Album Review: Miranda Lambert — Four the Record
Since the release of her last album, Revolution, Miranda Lambert has gone from a critical darling to a full-blown country superstar. She’s garnered numerous awards, picked up a couple #1 singles and had a marriage to Blake Shelton that even caught the notice of mainstream media. Somewhere along the way, she also found time to record her fourth album, Four the Record, which continues to show that playing it safe doesn’t seem to be in her DNA.
Out of the 14 songs on Four the Record, Lambert had a hand in writing half of them. While that’s a much lower ratio than usual for her, it’s hard to complain when she’s picking songs from the likes of Don Henry, Chris Stapleton and Brandi Carlile. The album’s delightful opening track, “All Kinds of Kinds,” is from Henry and Phillip Coleman and is pure Henry quirkiness. It’s a sign of Lambert’s independence that she’s singing about circus folk and cross-dressing congressmen at a time when everyone else is singing about how country they are. Her take on Gillian Welch’s “Look at Miss Ohio” will be a treat both for Welch fans and those who have never heard the original.
Lambert has made a reputation for her badass crazy-chick songs, and she has a winner on this album with “Mama’s Broken Heart.” Not many of today’s country singers, in either gender, can sing so convincingly about healing a broken heart through liver damage the way Lambert can. However, as she demonstrated with “The House That Built Me,” she can sing with an emotional range that extends well beyond “pissed-off vengeance,” and some of the best songs here are heartbreakers. The self-penned “Dear Diamond” should be required listening for any singer out there who believes that vocal gymnastics trump emotional delivery. “Over You” (written with Shelton) nicely covers the range of feelings that come with the end of a relationship, from “How dare you?” to “I miss you.”
At times, Lambert’s willingness to experiment gets the best of her. “Fine Tune” and “Easy Living” are decent songs, but they’re weakened by the decision to distort her vocals and fill the background with television noise, respectively. “Fastest Girl in Town,” on the other hand, has been done better on her previous albums.
At a time when the songs played on country radio seem more and more homogenized and formulaic, it’s refreshing to hear something that so willingly goes against the grain. Four the Record, despite a few missteps, is every bit as strong an album as its predecessor.
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