Miranda Lambert's Classic Country 'Revolution'
Miranda Lambert has been known to get away with some nicely outrageous boasting in the past — lighting up a wayward lover with kerosene, invoking her prowess with a gun as a warning against infidelity on her 2007 single "Gunpowder & Lead," and letting you draw your own conclusions about her previous album title, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Her new album is called Revolution, but who cares if it doesn't represent one?
I'm more pleased that in a new song she's written called "Dead Flowers," Lambert takes a wilted image and spruces it up as a symbol of not merely a dying relationship. As she does on her best songs, she sketches the details a bit more vividly than that: To her narrator, the flowers remind her of the day her man brought them home to her, thinking this was enough to make her happy. Instead they now just remind her of how clueless he is about her moods and her needs.
It's probably safe to say Lambert didn't write "Dead Flowers" with country star Blake Shelton in mind. The two have been an item for a while now, and collaborated on a few songs here, most notably on "Love Song," whose lyric is the exact opposite of "Dead Flowers." It's all about how the narrator and her love read each other with emotional telepathy — it's an idealized romance saved from treacle by a fine, firm folk melody and a surging vocal by Lambert.
Lambert and Shelton, in their late 20s and early 30s, respectively, may be utterly contemporary country stars — Lambert came to prominence on Nashville Star, for heavens sakes, the country TV equivalent of American Idol -- but she displays more knowledge of the history of her genre than the average Idol contestant does of pop or R&B. On "Me and Your Cigarettes," for example, she uses the classic country device of equating herself with a jarring, jocular image — cigarettes, nicotine addiction — and extends the metaphor over four fine verses and a catchy chorus.
With her dusty drawl and slurry phrasing, Lambert is also terrific at choosing cover songs. She and her producers take a 1978 song by John Prine — a great singer-songwriter who can use the royalties that accrue from being included on a Miranda Lambert album — and turn his bit of excellent whimsy, "That's the Way That The World Goes Round," into a country-rock rave-up.
If some of the slower, showier songs on Revolution suggest a hint of self-absorption, the majority of the good ones suggest something much better: a country star who likes to tweak Nashville's notions of mannerliness. And I don't even have time to talk about the nerviness of the song about drinking wine with Jesus as though the Son of God was just an extra-fine good ole boy.
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