“Gunpowder & Lead”
Songwriters: Miranda Lambert & Heather Little
There are two villains in country music songs about spousal abuse: the man who does the abusing, and the society that allows it to happen. With her bold new single “Gunpowder & Lead”, Miranda Lambert speaks in the voice of a battered woman ready to defend herself at any cost, after the man who abused her has been set free to do so again.
It’s unnerving to hear this topic dealt with in the first person, when so often it’s a narrator telling the story in songs like these. Tori Amos and Madonna have done abuse songs in the first person, but Lambert’s breaking new ground for country music. Which wouldn’t matter much if she didn’t do it so well. The stroke of brilliance was focusing the song completely around the moment of tension: her waiting at home with a loaded shotgun, ready to defend herself after he makes bail and comes back home to finish the fight.
She tells some of the back story (“Slapped my face and he shook me like a rag doll. Don’t that sound like a real man?”), and vehemently insists of what she’ll do to him when he busts through the door (“His fist is big but my gun’s bigger. He’ll find out when I pull the trigger.”) But we never find out if she follows through, and that’s a good thing, as the murder itself would overshadow what Lambert accomplishes with this song. She captures the inner monologue of a battered woman ready to take matters into her own hands, and it’s a tortured mixture of desperation and determined survival.