Miranda Lambert - Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Music Album Reviews

Each Sunday, Pitchfork takes an in-depth look at a significant album from the past, and any record not in our archives is eligible. Today, we revisit the stellar rise of Miranda Lambert with her second album, one that laid the groundwork for an artist destined for country superstardom.

Miranda Lambert will not tolerate beach balls at her shows. She has her reasons. The finer points change with each retelling, but here’s the gist: She’s opening for Kenny Chesney somewhere in Pennsylvania—“No beach close to here, not even a grain of sand,” she recalls—when someone in the audience lobs something buoyant and spherical toward the stage. It collides with her mic stand, busts open her lip. From that moment on, Lambert vowed to carry a small pink razor blade on stage at all times. “I’m very sorry for whoever’s ball this is,” she says in one of many videos that makes its way to YouTube in the coming years. “But it’s gonna die now.”
It’s a funny tradition—perfect fodder for radio interviews and inside jokes among fans. It also symbolizes some of the qualities that have made Lambert a proud loner in 21st-century country: how she insists on playing by her own rules, how the easy-going customs that work for, say, Kenny Chesney aren’t gonna fly for her. It also happens to be a good example of the way justice is served in her music. After all, the song she remembers singing in that moment is “More Like Her,” one of the gentler tracks on her 2007 album Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. The women who narrate its other songs take to their antagonists with firearms and vengeance; they scour parking lots looking for license plates and descend on unsuspecting creeps like brutal storms. She might sound at peace but there’s a good chance the singer of “More Like Her” was already thinking about buying that razor blade.

Lambert grew up in Lindale, Texas, a small town where her parents worked together as private investigators and eventually worked on Paula Jones’ 1997 sexual harassment case against Bill Clinton. For a few years, Lambert shared the house with women seeking refuge from abusive relationships. She heard their stories and paid close attention to how men weaponized their power, both in the private and public eye. Her memories from childhood involve frank discussions about her parents’ business—“Our dinner conversations were about divorce cases and who was cheatin’ on who,” she would reflect—and picturesque evenings on the porch with her father, perched on his lap with an acoustic guitar, singing country songs.

Lambert started writing and performing at an early age. She sang in the school choir, which didn’t exist until she petitioned to start one. When she was 18, she released a self-titled album with songs pitched between precocious breakup ballads and hometown anthems designed to get the crowd on her side at the local honky-tonks (titles include “Texas Pride” and “Texas As Hell”). She followed the album by auditioning, at the age of 19, for the USA Network’s Nashville Star, a country reboot of American Idol. She was effortlessly charming and became a fan-favorite but Lambert was playing the long game, already thinking from a business angle. “I thought if I could make it through the original song night, then I could get a publishing deal out of it,” she explained to the Dallas Morning News.

She didn’t win—she came in third—but she did make it to the original song night, where she debuted a ballad she wrote with her father called “Greyhound Bound for Nowhere.” Before her performance, she explained that people tend to not take her seriously: “I haven’t been through a lot of tough times in my life,” she concedes, noting that her songs are inspired by the stories she heard in her hometown, the people she came across, the patterns she observed—not necessarily her own experiences. “I’m gonna sing a song that’s about a woman who’s having an affair with a married person,” she says sweetly into the camera with her thick Southern drawl.

“Greyhound Bound for Nowhere” would eventually appear on Kerosene, Lambert’s 2005 major-label debut. Set to a muted Southern rock chord progression, its depictions of misery and broken dreams weren’t exactly what the suits at Epic Nashville had in mind for her. Lambert insisted on writing the album herself; they wanted a hit. They started doing what major labels do, which is supplying material written by powerhouse songwriters with proven records of chart success. Lambert knew her originals were better. “I listened to 20 songs,” she explained to Texas Monthly, “and the label people said, ‘OK, you need to say yes to at least one song, because you’re starting to hurt people’s feelings.’”

She says yes to one song. Otherwise, the album is written entirely by Lambert, although the brilliant title track—still among her signature songs—ends up with a Steve Earle writing credit due to similarities with his outlaw anthem “Feel Alright.” It’s a great record that helped cement a loyal fanbase. But the industry wasn’t totally on board. “I don’t get played a lot on country radio, and I don’t understand why,” she said to Texas Monthly, a few years later, despite the album’s extraordinary sales.

There are a few reasons. Lambert attributed her early success to songs like Gretchen Wilson’s “Redneck Woman,” a barnburner that paved the way for hits by women who didn’t follow the path of Faith Hill’s breathless love songs or Shania Twain’s arena pop crossovers. She was also influenced by the Chicks, who followed their muse past the point where country radio was willing to follow. Lambert’s songs were catchy and immediately identifiable to her audience but they owed more to the spirit of classic country than most burgeoning artists at the time. And country radio remains a tough format for women—let alone ones with mercilessly upbeat anthems about burning men’s houses down. (At the time of Kerosene’s release, the No. 1 country single was “Bless the Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts, a song that would later be covered by a contemporary Christian band who barely had to change a word.)

If Lambert felt deterred, she didn’t show it. The follow-up, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, was even more unsparing and uncompromising than Kerosene, louder and tougher. There are three cover songs, all written by women: Gillian Welch’s “Dry Town,” Patty Griffin’s “Getting Ready,” and Carlene Carter’s “Easy From Now On,” a ballad closely associated with Emmylou Harris. Most of the songs take place in the moments immediately after heartbreak, consumed by a need for revenge—“He wants a fight, well now he’s got one,” she sings, armed at the door with a shotgun—or a rebound. “I made a point of not mixin’ love and pleasure in my life,” she sings in “Guilty in Here,” pledging to stick to that divide.

Here is how Miranda Lambert’s best songs work. The verses arrive as uninterrupted trains of thought, her words flowing in a speak-sing cadence that glides through turbulent emotions and complex rhyme schemes that seem to come second-nature. She has an edge to her voice and a preference for simple, intuitive melodies that help sell ominous lines like, “Well, it’s half-past-ten, another six-pack in/And I can feel the rumble like a cold black wind.” But she also sings despairingly about more vulnerable scenes, about love letters on wet paper, leaving you to imagine the tears falling and the texture in your hand.

All this work below the surface allows her choruses to hit like exclamatory onomatopoeias in a comic book. She has a knack for catchphrases: Is it guilty in here or is it just me? He ain’t seen me crazy yet! Country music is built for hooks like these, but Lambert has a way of pacing herself, furnishing her songs subtly so that she never seems like she’s pandering. As soon as she starts railing against her ex’s current flame using a “stitch/pitch” rhyme scheme, you know where it’s going. But it’s how she gets there, the little twists in her delivery, that keep you entertained. Her songs ramp up so naturally you feel like you’re riding shotgun with her, egging her on until you’re shielding your eyes.

If this kind of writing aligned her with the outlaw country legends she was raised on, the glossy production aimed directly for radio play in the mid-2000s. These songs practically bounce from the speaker, bursting in the air like confetti. It wasn’t always to her taste. “I love raw albums,” she said. “I’d love to record an album in a garage and for it to sound like an old Gary Stewart album, without a bunch of overdubbed this and that. But when you’re in the mainstream, you’ve got to fit in. You’ve got to get your foot in the door first.”

Even as she pushed for radio play, Lambert made sure her songs had depth. In the middle of the album, her accompanists step away for a series of ballads that form the greatest work of her early career. The barroom lament of “Love Letters” showed she could write her own jukebox standards, while “Desperation,” with its gently anxious arrangement and lonesome harmonica part, proved that her stories rang true even when she lowered the stakes. “Complicated words slippin’ off of your tongue and ain’t one of them the truth,” she sings, and it’s one of the most damning accusations on a record that begins with threats of a gunfight.

While she could have spent her career racking up the body count with more songs like “Gunpowder and Lead,” her first top 10 country hit, Lambert refused to be pigeonholed. “I feel like I was getting dangerously close to being shoved in that box of ‘She’s that crazy girl who kills people in her songs,’” she confessed to The Los Angeles Times before the release of her follow-up album, Revolution, a commercial breakthrough and creative reset. In its songs, love is still full of pain and deceit and people are not to be trusted. She covered John Prine at the end of the record because she figured he’d agree with this outlook. Like Prine, she saw the span of life as ugly enough retribution. “I kill them a little more softly this time around,” is how she put it.

The success of Revolution kickstarted a prolific and fruitful decade of music. She made a full-blown country-pop blockbuster (2014’s Platinum) and that raw, live-sounding album she dreamed about (2016’s The Weight of These Wings). She was in and out of the tabloids for high-profile relationships; she has had success and failure with country radio. She started a dog sanctuary and a clothing line. She also founded the supergroup Pistol Annies with her friends Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley, a band that remains one of country music’s most reliable side projects.

She found stability, the missing thing that keeps the characters on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend in motion, the hunger that makes it sound so empowering and alive, years later. I think about “Desperation” and the last line of each chorus: “I’m still desperate for you.” Like all the songs, it’s an attempt to describe a sudden surge, a feeling at its peak. Desperation fades; anger subsides; heartbreak heals. Lambert sings knowing she’s got something up her sleeve for whatever comes next.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Miranda Lambert - Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Music Album Reviews Miranda Lambert - Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Sunday, August 23, 2020 Rating: 5

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