On ‘The Weight of These Wings,’ Miranda Lambert tells her side of a very public story
Miranda Lambert keeps making plans for a getaway on “The Weight of These Wings,” the country star’s first album since her very public divorce last year from another Nashville heavyweight, Blake Shelton.
“I wanna go somewhere where nobody knows,” she sings in “Highway Vagabond.” Later, in “Vice,” she specifies her desire for a place “where my reputation don’t precede me.”
You can appreciate Lambert’s longing. One reasonable way to process trauma is to do it privately, out of view. Yet withdrawal isn’t a viable long-term option for a celebrity, much less a plain-talking country singer whose success relies on her approachability (or at least its illusion).
As Lambert pointed out in her 2014 song “Priscilla,” an imagined heart-to-heart with Elvis Presley’s former wife, “We turn around and the world’s right there.”
The temptation to escape versus the determination to be understood — that tension animates “The Weight of These Wings,” which also reflects Lambert’s complicated relationship with Nashville convention.
Twenty-four songs divided into two halves (one called “The Nerve” and the other “The Heart”), this impressive double album examines the same failed marriage Shelton autopsied earlier this year on his “If I’m Honest.”
But where he was polished and pithy, she’s thoughtful and discursive, moving casually between ballads and rave-ups, confessions and accusations, songs about giving up on love and songs about seeking it out again.
“I’m hard on things that matter / Hold a heart so tight it shatters,” she sings in “Things That Break,” and that’s just one of the many instances of Lambert’s ambivalence in regards to what went wrong.
Produced by Frank Liddell, Glenn Worf and Eric Masse, the music deepens that unsettled feeling with arrangements that feel raw — sometimes even incomplete — by current country standards. In “Pushin’ Time” you can hear what sounds like the rustle of a lyric sheet as Lambert sings over stark acoustic guitar, while the swaggering “Bad Boy” starts with a flubbed beginning.
“What’s the intro?” Lambert asks before the song revs up again.
“Ugly Lights,” about staying too late at the bar, has the grungy low-fi vibe of a demo. And “Pink Sunglasses” is hardly even a song; it stretches out a swampy blues riff and a joke about the power of “positive plastic” for four minutes.
Yet none of this is the product of indifference or fuzzy thinking. On Twitter and on her website, the singer is promoting “The Weight of These Wings” with the slogan “Double album, one story,” which speaks to a purposefulness in her approach. She wants to describe messiness in a clear way, to take back some control of a tabloid narrative that others (including Shelton) have framed too neatly.
That’s what you get from one of the album’s most moving cuts, “Keeper of the Flame,” in which she refers to herself as “the teller of the story.” The job may be one she was pushed into, but it’s hers for the keeping now.
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