Album Review: Miranda Lambert — Four the Record

Sam Gazdziak | November 10th, 2011

mirandafourtherecordSince 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.

4.5 Stars

Preview or purchase Four the Record

1 Ping

  1. [...] Four the Record was one of our most anticipated records of 2011, and Miranda didn’t disappoint. She effortlessly covers a lot of musical ground here, from the rocking “Fastest Girl in Town” to the fuzzy, bluesy-sexy “Fine Tune,” to straight up country on “Dear Diamond,” which is one of the best songs she’s written to date. Well-chosen covers of songs by Gillian Welch and Brandi Carlile round out another solid outing. Read Karlie Justus’ review here. [...]
  1. Carrie
    November 10, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    While I agree that it’s refreshing to hear somebody/something go against the grain, I was underwhelmed by this album, and am somewhat mystified by the overwhelmingly positive “best album ever” reviews it’s been garnering.

    I’ve been a fan of Miranda’s since “Me and Charlie Talking” came out, and bought Kerosene the day it was released. I loved that album, and I loved Crazy Ex-Girlfriend more. Revolution was good, but not as constant-listening as the previous two. And this one … I can’t hardly make myself listen to it again, even though I know it’s quite possible the CD just needs to grow on me.

    I found myself tuning out for the latter half of the album. I feel like “Fine Tune” is just trying too hard to be different and edgy. “Dear Diamond,” while vocally strong, possibly strongest on the album, just … bored me. “Fastest Girl in Town” – been there, done that. And although I fould myself cheering while listening to “All Kinds of Kinds” because FINALLY somebody had the audacity to say something of this sort, I also found myself thinking that the idea isn’t that far removed from Dierks Bentley’s “The Heaven I’m Headed To.”

    Currently, the songs that I can see myself listening to at length are “Mama’s Broken Heart” and “Over You.” Two songs on an album of 14? It just isn’t enough to hold me. (That’s not to say that songs like “Oklahoma Sky” and “Look at Miss Ohio” aren’t lovely song. I just don’t see myself lapping them up and learning every word like I’ve done with her previous albums.)

  2. Ben Foster
    November 10, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    Wow, that’s quite a nice rating! I’ve heard the album, and I definitely like it, but haven’t quite pinned down a final rating. Probably somewhere in the 3-4 star range. Agreed, “All Kinds of Kinds” is delightful,” and “Dear Diamond” definitely a highlight, though “Fine Tune” has been quickly growing on me.

  3. Barry Mazor
    November 10, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    Carrie–what does “just trying too hard to be edgy” SOUND like? How does it show itself, and where? And if it succeeded in being edgy, would that be OK?

  4. Carrie
    November 10, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    “Trying too hard to be edgy” is going to vary from person to person, naturally. It’s subjective. What I love, you might hate, and vice versa. Certainly if I feel it succeeds in being edgy it’s OK – I don’t dislike edgy, and I apologize if that wasn’t clear.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’d much rather an artist take a risk than not at all (see: her husband). But I don’t feel like Miranda *needed* those risks to continue her relevancy. I’ve always liked Miranda because she isn’t like everybody else – I definitely don’t want her to conform, but I also didn’t need the over-production and bells and whistles I heard on the record.

  5. Carrie
    November 10, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    I think what I’m trying to say is that Miranda doesn’t need to TRY to be edgy – she’s always had that edge. So with the calculated risks taken on this album, to me, it came off as trying TOO HARD to be something she already had in the bag.

  6. Barry Mazor
    November 10, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Creative people, edgy or not, just won’t stay put.

    It has the side benefit, intended or not, of being the road to staying relevant longer.

  7. nm
    November 10, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    Carrie, maybe she likes the sound? I mean, it’s what she was trying to get at in recording the song, rather than production added with a marketing or image-creation agenda in mind? I don’t have a clue which it is, since I think Lambert is smart enough to have a point in mind with her production and also decided enough that she may just be going for a new sound because that’s the sound she wants.

  8. Gator
    November 10, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Personally, I agree with the rating of the album but I also see the weaknesses that are visible in that some of the tracks are major steps backwards in terms of lyrics, specifically the beginning of “Over You,” and some others are just missing in narrative development that has forwarded her music so much, and example of this is “Fastest Girl In Town.” With that said, this album also has some of the most interesting songs of her career in “Dear Diamond” and “Mama’s Broken Heart” in how they toy with and further her public persona without retreading what she has done in the past by adding different aspects or curious new details. Moreover, what really puts this album above and beyond her debut as well as on par with the lyrical depth of Revolution is the great sonic evolution and experimentation that is evident in the album that makes even some very weak lyrics (“Baggage Claim”) something special in the excellency of their arrangements. In the end, while it is not the greatest album she has it is a very strong set that furthers hers artistic credibility in new ways.

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