Sunday, November 2, 2014

Miranda Lambert: Platinum

Yet again, Lambert delivers 
tough vulnerability with exquisite precision

     Miranda Lambert’s latest solo album Platinum was released five months ago, which was when I picked it up and I’ve played it about a dozen or so times since then.  It’s an easy collection to hear a number of times because it sums up the past of country and western music, while also placing Lambert in the forefront of where C & W may go next.  Along with Beck on Morning Phase (Alternative Rock/Rock) and Pharrell Williams on Girl (R&B/Pop), Lambert has taken stock of a musical genre and stated why it is and has been important to American culture.  For me, those are the three most significant albums released this year.

     Lambert wrote/co-wrote about half of the songs on this album and performed works by some other top C & W songwriters.  She comes across as Western because of the
instrumentation and variety of rhythms on this collection that somehow do not seem like Country-Rock or even Neo-late ‘80s Rock the way they would on an Eric Church album.

     On “Priscilla,” Lambert doesn’t just sing about Priscilla’s relationship with Elvis, but her own relationship with Blake Shelton.  In referring to talking ‘woman to woman,’ she invokes Tammy Wynette’s classic and, therefore, her tempestuous relationship with George Jones.  Lambert and Shelton are on a par with Wynette and Jones as married singing superstars.  We just may not know the complexity of their relationship as concretely as we have been aware of Wynette’s and Jones’s over the decades.  

Lambert with Underwood
     Lambert has always been generous in sharing the spotight with other women, whether that would be her feisty trio Pistol Annies or on “Somethin’ Bad” with Carrie Underwood.  If Underwood comes across as the noble young woman wronged and finding a way to rediscover herself, Lambert’s image seems one of the gritty young woman that sees the world for what it is and will thrive in spite of it.  She can observe how technology has eroded personal relationships on “Automatic,” which is the reason she’s fine with “Old Shit,” but she’ll find strength in her female friendships (“Girls”) and have a smoke and a drink.  

     It’s her vim that compels a listener.  She doesn’t have the strongest pipes or the loveliest tone, but she turns what could be considered weaknesses into an advantage by coming across as an authentic honkytonk girl (“Gravity’s a B**CH”).  However, where she goes deeper than Gretchen Wilson is in showing the darker side of partying, the roles for contemporary women, and life within sight of the poverty line.  

     Lambert’s CD cover visually realizes the work.  She’s stepping out of an Airstream camper in a black evening dress and platinum cowboy boots, her hair almost picture perfect, but not quite, and a look on her face that’s both pensive and critical.

    She’s won practically every major recording award except the CMA Entertainer of the Year.  Here’s hoping she succeeds this year.

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