2017 CD REVIEW
THE WEIGHT OF THESE WINGS (SONY).
MIRANDA LAMBERT – TEXAS VICE AND NARCOTICS
“Stay as a needle dropping on a vinyl/ neon singer with a jukebox title full of heartbreak/ Thirty-three, forty-five, seventy-eight/ when it hurts this good you gotta play it twice/ another vice, another vice, another call/ another bed I shouldn't crawl out of/ at 7am with shoes in my hand/ said I wouldn't do it, but I did it again/ and I know I'll be back tomorrow night.” - Vice - Miranda Lambert/Shane McAnally/Josh Osborne.
Texan troubadour Miranda Lambert is indebted to songwriter dad Rick for the title of her seventh album The Weight Of These Wings - a 24 track double disc.
That was a line Rick said to her at a show and stuck with Miranda until she found a home for it.
“It just felt really big and some ways heavy and some ways light. It sort of makes you think about a lot of things, just that one sentence,” Lambert revealed
“We tried to write the song a few times and nothing really came of it, and going through this record process felt like it would tie everything together.
“I needed a title that would sort of round out the edges I guess, and The Weight of These Wings felt right.”
Former Dallas undercover narcotics cop and private detective Rick fronted aptly named country rock band Contraband and joined Miranda, her beau Anderson East and band on-stage to perform gospel song Woke Up This Morning (With My Mind Stayed on Freedom ) at a recent Chicago concert.
Although Miranda, 33, suffered a well-publicised divorce from former singing spouse Blake Shelton, 40, she says her disc is not weighed down by their ruptured romance depicted on Shelton 's recent 12th album If I'm Honest.
“I'm never gonna have an album that's quote-unquote a ‘heartbreak album',” Lambert revealed of the disc produced by Frank Liddell, Glenn Worf and Eric Masse.
“Because everybody has bad moments, and then you come out of it, and you have a great moment, and then you have some sombre times. I want an emotional journey, because that's what life is, and I want to document that.
"I feel really strongly about the only talking I needed to do, I've done and it's on tape.
"All the parts of me, the parts of the pain I went through, everything that happens to a person in their life - especially in the last couple years for me - is on this record."
The singer expanded on that theme in choice of songs and fellow co-writers.
They include East, Waylon Payne, Brent Cobb, Adam Hood, Jack Ingram, fellow Pistol Annies singer Ashley Monroe and Natalie Hemby with whom Miranda wrote 10 songs here.
Texan Waylon - son of the late Sammi Smith and Willie Nelson guitarist Jody Payne - and Ashley penned vitriolic kiss-off tune To Learn Her.
“Every record I've ever made has been a reflection of where I am right then in my life, however old I am. And I've never held back at all,” Lambert explained.
“But this time, with what I happened to be going through in my life, being honest was never really a choice. Everybody knew anyway. So I just said, I'm gonna journal it, and - good days and bad days - use it for my art.”
"I'm mostly hoping that they'll read into this music and feel their own journey.
"There's nothing else you want as a songwriter but to write something down and someone go, 'Hey, that's my story too.'"
Lambert illustrated that in her video for Vice - first single from the album - that was written at the “exact time of the shit hitting the fan.”
But the song is deeper than that.
“Sometimes when you're going through something in your life, you may run to some things you shouldn't and run from some things you shouldn't,” Lambert revealed.
“I think this song is an opportunity to just be honest and own it and say, ‘Yeah, I have some imperfections, and I live a life, and here and there I might get in a pickle.' It's not about one thing or another. Everybody has a vice they run to when they need comfort, and I think that's what this song says.”
“I just hope that everybody that hears it can kinda feel like they're not on an island.
“That we all have things in our life that aren't necessary pleasant to talk about, but this song is just honest as you can get about emotions, and letting raw emotions live where they live until you move on to a happier place. It's kinda the cycle of life, we can't all be sunshine and roses every-day and sometimes when we're not we find things that make us feel better at the moment and that's what a vice is.”
“I want a man with a smoking jacket/ and a deeper pocket with money to burn/ I want a man who knows his status/ and he makes a habit of loving me 'til it hurts/ he might be heavy on the pedal/ but he knows how to take it slow/ he might be quite continental/ but he's sure gonna take me home, yes he is.” - Smoking Jacket - Miranda Lambert-Natalie Hemby-Lucie Silvas.
“It doesn't matter to me.
“People are like, “what's this song about?” And it's like, “what do you mean? What do you think it's about?” I don't know the answer to that question, because it's kind of a ridiculous question. It's about a vice. If people are going to tell me they don't have a vice, I'm going to call them a liar, straight up. It doesn't have to be a bad vice, either. I have seven rescue dogs; that's a vice.
“But you know, it's like, people are going to talk shit. They always do. I've learned that, especially now, 12 years I've been doing this. I recently went through a hard time and then came out and I'm back, I'm good. I don't need to worry about what everybody else thinks or what their opinions are. I need to worry about what makes me happy, what I believe is right and the truth. And that's what I'm going with.”
Vice segues into the trumped and pedal steel fuelled Smoking Jacket - penned with Natalie Hemby and Lucie Silvas.
FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES – WANDA'S HOUSE OF BEAUTY
If you're lookin' for love but willing' to fight/ over men and mamas and Miller Lites/ well then, we should be friends.” - We Should Be Friends - Miranda Lambert.
Ugly Lights , penned by Miranda, Hemby and prolific hit writer Liz Rose, precedes fellow Texan Shake Russell's You Wouldn't Know Me from his 1996 album Deep In The West where the lead character aims venom at an unnamed ex who broke his heart.
Two decades later Miranda changes gender of the combatants as her divorce song before exuding humour at a beauty parlour.
Lambert, a canine rescuer and lover, is joined by pooch pals in her hilarious new video for We Should Be Friends, screened on Nu Country TV on Saturday March 18 at 9 pm on Channel 31/Digital 44.
Video locale, Wanda's House Of Beauty, features Biblical blow waves advertised by the sign - “the higher the hair the closer to God.”
That humour peaks in beer can propelled rollers for tonsorial tresses and stresses but not the canines.
Not quite what you find at Lillian Franks' Toorak tress trove or Lambert's Redemption Ranch - a no-kill dog rescue and shelter in Tishomingo, Oklahoma.
The operation is run by her non-profit Mutt Nation Foundation in Texas hometown Lindale.
We Should Be Friends segues into a sibling song Pink Sunglasses , penned by Rodney Clawson, Dick and Hemby.
Lambert changes gender again in Getaway Driver - a collaboration with new beau Anderson East and Hemby - where the male lead keeps a close watch on his trouble-prone lover, ready to spirit her away whenever she gets tangled in her messes.
Anderson returns as Lambert's duet partner on the evocative Pushing Time - also penned with Hemby - that ends with "if it has to end in tears, I hope it's in 60 years."
Pushing Time seems personal to Miranda as she faces wisdom that freedom comes with its own costs.
Irish singer Foy Vance - third writer on the song - appeared on another recent double album Dragonfly by Kasey Chambers.
It precedes recent Australian tourist Danny O'Keefe's 1971 classic Covered Wagon, replete with slide guitar.
Disc One's fitting finale is pedal steel adorned Use My Heart penned by Miranda and fellow Texan Waylon Payne and Ashley Monroe.
Waylon played Jerry Lee Lewis in the Johnny Cash movie Walk The Line with Joaquin Phoenix and Reece Witherspoon cast as Johnny and June Carter Cash.
TEXAN TRIO COMBINE ON TIN MAN
“Hey there, Mr Tin Man/ you don't know how lucky you are/ you shouldn't spend your whole life wishing/ for something bound to fall apart/ every time you're feeling empty/ better thank your lucky stars/ if you ever felt one breaking/ you'd never want a heart.” - Tin Man - Miranda Lambert-Jack Ingram-Jon Randall.
Lambert kicks off disc two - The Heart - on her collaboration with fellow Texans Jack Ingram and Jon Randall on Tin Man .
The humorous message to the Tin Man character from The Wizard Of Oz is about fragility of organs - especially the heart.
It segues into Americana flavoured Good Old Days penned with Alabama singer-songwriter Adam Hood - and Georgian Brent Cobb, cousin of producer Dave.
Lambert changes tempo to a 50's slow dance for Things That Break in a guitar riff that weds surf rock and dancehall country.
Yes, another collaboration with Hemby and Tennessean Jessi Alexander - singing spouse of Tin Man co-writer Jon Randall.
Lambert borrows from the dry Texas wit of Jerry Jeff Walker and the late Guy Clark in droll For The Birds penned with Aaron Raitiere.
"I'm against the notion of drinking witchy potions and causing big commotion, you know, son?”
She combines on the slow waltz Well Rested with East and Raitiere who earns a third consecutive writing credit on Tomboy - with Miranda and Hemby.
Tomboy plays up the connection between Lambert and her backup singers - Gwen Sebastian and Madi Diaz.
Ironically the trio's crooning harmonising turns Tomboy into one of the album's most feminine moments.
It's a vast contrast to classic hurting song To Learn Her penned by Miranda, Ashley Monroe and Waylon Payne that is driven by Spencer Cullum's pedal steel, Hargus Pig Robbins' saloon-style piano and guitarist Frank Carter Rische igniting the spirit of George Jones and Merle Haggard.
KEEPER OF THE FLAME
“I'm the keeper of the flame/ the teller of the story/ keeper of the flame/ for the ones that came before me/ for the little pilot lights waiting to ignite/ like fireflies in the rain/ keeper of the flame.” - Keeper Of The Flame - Miranda Lambert-Natalie Hemby-Liz Rose
Lambert said she was pleased to meet Merle before he died on his 79th birthday - April 6 last year.
“Yes. I met him and his family - such a special moment for me to sit at the table and have dinner with him and his family and Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson,” Miranda recalled.
“It doesn't even sound real that I'm saying that. But it was for the Kennedy Centre Honours a couple of years back, and I got to sing with Kris Kristofferson to honor Merle. I would say that was probably the top highlight of my career so far.”
She combines with Mando Saenz for irreverent Bad Boy about modern day outlaws after an ad-libbed intro.
But it's a different former flame she tries to escape in Six Degrees of Separation penned with Hemby and Nicolle Galyon.
She high-tails it from New Orleans to New York , in the hope a busy travel schedule will help her forget a former flame.
Miranda can't seem to outrun his ghost but creates a clever pun by rhyming "bus stop bench" with "Merrill Lynch.”
She collaborates with Terri Jo Box and Sebastian on Dear Old Sun that melds Southern soul and country-gospel in a stunning love song to the sun.
Lambert's acoustic guitarist Frank Rische and frequent Jack White side-woman Lillie Mae Rische flesh it out.
It's not surprising Lambert bookends her double disc with another highway song I've Got Wheels penned with Sebastian and Scotty Wray.
Weight Of These Wings is likely to add to Lambert's 52 major awards including two Grammys, 23 Academy of Country Music , five American Country, seven CMT Music and 13 Country Music Association Awards.
She also has an impressive property portfolio.
In 2016 she paid $3.4 million for a 400-plus acre farm, with three residences, near Primm Springs , Tennessee.
And after her divorce Lambert retained ownership of a suburban mansion in Nashville purchased in 2013 for $2.258 million.
Miranda also kick started an entertainment revolution in Texas hometown Lindale - population 5,500.
She opened her Pink Pistol shopping boutique there on October 22, 2016.
That prompted the arrival next door of Love And War - the third restaurant and music venue in a Texas chain.
They're the focus of The Cannery - a 50-acre mixed-use development that includes six music venues with a 22,000 capacity, a 21-acre park with trails and a fishing pier, retail stores, restaurants, a junior college extension and loft apartments.