fun stuff to talk about. It's all in here, and it's not all female stuff. I mean, there are some songs on there that are universal to everyone, too.
I thought of the album as like a playbook. A guy could listen to it and kind of figure out what's in a woman's head sometimes.
Right, and then run away.”
Lambert also performs Smokin' & Drinkin with Little Big Town, replete with a plush string bed that is a career catalyst for both artists.
“I'm obsessed with Little Big Town ,” said Miranda.
“They got pitched this song, too, but I got it first. Karen told me, ‘You have a song I want!' So I said, ‘If I cut it, will y'all sing on it?' This was at the CMT Awards, just joking around in the dressing room. But when I went in to record it, I thought, ‘If Little Big Town wants to sing on my record, we are damn sure taking advantage of it!' I can't even imagine what it would sound like without them.”
And an expose of sorts of the lifestyles of the nouveau rich and famous that she explores for her listeners.
“Well, they're gonna learn a lot,” Lambert says of her freewheeling humour she exploits with The Pistol Annies.
“Some moments are pretty raw, and some moments are, you know, funny. I feel like I have a little more humour in this record than ever before, and that's a lot attributed to Blake because he's hilarious and has such a great sense of humour and such a great disposition, and he really rubs off on me in that area. And I need it because I'll take myself way too seriously sometimes and just be too intense, I think.
“So those elements may be a surprise to some people, especially if they've never heard the past records. But also I feel like this album, Platinum , is setting up for where I'm headed as an artist for the next phase of my career and the next phase of me as a woman. It's setting up for what I'm getting into. And I don't really know what that is exactly, but I feel like I'm headed in a good direction.”
TWO RINGS SHY IN A THREE RING CIRCUS
“I ain't gonna get dressed up just to be your clown/ ain't gonna paint this pretty face like you paint the town/I ain't wasting good mascara just to watch it running down.” - Two Rings Shy - Miranda Lambert-Brandy Clark-Heather Little.
But some of the hurdles were character building when dealt with by collective humour - especially in early 2013 when she started seeing reports that she was pregnant.
"My mom was really upset because her friends, who are really close to our family, are calling and going, 'Is it true? Why didn't you tell us Miranda was having a baby?'" she recalled.
"And it's like, 'but she's not. This is a lie.' Then Mom would call me upset and it would upset me more, and Blake would just be like, 'Why do you even care? Do not let this get to you. Then they win.' When he said that, I was like, 'Yeah, they're not winning.' "
“What actually brought us together, country music, we don't bring that home. We're just normal people doing laundry, going to the grocery store, watching HGTV. We live in rural America , middle-of-nowhere Oklahoma . I'm so thankful for that. I think if we lived anywhere else, even here in Nashville or LA full time that we would never get away from it ever, at all."
Babies Making Babies begins as a backseat love affair in a 1972 Nova in Pentecostal town in Tacoma and ends up with a birth that was not in the handbook - highly reminiscent of fellow Texan Kacey Musgraves' small town disillusion tableau.
HARD STAYING SOBER – HARD CORE HONKY TONK
“It's hard staying sober when you ain't staying over/ it's easy getting messed up on the truth/ it's hard standing here watching tail lights disappear/ it's hard staying sober when I'm getting over you.” - Hard Staying Sober - Miranda Lambert-Natalie Hemby-Luke Laird.
Her father Rick taught her to play guitar as a teenager and write her own songs.
“My dad was real big on character - having character and building your character and surrounding yourself with people with good character - so that was a huge thing. He was a stickler for it, and he really instilled it in my brother and I.
“My mom and dad always had music playing, but I think I definitely got my love of music and my abilities from him. He's a singer-songwriter and plays guitar. He taught me to play guitar. I grew up with David Allan Coe and Willie and Waylon and Merle and a lot of that playing throughout the house.
“ Hard Staying Sober definitely reminds me of some of that sound, and also, when I hear Hard Staying Sober or sing it, it just immediately feels like I want to be in Gruene Hall the historic concert venue in New Braunfels , Texas . Like, I just want to go to Texas and play in a bar right now and have a beer, you know? It's just so honky-tonk, it makes me feel at home, like where I came from.”
Lambert begins a 30-city Platinum tour on July 10 with Justin Moore and Thomas Rhett.
She also owns clothing store, the Pink Pistol , runs pet charity, Mutt-nation Foundation and is opening a bed and breakfast - The Ladysmith in her new hometown.
“I bought the building across the street from the Pink Pistol in Tishomingo , Oklahoma ,” she revealed recently.
“It was built in 1901, so it's been over a year of renovations. It is a bed and breakfast but it's also an events centre so you can rent it for weddings and showers and private parties and all kinds of stuff. But it does have eight rooms.
“I have no idea what I'm doing. I don't know how to run a bed and breakfast or anything about it. But it's too beautiful of a building not to restore.”