One of my favorite tracks from Lambert’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was her spin on Gillian Welch’s “Dry Town.” I’m happy to report that her new single, “Only Prettier”, has a twangy guitar hook that’s nearly identical to the one that underscored that album track.
But wow, is the arrangement surrounding it more ambitious. Lambert’s quickly built a reputation as being a progressive artist, so it’s easier for her to get a free pass on a record that sounds like a misguided attempt to remix a country song for mainstream rock radio. The thrashing guitars drown out the steel guitar and come close to overshadowing a great vocal performance from Lambert.
It also undermines the message of the song, which is lyrically brilliant. She deconstructs the southern charm façade with cutting abandon, showing how a southern girl doesn’t need to be aggressive or loud to be bitingly vicious; she can do it with a smile and a “Bless your heart.”
That message would’ve been more effective had the arrangement remained as light and twangy as the opening few seconds.
But even the awkward production choice isn’t enough to hold “Only Prettier” back from being a successful record. It’s one of her finest moments as a songwriter, and among her strongest vocal performances. The latter is a crucial part of the record’s success, as there are so many layers of irony and sarcasm in the lyric.
So this one definitely goes into heavy rotation for me, but I eagerly await an acoustic version that strips away those thrashing guitars!
Written by Natalie Hemby and Miranda Lambert
Listen: Only Prettier