Four the Record
Miranda Lambert’s had one heckuva year: awards out the wazoo, officially becoming half of country music’s hottest power couple, taping her second Austin City Limits episode, debuting her new trio, Pistol Annies, and now, releasing her fourth album, Four the Record (get it?). Aside from singing, when does she breathe?
But hey, when you’ve got the momentum, run with it, right? And by now, Lambert’s got this recording thing down: brew up some bad-girl sass, some rockin’ rhythms, some heartbreak power ballads, some soulful laments, and you’ve got today’s country — with spike-heeled boots that’re gonna walk all over you.
That’s Four in a nutshell. In classic-Miranda vein, we have “Fastest Girl in Town,” a co-write with her Pistol Annies mate Angaleena Presley. With rip-roarin’ guitars and an insistent rhythm, she races through references to some of her favorite imagery: bullets, guns, drinkin’, drivin’ and getting away with mayhem. “Mama’s Broken Heart,” another anthem for Southern girls, tears down the primp-up, keep-it-together-for-appearance’-sake Dixie belle ethos with verses like, “Can’t get revenge and keep a spotless reputation/Sometimes revenge is the choice you gotta make/My mama came from a softer generation/Where you get a grip and bite your lip just to save a little face.”
Lambert gives a throwback feel to the Natalie Hemby/Luke Laird co-write “Fine Tune,” a slow rocker filled with distorted guitars and vintage-mic vocals. The retro vibe is especially evident when the Beach Boy harmonies kick in. But there’s nothing retro about rhyming “defibrillator” with “love innovator.” Call it lame if you want, but it’s kinda cute. Hemby, Laird and Lambert go over the clever-wordplay weight limit, however, on the already-hit single, “Baggage Claim.” Regardless, this country rocker, laden with fabulous Hammond B3 riffs courtesy of Nashville resident Steve Winwood, will no doubt play to the nosebleed seats in arenas.
She scores better with “Dear Diamond” (that glittering rock on her finger somehow must have inspired this mournful song of infidelity); Brandi Carlile’s “Same Old You,” which gets a classic country treatment; and “Easy Living,” a sweet old rambler of a tune made for porch pickin’. She also nails the David Rawlings/Gillian Welch composition, “Look at Miss Ohio.”
“Over You,” her collaboration with the guy who put that paperweight on her hand, would be better with less bloated production. Its heartbreaking twist redeems it somewhat, but the song would be more powerful as a quiet set piece. That’s the treatment she gives to “Oklahoma Sky,” the song Allison Moorer wrote for her. It’s beautiful. With lines like “There ain’t no goodbye with your hand in mine,” it makes a perfect finish for Lambert’s lastest album — and a perfect wedding present for this have-it-all bride. — LYNNE MARGOLIS