Miranda Lambert, Revolution

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September 30, 2009

miranda revolutionMiranda Lambert
Revolution
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Miranda Lambert is a rare and fascinating case study of an artist who is able to push a significant number of records out the door, but is hard-pressed to receive equally significant radio airplay in return. While her first album, Kerosene, was certified Platinum and the follow up project, Crazy Ex Girlfriend, fared similarly well with Gold certification, she has only managed to squeak into radio’s top ten once with “Gunpowder And Lead.” On her third album, Revolution, it is entirely possible that Lambert has finally found a way to strike the tenuous balance of pleasing both critics and the general country music listening public with her album consisting of everything from sensitive ballads to rocked up, punk-flavored songs and a lot in between.

Not only does her impressive range of versatility sonically manifest itself, her depth of influences also appears by way of song contributions by people who aren’t just the usual suspects, but also dips into the pens of some highly esteemed Americana artists who aren’t typically covered by mainstream artists, as she did with songs from Gillian Welch and Patty Griffin on Crazy Ex Girlfriend. While there is a song that is co-written with the male members of Lady Antebellum and three co-writes with Blake Shelton, more interesting contributions are Fred Eaglesmith’s “Time to Get A Gun”, which is actually more relaxed than Eaglesmith’s manic rendering, Julie Miller’s “Somewhere Trouble Don’t Go” that was rearranged with a punk vibe, and a lyrically watered down (with confusing changes) but sonically amped up version of John Prine’s “That’s the Way the World Goes ‘Round”. Additionally, she includes three songs written with Ashley Monroe, including the catchy “Me and Your Cigarrettes” (also written with Shelton), which Monroe sings on as well.

As was ever present in her previous albums, Lambert maintains a certain edge for which she is best known both in sound and lyrics. Songs like “Maintain the Pain” (with a guest appearance from Blake Shelton), “Time to Get A Gun”, “Sin for A Sin”, “White Liar” and “Only Prettier” display Lambert’s trademark tendency toward the attitudinal. While all these songs are noteworthy for various reasons, “Only Prettier” specifically taps into Lambert’s sardonic capabilities, which results in the most amusing song of the album. Using political jargon, she suggests that the high society crowd can get along with the less refined folks but ends up antagonistically concluding with the barb, “We’re just like you, only prettier.”

However, as is also often overlooked with Lambert’s music, there is certainly a more sensitive and introspective side that is actually more prevalent on Revolution than on her prior albums. In fact, “Makin’ Plans”, “The House That Built Me”, “Airstream Song” (her answer to Merle Haggard’s “The Way I Am”), and “Virginia Bluebell” can all be described as gorgeous. Incidentally, they are also the quieter tracks. Of these songs, the most thematically compelling is “The House that Built Me”, which is an unshakably touching tribute to the contribution of the childhood home and its accompanying memories. “If I could just come in, I swear I’ll leave/Won’t take nothin’ but a memory from the house that built me”, she promises the house’s current owner.

In this fifteen song set, Lambert does not merely rest on the comfort ability of her past album’s themes and productions. Instead, she reaches for growth and diversity. While she is not completely successful (mostly thanks to some heavy production choices), her attempts to stretch herself are largely positive and indicative of an artist who is mainstream but not afraid to stay true to her tasteful and eclectic roots. Moreover, Lambert continues and even improves upon her natural inclination toward quality songs, stellar vocals and intriguing productions. Hopefully, she will someday be truly rewarded for her artistic integrity by receiving airplay to match her sales.


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  1. MichaelNo Gravatar says:

    Miranda Lambert, like Sugarland, is one of those artists that I didn’t even realize I liked so much until after they had released a few albums. Radio airplay isn’t a reflection of quality by any means, but the reception so far seems to be pretty cool. I loved “Dead Flowers” but it fizzled out somewhere in the 30s. We’ll have to wait and see what happens with “White Liar”.

  2. StephenNo Gravatar says:

    Honestly, I think this album is her best yet. “Airstream Song,” “Only Prettier,” and “The Houst That Built Me” are flawless.

  3. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    Nice review, and of course, nice speed in writing it!

    I think I agree with pretty much everything you said, and with the four-star rating. The thing about this album is that it really feels like an album, which I love. There are no obviously bad tracks, the production is cool and rarely boring, and the songs are sequenced together well mood-wise and tempo-wise. I had trouble getting through the whole thing in one sitting, but my attention span is bad for things like that anyway.

    As much as I like it, I have to say that none of the songs besides “The House That Built Me” immediately bowl me over like you would expect of a classic album, which is why I think I have to stay at four stars. Aside from that song, it’s all just decent to very good.

    I think she’s definitely growing, though, so I’m impressed with this as a third release. Now, if they could just get a sound engineer who wouldn’t butcher things so much, I’d be a happy man.

  4. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Dan,
    I agree with you on every point.

    While this may be, technically, a better album than Crazy Ex Girlfriend, it doesn’t seem as accessible. So, I suspect that I’ll go back to that album more than this one when all is said and done. With that said, I do think that her lyrics are stronger, even if only few of the melodies have completely won me over thus far. And I’m totally with you on the sound engineering. Chris N. is right on that one.

  5. AFINo Gravatar says:

    Love it when the critic pulls out the thesaurus for a positive review. haven’t heard “attitudinal” in a while.

  6. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Hahaha. I didn’t even use a thesaurus.:) I’m sure the review would’ve benefited if I had though.

  7. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar says:

    Great stuff Leeann. Along with Joey Martin, Miranda’s the best of the new bunch.

    I agree with you on the overly heavy production though, on some songs.

    I’m a big fan of “Crazy Ex..”, looking forward to picking up this one as well, and it’s great to have someone to root for at the awards shows..I’m so glad Miranda’s in the running and wish her all the best.

    By any chance, did Marcia Ramirez (Patty’s former keyboard player) have a hand in writing “Me and Your Cigarettes”? It has a definate Ramirez style about it, in concept and sonically. And Macia is an excellent songwriter.

    And AFI, I think Leeann’s usage of “attitudinal” in this context would fall under the category of “creative coinage”. Well done Leeann. ;)

  8. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    I believe “Me and Your Cigarettes was written by Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Blake
    Shelton.

  9. RussNo Gravatar says:

    Leeann, you are right when you say that some of these songs are absolutely gorgeous. I can’t think of a better word.

    The power of this album is rooted in how convincing it is presented. I believe that every word and note of this project is something that Lambert feels, which is way more than can be said about a lot of the music coming out of Nashville.

    This album was well worth the wait and here’s to more in the future from a very talented artist.

  10. The production is spoiling this one for me.

  11. Paul DennisNo Gravatar says:

    I very much liked some of the songs, but when I played this at a higher volume than on my initial airing, the sonics on this were terrible. I had yet to purchase this (I borrowed a friend’s copy), and given how it sounds over my stereo, I won’t be purchasing this. It’s ridiculous when a CD sounds better played on my PC with the small speakers I have attached to it, than it does when played on my full system

  12. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar says:

    Paul, that’s my one hesitation about purchasing this album (along with low funds) as well. I read an article on another site about excessive volume production on a lot of new records, and I’m sorry to hear that Miranda’s latest may be amoung those whose producers seem to find it necessary to use that technique.

    The samples sound great on my built in laptop speakers, however. ;)

  13. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Here’s a comprehensive article, by Chris Neal, on the sound issue that people are referring to.

    http://www.the9513.com/everything-louder-than-everything-else/

  14. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar says:

    That’s the very same one. ;)

  15. Cutting The TreacleNo Gravatar says:

    i’ve listened to the album on a bose, iphone, computer, car stereo and a philips. sounds good on every device to me – no problem discerning lyrics or instruments.

    and it’s an excellent album, kind of the follow-up i hoped the chicks would make instead of taking the long way.

  16. Cory DeSteinNo Gravatar says:

    I am just not seeing it with this girl, nothing really has even tempted me to buy an album….

  17. JeffNo Gravatar says:

    Miranda really brings a different side to “mainstream” country music that other artists seem to be missing. I’m tired of hearing the top 40 played on loop all day on the radio, and Miranda really has a talent for songwriting and delivery. She has some of the deepest lyrics (while not always overly-complicated) of the female country singers, and she conveys an understanding of what she sings to me. I love her first two albums and while this one hasn’t won me over yet, I just bought it tonight, and time will surely change that. It took me awhile to buy into Kerosene, although Crazy Ex Girlfriend was immediate. Some of these songs stand out, and I’m sure they will receive some legitimate airplay (they SHOULD)

    By the way, GUILTY in HERE is one of the best overlooked song on Crazy Ex Girlfriend.

  18. PatrickNo Gravatar says:

    It’s definetly a step in a different direction. I’d compare it to American Saturday Night: A few standout singles in an easy-to-listen-to album. However, it wasn’t as amazing as I expected.

  19. KNo Gravatar says:

    I just read that Miranda will be releasing “Heart Like Mine” as the new single. Impact date is Jan. 10th. (:

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