Tag Archives: Miranda Lambert

Album Review: Steve Earle & the Dukes–So You Wannabe an Outlaw

Rating: 8.5/10

I’m not really sure I need to write any kind of introduction to this; I’m pretty sure Steve Earle has been introducing this quite well on his own, and that may or may not be taking away from the music. So I’m going to take the advice from Steve’s own comment, and let this be about the songs. What I will say is that he stated both that he wanted to make a record inspired by the outlaws, and more specifically, Waylon, and that this record would be about dealing with loss. And what we get is basically exactly that–the front half is filled with badass, renegade/outlaw material–or at least what we might think of when referring to that term–and then the back half adds to the validity of it all by taking us on journeys of heartbreak, loneliness, and loss, and in the end, you’re left wondering if this outlaw thing is really all that great after all, and perhaps second-guessing your dream. And in a way, that separates this record from all the others trying to be cool outlaw because it shows all the sides to the story, the glamor along with the pain.

That’s not to say there aren’t painful realities on the first half. IN fact, the opener and title track starts the album by explaining all the things you have to go through if you really want to be an outlaw, albeit in a pretty lighthearted manner. Willie Nelson appears here, which adds to the message and the overall coolness of the song. You also have “Lookin’ For a Woman” and “If Mama Coulda seen Me,” both of which Earle wrote for the show Nashville–the former is a restless heartbreak song where the narrator is trying to find a woman who “Won’t do me like you,” and the latter is about a prisoner who is thankful that his mom died before she had to see him in chains. All of this half, however, is pretty upbeat, and even though the material is dark, some of the glamorous side of being an outlaw still shines forth in the attitude and in the cool blending of country and rock instrumentation. This half comes to a brilliant, angry climax with “Fixin’ To die”–this song is told from Death Row, and I didn’t mean to compare it to Chris Stapleton’s song “Death Row,” but that’s what happened. I said before that Stapleton’s didn’t quite have emotion even though he belted it–I know a lot of people disagreed, but the point I’m making is that whether it came through or not, Stapleton meant that song to be sad. When this opens and Steve Earle bellows, “I’m fixin’ to die, reckon I’m goin’ to hell” and then adds, “I’d be tellin’ you a lie if I told you I was takin’ it well,” for me, that captures all the emotions, from anger to sadness to regret. It’s an intense story and definitely a great way to complete this more rocking front half of the record.

It’s the back half, however, that really makes this album shine and adds an authenticity to these opening songs. It’s one thing to sing about being an outlaw for the sake of it, but when you get to stuff like “This is How it Ends” and “You Broke my Heart” and see there’s a tender side to this story, it really adds something to the whole project. Steve Earle mentioned loss, and it is explored in every form here, from the heartbreak in these two songs, the former of which features Miranda Lambert, to the poverty and self-doubt in the excellent “Walkin’ in LA” to the closer, “Goodbye Michelangelo,” a tribute to Guy Clark. “Walkin’ in LA” features Johnny Bush, the writer of “Whiskey River,” and it’s one of the best songs on this whole thing, despite it not being the most flashy. It’s one of those rare gems where the melody, the lyrics, and the instrumentation all work together flawlessly to form an incredible piece of music. The melody and beautiful acoustic guitar play in “Goodbye Michelangelo” really add to that song as well. It’s a great way to close the album.

As much as I loved this record, I do have a couple criticisms. There are a few songs that felt like filler; “Girl on the Mountain” was sandwiched between “This is How it Ends” and “You Broke my Heart,” and so it stands out as the weakest heartbreak song of the three. At first, I really didn’t enjoy the pairing of Earle and Miranda Lambert, but that’s growing on me, mainly because it’s just such a damn good song. My initial problem was that Lambert is meant to be singing harmony, but sometimes she drowns out Steve. I’m starting to like it better because in doing so, she makes it easier to understand some of the lyrics. ON the front half, “The Firebreak Line” is quite a fun song, but it doesn’t necessarily add much. “News From Colorado,” the only subdued song on the front half, is also a little vague and underdeveloped lyrically. But all these are really minor, nitpicking criticisms, and overall, this record is pretty great.

So, in conclusion, this is a pretty fascinating album. First, you have the angry front half, and then you have the subdued, heartbroken back half, and together they tell a very good story. Steve Earle is a fine songwriter, and the natural grit in his voice just accidentally adds a lot to this album and the stories told. Every collaborator also brought something to the record. I mentioned there were some weaker songs, or perhaps even filler, but at the same time, it’s one of the few albums I’ve played in 2017 without a single bad track. Very nice, solid album. Give it a listen.

P.S. I’m not reviewing the deluxe version, but that also has four pretty awesome covers of songs previously written by Waylon, Willie, and Billy Joe shaver.

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What Happens When you Take Women Out?

I debated whether or not I should write this piece because it’s really quite personal, and I’m not sure if it will be relatable or have a point when I’m done here, but it’s still on my mind after a couple of days, so I’ll try my best to be articulate as I express my thoughts.
The inspiration for this piece came after the news that Miranda Lambert’s “Tin Man” fell from #38 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart this week to #42, despite its sales and the ridiculous spike after her ACM performance. Now, as I’ve seen a lot of people point out, Miranda has never had the greatest treatment at radio anyway. There’s also the fact that “Tin Man” is stripped down, not necessarily radio-friendly, and quite traditional, so it’s got those strikes against it–although “The House That Built Me” had all of these characteristics and still gave her a #1 hit. But the glaring fact is, a big part of this simply has to do with the fact that Miranda Lambert is female, and in 2017, despite all the think pieces and supposed inclusion of more women by the country awards shows, females are still systematically ignored on country radio and by the country industry as a whole–and if you think these awards shows really want to include more women, why are there fewer nominees for ACM Female Vocalist of the Year? Sure, more women have been signed to major labels recently, but they’re not generally given the same chances to succeed; there’s a quota for females on country radio, and Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood are filling it. And now it looks like Lambert will be replaced by Kelsea Ballerini, who is as non-country as Sam Hunt and the bros.
Keith Hill said back in 2015 that radio should “take women out.” The more infamous part was calling them tomatoes, but the more alarming part was taking them out. Lindi Ortega said then, “I can’t begin to describe to you how my blood boils at those words. Erase us, delete us…make it so we don’t exist.” And that’s what country radio is systematically doing–taking the female perspective so completely out that it’s shocking to imagine a woman’s point of view beyond the “girl” on the tailgate. Maren Morris recently spoke about this when she wrote that women in country can’t be sexual in their songs–they are supposed to be pretty and desirable but not write about their own desires. That inspired another piece which I haven’t yet written and have many conflicting feelings about writing–mostly because so many people I know will read it, and Maren Morris is a stronger person than I am–but it’s a more specific issue deriving from the same problem: take women, and their perspective, out. “Girls” are okay–and that’s why Kelsea Ballerini’s music can succeed on country radio; that, and that it isn’t country and seldom has substance.
So what actually happens when you take women out? I could go on about how it takes away their perspective in the mainstream, or how it leads to radio being one-sided and favoring music that marginalizes them, but I’m going to answer it from a personal place instead. I grew up in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, and one of the first country records I ever owned was a Dixie Chicks album, Wide Open Spaces. I fell in love with their music because it was country, but also because I could sing it and relate to it. They were women, and what they sang about appealed to me. I loved Martina McBride and Faith Hill, and later Miranda and Carrie. I sang an inordinate amount back then, so I will say that part of the appeal in their albums was that I could sing them; their ranges matched mine. But more than that, I related to them. I enjoyed plenty of music by male artists–and still do–but I naturally gravitated toward more women artists. Even today, on this blog, I can go back and look at the very few tens I’ve awarded–it’s a subconscious thing, but more of those records are by women. They have nothing in common in production, style, lyrics–but tens are set apart from nines for me because they can connect emotionally, and I have connected emotionally with more women in the history of running this blog, it seems.
The point of all this is that I fell out of love with country radio for the same reasons you all did; it lost its sound and its substance almost overnight. More than that, here in Oklahoma, radio killed Red Dirt around the same time. It had once lived on our radio stations along with mainstream music, but things like the rise of iHeart helped to destroy it. Even more than all of that, though, I became disenchanted with country radio because of the lack of women. I didn’t know then that there was all this independent music floating around just waiting to be discovered, and all of a sudden, I couldn’t relate to anything on the radio or sing along with any of the records. I mentioned that I sang, and I will now say that I grew up wanting to be those women. And I don’t think it’s even possible to do that now. You can’t turn on country radio and hear Miranda lambert as a young girl and say, “I want to sing like her” or get that passion for country music like I did. It’s the same thing I said in my piece about genre awhile back, that it makes me sad that your average young person can’t just turn on the radio and find and fall in love with traditional-sounding country. But even that’s starting to make its way back in, (slowly), with Stapleton, Morgan, Pardi, Midland…while the women are being pushed further and further out. Sure, there are plenty of them out there if you know where to look, but you have to love country first before you go seeking out Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley and Margo Price.
And I’m not saying a girl can’t fall in love with country from listening to men, or anything close to that; I’m only saying that in my case, I don’t think I’d be sitting here writing this if I hadn’t heard all those women on country radio back then, and if country radio’s systematic ignoring of females keeps even one girl from falling in love with this wonderful genre, then that’s the real problem, and the real danger of taking women out.

Album Review: Angaleena Presley–Wrangled

Rating: 10/10

Wrangled is an explicitly forthright journey through my experience in the business of Country Music. I tried to tackle uncomfortable realities like the discrimination against female artists at the height of Bro-Country, the high school mentality of Music Row and the pain that’s just beneath the surface of the road to stardom

These words came from Angaleena Presley ahead of her second album, and they serve better than any introduction I could hope to write. Wrangled lives up to that description from the opening track, “Dreams Don’t Come True.” Written with fellow former Pistol Annies Miranda Lambert and Ashley Monroe, it delivers this message in a matter-of-fact way and even advises us, “don’t let anyone tell you they do.” It’s that straightforward honesty coming through to shatter your dreams on the opening track that makes you listen to, an believe, Angaleena Presley throughout the record. After all, who is going to tell you your dreams won’t come true, that you’ll end up pregnant instead of selling hit records? That’s a truth our friends and family would be even, and perhaps especially, hard-pressed to give us. But there’s something about the unapologetic way Angaleena broadcasts that truth, and right there at the start of her record, that makes you take notice and respect what she has to say–it might be brutal, but she damn sure won’t lie, and there’s a refreshing quality in that which can only come from such authenticity as this.
I said Presley’s honesty makes you respect what she has to say, and it turns out she has to say quite a lot. “High school” tells of the harsh realities of getting through each day in high school, and based on the quote above, I have to wonder if this is also directed at Music Row. Either way, I have to say this would have been a hell of a lot more helpful to have heard in high school than most of the mainstream music marketed to today’s youth. Other tracks are more obviously commenting on Music Row and the struggles in the business. “Groundswell” details Angaleena’s travels from Georgia to Kentucky to Alabama as she tries to make enough to support herself. “Outlaw” feels like this song’s antithesis; here, Presley sings, “It’s too hard to live this way” and says the money would be easier if she weren’t an “outlaw” and a “renegade.” You get the feeling listening that if she could change herself, she might conform, but she knows that it would be impossible, and she can’t be something she’s not.
The most blatant protest of Music Row is “Country,” and I can’t believe I even have to explain this in detail, but after reading the barrage of SCM comments misunderstanding and flat-out hating this, it seems apparent that I must. It’s hard to explain without listening, and I’ll post the video, but obviously it can’t stand alone, so I’ll say that the distortion is purposeful. The name-checking of every bro country reference in the verses and the hook devoid of any actual words is purposeful. And the killer rap verse added by Yelawolf name-dropping Sturgill and telling Music Row to “fuckin’ save it” is not only purposeful, it’s genius and adds to the parody. By all means, hate this song, but at least take the time to understand what it is before you decide it sounds like crap, as that was part of the point, and the song is all the better for it.
Angaleena Presley also said she wanted to discuss the discrimination against female artists. This is done in a more subtle way–there’s not really a track dealing with that specifically, but there are certainly many that speak to the female perspective and address the unique realities faced by women. The crown jewel of the album is the title track, where the narrator feels “wrangled” by her life and by her husband. It’s very nice melodically, an the lyrics are some of the best on the whole thing–“girls down at church can go to hell. Ironing shirts and keeping babies quiet ain’t no life, it’s a livin’ jail.” As much as I hate to pick a track off this fantastic album, if you must choose one, make it “Wrangled.” As the album progresses, Presley’s irritation only seems to grow; on “Wrangled,” the woman portrayed is tired of her life and resentful of the women around her who seem to enjoy it. That frustration comes out in “Bless my Heart,” where she casually informs any woman who is content to backstab others for their own gain, “If you bless my heart, I’ll slap your face.” There’s more of that frustration on “Mama I Tried,” another highlight of the record, as the main character laments that despite everything she did, she couldn’t be the lady her mother wanted–“always a bridesmaid, never the bride.” And finally, that pent-up frustration comes spilling out in anger on “Good Girl Down,” co-written with Wanda Jackson–“It’s a man’s world, and I’m a lady, and they’ll never appreciate me. They don’t take the time to get to know who I am, frankly, boys, I don’t give a damn.”
Yes, we do have a Miranda Lambert-esque song, “only Blood,” where the narrator marries a preacher who abuses her, and yes, she kills him. There have been a lot of songs like this certainly, but I do feel this one stands out some because it is built around the line “only blood can set you free” and serves a double purpose of exposing the hypocrisy in the church. “Motel Bible” does this in a much more understated and fun way to close the record–“God don’t give a damn how I’m dressed.”
But Angaleena Presley is not always angry or discouraged on this album; in fact, “Cheer up Little Darling,” written with Guy Clark, expresses a hope seen rarely on Wrangled, and in doing so, it completes the record; “It feels like a tight spot, but it’s just a loose end.”
This album lived up to everything Angaleena Presley advertised it to be, and for the honesty and songwriting alone, it deserves the highest praise. It’s the second ten of 2017, and it has earned this rating for exactly the opposite reasons as Marty Stuart’s–that album was special musically, and this one is special because of the lyrics, the stories, and the emotions running throughout it. An honest, compelling album that gets better with each listen. Three chords and the truth.

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Reflecting on: Pistol Annies–Hell on Heels

IN light of the new Angaleena Presley album coming out Friday, I thought it fitting to reflect this week on the debut from a group that broke up entirely too soon, the Pistol Annies.

Release Date: 2011
Style: traditional country
Who Might Like This album: fans of traditional country, fans of any of the solo work by Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, or Angaleena Presley, fans of Sunny Sweeney
Standout Tracks: “Hell on Heels,” “Bad Example,” “Beige,” “housewife’s Prayer,” “Lemon Drop”
Reflections: Man, what an interesting album. Definitely more traditional than any Miranda Lambert album, it gave this group instant success and critical acclaim in 2011 and was, for me, a better album than Miranda’s Four the Record, released later that year. Consisting of Ashley Monroe, Lambert, and angaleena Presley, Pistol Annies made a name for themselves telling the stories of real people in real-life situations. There’s the Monroe-led “Beige,” a story of a shotgun wedding. There’s “Lemon Drop,” led by Presley, where the narrator speaks of better days as she tries to pay off her TV and buys curtains from the thrift store. There’s “Housewife’s Prayer,” a contemplative track where the main character casually considers burning down her house for the insurance money. Everything here is real and raw, and all these songs were written by the women in this group. This project was quite unpolished, and yet the quality of the music, the stories being told, and the incredible harmonies here made this album something beautiful and to be remembered. I am glad the success of the annies launched the solo careers of Ashley and angaleena, but here’s to hoping the group reunites sooner rather than later.

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Album Review: Miranda Lambert–The Weight of These Wings

Rating: 9/10

Miranda lambert’s sixth studio album has been one of the most anticipated releases of 2016. aside from simply the fact it’s Miranda Lambert, the album has received much attention and speculation because it will be the first after her very public divorce from Blake Shelton in 2015. Many are wondering what Miranda will have to say and whether she will be honest in her approach, unlike Blake’s ironically titled If I’m Honest which we were subjected to in May. We were treated to the first single, “Vice,” in July, an interesting choice that isn’t radio friendly in any sense and held promise for the album. Last month, we received the news that this would be a double album, always a tricky undertaking, and that the track list includes twenty songs co-written by Lambert, along with songwriting credits for Texas artist Adam Hood, rising Americana artists Brent Cobb and Anderson east–who also happens to be Miranda’s current boyfriend–and former Pistol Annies member Ashley Monroe. Also included on the album would be covers of Shake Russell’s “You Wouldn’t Know Me” and Danny O-Keefe’s “Covered Wagon.” With all of this intriguing news, the anticipation and speculation surrounding this record has been understandably high. So putting aside my well documented status as a Miranda Lambert fan, I came into this album eager to hear it, and to see if it would live up to its mostly promising expectations.

The Nerve

The first disc, “The Nerve,” opens with “Runnin’ Just in Case.” The atmospheric production works well with this song of life on the road; Miranda sings, “It ain’t love that I’m chasin’, but I’m runnin’ just in case.” The last lyric of the song feels like a theme throughout this album and Lambert’s state of mind, “Happiness ain’t prison, but there’s freedom in a broken heart.” Rambling life will be a recurring theme on this album, but while the opener feels melancholy and desperate, “Highway Vagabond” tells the life of a drifter with carefree lyrics and upbeat production. It doesn’t really stand out on its own, but it works well in the context of the album. There is some overproduction here, as well as on the next track, “Ugly Lights,” a song about turning into the clich├ęd brokenhearted person sitting in a bar to drown her troubles. The overproduction is especially unfortunate here, as the lyrics are brilliant. I hope with more listens I can get past it for the sake of the writing, but so far that hasn’t happened. Next is the cover of Shake Russell’s “You Wouldn’t Know Me,” and I prefer this version. It really fits Lambert’s voice as well as the album, proving Miranda’s ability to pick smart covers, a skill which can be as important as good, honest songwriting.

Any Miranda Lambert enthusiast knows there is always one song on each album written solely by Lambert; on earlier albums there were far more, but you will still always find one that she wrote by herself. On this record, it’s the lighthearted “We Should be Friends,” advising all those with hearts as empty as diesel tanks, closets stocked with borrowed dresses, and stained white T-shirts that they should be her friend. It’s a nice upbeat moment in a mostly dark album yet still feels quite honest. Usually the solo writing credit will be found on a darker track, so this is a nice change. “Pink sunglasses” follows, and I really can’t understand the point of this, except possibly that she mentions being disguised in the sunglasses, and that they make things seem a bit better. Still, although it sort of fits the theme, it is just unnecessary. It suffers from overproduction too, and I won’t get past it on this song because this song is just not worth it lyrically. It is absolutely no coincidence that Lambert did not have a hand in writing this; in fact, the other one she did not write or choose as a cover is “Highway vagabond,” which I mentioned earlier didn’t especially stand out…but I digress. “getaway driver” introduces the moment we all knew was coming, a song co-written with Anderson East. This is the first quiet moment on the album; Lambert sings from the point of view of a man who helps his woman escape her life like a “getaway driver.” It still connects with the rambling feel of this album, but in an understated way; it’s one of the standouts of this disc. Next is the single, “Vice,” and let me take this moment to insert my status as a Miranda Lambert fan and say I wasn’t thrilled about “Vice” at first. As a reviewer, I recognized it to be an excellent single choice, but I wasn’t overly sold on the production. I’ll gladly take that back; in context, it works flawlessly, adding another dimension to the rambling theme as Lambert runs from town to town chasing whiskey, sex, and music. I wouldn’t call it country; in fact, so far I would call “The Nerve” closer to Americana, but there is a raw, unpolished feeling about it that works.

“Vice” dissolves effortlessly into the slow burning “Smoking Jacket.” Lambert sings of wanting a man with a smoking jacket whose “heart is tragic” but “he makes his magic every night on me.” She also adds, “I don’t need a diamond, I like wearing his smoke rings.” “Pushin’ Time” is the most country so far, opening with just Miranda and her guitar. The song itself is about reckless love and not being able to take it slow; “sometimes love acts out of spite, and good things happen overnight.” This is another highlight of the disc and the entire album. Lambert’s country rock cover of Danny O-Keefe’s “Covered Wagon” works well after the quiet moments, and once again, it’s a perfect cover choice; it’s another track about life on the road, this time obviously in a covered wagon. “The Nerve” closes with the quiet, introspective “Use my Heart.” This features some of the best songwriting on the album, and here we find the inspiration for the disc names; “I can write the line, but I can’t sing the song. I can call my mama, but I won’t go home. The thought of loving you just makes me sick. I don’t have the nerve to use my heart.” This is also the first songwriting appearance by Ashley Monroe, who it seems has never lent her pen to a bad song. So far, with the exception of “pink Sunglasses,” the record has flowed smoothly and seemed to lack filler. But double albums can be risky, so with that in mind, we move on to the second disc.

The Heart

“The Heart” opens with decidedly more country production than “The Nerve.” It will continue to be mostly country throughout. “Tin Man” is an excellent track which sees Lambert explaining to the tin man that “if you ever felt one breaking, you’d never want a heart.” From this first track, it feels as though “The Nerve” is Lambert running from the pain, while “The Heart” sees her confronting it head on. “Good Ol’ Days,” co-written by Brent cobb and Adam Hood, is a lighthearted track on the surface, but it holds more meaning than just an ode to days gone by; Lambert asks “when will the road run out” and says she’ll go back if only she can find the truth. “Things That Break” sees Miranda lamenting the pain she causes, saying “I’m hard on things that matter, hold a heart so tight it shatters, so I stay away from things that break.” There is a vulnerability in this song that reaches out and just slaps you in the face. “For the Birds” feels like the companion of “we Should be Friends.” Both are lighthearted moments surrounded by darkness, but whereas ‘we Should be Friends” is about her personality in general, this one is more about what she stands for.

“Well Rested” is hard to explain–it’s somewhere between heartbreak and personal reflection and features some of the best vocals on the whole thing. All of you who love steel guitar should listen to this one immediately. “Tomboy” is a fun song about just that; “Daddy tried to raise a southern belle, he got a tomboy.” It doesn’t really go with the album, but at the same time, it goes deeper than just listing the characteristics of a tomboy; she’s “hard to love and hard to please,” and explaining “she’s got a soft spot you’ll never see.” Steel guitar lovers, I take my earlier comment back. Listen to “To Learn Her” first. This is a straight-up classic country song. It’s a beautifully written song telling men that “to love her is to learn her.” It is no surprise that Ashley Monroe’s pen is once again found here, as this is the shining moment of “The Heart.” This could easily have been on a Monroe record. after this traditional song, “Keeper of the Flame” feels appropriate–it’s an ode to the songwriters who came before Lambert, and her promise that she won’t let their legacies die. Because of this, I wish it would have been more traditional, but the country rock production works pretty well.

“Bad Boy” starts off interestingly, with Miranda singing half a line and then asking, “can I ask one more question, what’s the intro?” I love that this is in there–it’s the exact opposite of every polished record coming out of Nashville. This one is more similar in production to “The Nerve,” standing out as “Pushin’ Time” did on that disc. This is an ode to the bad boys and the women who want them, but once again, it’s not shallow; it feels like this disc’s companion to “Smoking Jacket.” I prefer “Smoking Jacket,” but this still doesn’t really feel like filler. There is no way to describe the production on “Six Degrees of separation” except strange. I wouldn’t call it overproduced necessarily, but it just doesn’t go with Lambert’s voice or the lyrics. It’s like someone thought it would make the song more depressing to add some sort of alternative stoner rock feel. It doesn’t come off as depressing or angry, it just comes off as annoying. The song itself is about running from heartbreak but never being able to escape the memories. Lyrically, it’s pretty good, but I can’t imagine getting past the train wreck that is the production. Then “Dear Old Sun” arrives, and we’re back to country/acoustic rock. This is simply a nice little ode to the sun and the morning light. The album concludes much as it began, with the rambling “I’ve Got Wheels.” It connects the whole record seamlessly as Lambert sings, “When I can’t fly, I start to fall, but I’ve got wheels, I’m rollin’ on.”

Overall

Double albums always run the risk of containing too much filler, and that was definitely a concern with this project. However, except for “Pink Sunglasses,” and to a much lesser extent, “Tomboy” and “Bad Boy,” all the tracks feel like they belong here. Honestly, I would have given this album a ten without the unfortunate inclusion of “Pink Sunglasses,” and perhaps even with it if the obnoxious production of “Six Degrees of separation” and some overproduced moments hadn’t been present. lyrically, it’s mostly a great effort, and I am impressed that Miranda not only co-wrote most of this, but also used the opportunity to showcase little-known songwriters outside the mainstream. I didn’t even mention Irish singer Foy Vance, who co-wrote “Pushin’ Time,” but that was one of the most impressive names found here. As I mentioned, there some production issues, but overall, that was solid as well. I don’t think there is too much material here; “The Nerve” is the edgy Americana half where Lambert runs from her pain and problems, while “The Heart” is the heartfelt country reflections that find her confronting and dealing with the heartache. As I have said many times, the best music is honest and makes you feel something, and that is what this album does. It brings you in and shows you what Miranda Lambert is going through right now, while at the same time holding you at arm’s length, reflecting Lambert’s refusal to do interviews about this release and keeping her privacy while speaking through the music. It’s an album I absolutely recommend, the best album we’ve seen come out of the mainstream in 2016.

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