Since her debut album, Kerosene,hit the country music scene in 2005, Miranda Lambert hascontinued to grow and develop as an artist by rarely giving us the same albumtwice. Four the Record once againfinds the CMA Female Vocalist of the Year reinventing her sound and style todeliver one of the finest country albums of the year.
The album kicks off with “All Kinds of Kinds,” a mid-temposong about the different types of people that make up the world we live in.With humorous lines about a cross-dressing Congressman with “closets full ofskeletons and dresses he wore on Friday nights” to a pharmacist who slips herfiddlin’ kids with Ritalin, this is a side of Miranda we rarely get to witness.
Following the opening track is the album’s lone disastroustrack, “Fine Tune.” I would comment on what the song is about, but the song isbarely audible considering the heavy use of a voice box that turns Lambert’sfantastic voice into something similar to that of Darth Vader. I appreciate thefact that Miranda is trying out different styles on this album, but this onedoes her absolutely no favors. The upside to this song is its groovy productionwhich resembles that of the album’s first single, “Baggage Claim.”
“Fastest Girl in Town” finds Miranda relishing all her sassand attitude into one of her signature country-rock power anthems. “Town” showcasesthe tough, “outlaw” persona songs like “Kerosene” and “Gunpowder and Lead” havebestowed upon the singer. “Mama’s Broken Heart” is another rocker featured onthe album, but deals with a completely different subject matter. The song is inthe same vein of “Only Prettier” in that it pokes a little fun of the “prim andproper” reputation that is expected to be upheld by “Southern belles.” On “Nobody’sFool,” Miranda recounts the regret she feels after a chance encounter with anex-boyfriend. Unfortunately, she’s regretting the fact that she left him andnow has to watch and stare as he flaunts his new single life in front of her.
On a much lighter note, this album finds the countrysongstress showing off more of a softer side which could be a result of hermarriage to fellow superstar, Blake Shelton. “Safe” was apparently written onthe road when Lambert was recalling how she felt about her relationship withShelton. “You make me feel like I’m the only girl in the whole wide world,”sings Lambert, “I wanna hold you like a handful of diamonds and pearls that Iguard with my life or die trying…I’ll keep you safe.” Though it does afantastic job at relaying the love the couple shares, the cheesy lyrics nearlyturn the song into a response to Shelton’s less-than-stellar hit, “God Gave MeYou.”
Two of the album’s strongest songs appear back-to-back onthe track listing. “Dear Diamond” is a fantastic, bittersweet ballad, writtenby Miranda, that tells the story of a married woman who has an affair anddecides to confide in her ring, rather than tell her husband. “Dear diamond…withthis ring I’ve said I do, I promised to never do what I’ve done, I’ve beenlying to someone, dear diamond,” sings Lambert during the song’s chorus. “Ipromise to keep this secret I have while he’s holding me,” she utters as shemakes the aching decision to not come clean. To make this song even morebrilliant is the addition of Patty Loveless’ phenomenal harmonies. The more Ihear it, the more it becomes the album’s highlight.
The very next track, “Same Ol You,” is another gem on thissuperb 14-track album. This Brandi Carlile penned ditty deals with a woman whoremains in a relationship with a man who’ll most likely never change. “It’s thesame old you in church on Sunday, getting high when the sun goes down…and Ithink I’m done with you, ‘cause until I get to leavin’ it’s just the same ol metoo,” Lambert delivers with plenty of attitude and vocal prowess much like thatof one of her influences, Loretta Lynn. What I love most about this song is thevintage acoustic guitar laden production that remains in the background whilethe vocals remain at the song’s forefront.
The album’s remaining tracks each offer something new anddifferent to an already unique-sounding production. “Easy Living” brings avintage bluesy sound while “Look at Miss Ohio” offers a haunting melody thatfeatures Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman as harmonyvocalists. “Oklahoma Sky” is a tender ballad that serves as an ode to the Texan’snew life in Oklahoma and features a production similar to one of Revolution’s album cuts, “Airstream Song.”
It’s not surprising that husband Blake Shelton appears twiceon the album, once as a co-writer and once in a duet. It’s also no surprisethat the songs Shelton appears in happen to be the most pop-leaning tracks onan otherwise country album. “Over You” was written by both Blake and Mirandaand deals with the grief one endures when they lose a loved one. Though the song is good lyrically, the vocaldelivery seems a bit forced by Miranda who falls for the trick thatover-singing equals emotion. The same could be said about the couple’s duet, “Betterin the Long Run.” The song is well written (Charles Kelley, Ashley Monroe, andGordie Sampson penned the song), but the over-emoting from Lambert and Sheltonturn a great song into a rather mediocre recording.
There isn’t much more that can be said about how influentialMiranda Lambert has become. She continues to push the envelope in moderncountry music while still sticking to and honoring the genre’s traditionalroots. Four the Record is justanother stellar example of why Miranda is one country’s finest artists.
(Miranda’s Four the Record is one of the items included in our CMA Prize Pack Giveaway. Simply “Like” our Facebook page before November 9 to enter!)