Two great country singers. I reviewed Miranda Lambert’s Four the Record back in 2011; thought it was good then, think it’s good now. I never did get around to giving her collaborative album with Presley and Monroe much eartime, and I can tell that’s a mistake.
MIRANDA LAMBERT – Platinum (RCA Nashville): “What doesn’t kill you only makes you blonder,” sings America’s greatest country writer, a woman who’s got more wit, sense of identity, and “back yard swagger” than anyone else in the game. With 16 cuts spread over an hour, even runtime grumpuses like me might only be dismayed by a short lull in the middle when she pulls out the fiddles and goes real honky-tonk. And sure, I don’t share her Luddite leanings on old-fashioned nostalgianthem “Automatic” or hokey pastime and gadget adoration on “Old Shit,” I definitely get the feeling she has when she looks in the mirror when doing her makeup: “Glamour at its finest / just means someone’s hidin’ / from their own reality.” And she’s got no intention of going to the bar all dolled up to “dangle there all perfect, like a puppet on a string.” If she puts on lacy underwear, it’s on her own terms. But beyond the tough ‘tude is a woman who regrets arguing with her mother like she’s still sixteen, who gets exhausted warding off girls after her man. Too hungover to go to church and old enough to feel the weight that makes “gravity a bitch,” Lambert’s idea of Platinum isn’t just her highlights; it’s just how nice those records look hanging on her wall. A MINUS
ANGALEENA PRESLEY – American Middle Class (Slate Creek): The last of Lambert’s Pistol Annies to go solo, Presley paints a pretty grim picture of the small town life she knows, the working class faking it as the middle class not quite poor enough to figure everything hopeless and not so comfortable that Presley didn’t have to roll pennies to attend college; from the druggy sins plaguing a booze-free town on “Dry County Blues” to the portraits of crumbling lives standing in line at the “Grocery Store,” from the “Drunk” husband who got her “Knocked Up” to everyone popping “Pain Pills.” But all can be summed up in the title track, where “The scholarships went to the rich and the grants went to the poor.” If that don’t function both literally and figuratively as a metaphor for corporate welfare, I don’t what do; maybe the anecdotal voiceover Presley’s coalmining father gives over the intro and outro of the same song, condemning the boss for reaping the rewards of the labor put forth by the workers day in, day out. And they say Marxism ain’t got no place in America. A MINUS