Miranda Lambert - The Weight Of These Wings

Double albums usually signal one of two things: the creative peak, or the creative nadir. Add to that Miranda Lambert’s well publicised split from Blake Shelton and her statements about the themes of her latest record, and you should be worried. Break-ups and double albums… ugh. But worry not, this is fantastic. Yes fantastic. It’s an achievement of real significance for country music. In an age where SaladGate still permeates through mainstream Nashville for a female artist to come out with something as complete and ambitious as The Weight Of These Wings is an important thing. It would be easy for Lambert, the reigning queen of country, to take it easy and churn out some standard ballads, but the 33 year old has never been one to stick to the script.

Right from her 2005 debut Kerosene there’s been something different about Lambert, her side project Pistol Annies with real country outsiders Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley showed her independance. Then there was 2014’s Platinum which mixed traditional country with mainstream pop to great effect and established her as a great songwriter to boot. It got great reviews and even greater sales. How to top that, and with a breakup record as well. Well, even more genre jumping, increasingly raw lyrics, and a sense of purpose. Straddling two “sides” and 24 tracks The Weight Of These Wings manages to hold its own bulk.

More risks are taken on the opening twelve tracks, “The Nerve”. It’s also where the story starts and hangs together, the stark bar pick-up story ‘Ugly Lights’, the joyous escape of ‘Pink Sunglasses’ (“At $9.99, I'm perfectly disguised / When I'm walking by, I wanna roll my eyes / In my pink sunglasses”), ruminating on how little love means knowing on ‘You’ll Never Know Me’. Never spiteful this is a retrospective on what failed relationships can teach you, about coping with them and about yourself. Stylistically it’s all over the place (blues, rock, power pop, country ballads), yet held together by the force of Lambert voice and personality.


Volume Two (aka “The Heart”) covers more traditional fare with strong ballads ‘Tin Man’ and ‘For The Birds’, and pedal steel ballad ‘To Learn Her’ taking the honours along with the stomping ‘Six Degrees of Seperation’ about the inability to escape reminders; it’s one of the tracks that sounds overtly about Shelton. Over the 24 tracks there genuinely isn’t a duff one, not a song is wasted. By not whinging and bitching, Lambert has put another foot forward for country music, and has returned respectability to the breakup record.

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Verdict

Definitely the best mainstream country album of 2016; alongside Sturgill the best overall.
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