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ToC Critic’s Pick: Miranda Lambert, ‘The Weight of These Wings’

Weight of These Wings Cover Art
Sony Music Nashville

Miranda Lambert’s gypsy heart beats strong on The Weight of These Wings, in spite of the scars. Themes of heartache and untethered rambling dominate the 24 songs on her two-disc release. There are few loose ends, but plenty of surprises.

The biggest is how mellow the arrangements are as a whole. Lyrically she swings between moods, but there’s nothing with fury or untethered abandon. “Ugly Lights,” a Cash-like punk-rocker that finds the singer we know from songs like “Mama’s Broken Heart” at her most frayed, comes closest. She’s a hot mess during this hallow bender. Most of the rest are more mature.

All eyes and ears are looking for total emotional devastation in light of personal events that led up to the release of her sixth studio album. Few will leave disappointed. The first disc nearly chronicles the five stages of grief, with interludes like the distorted and joyfully frivolous “Pink Sunglasses” and her new single “We Should Be Friends.” Total depression and acceptance don’t come until “Tin Man,” track No. 1 on “The Heart” and the song that will steal headlines.

If Lambert didn’t write the song in the wake of her divorce, then the sky isn’t blue. It’s her lowest point — that moment when she’s totally given up on love. “Hey there Mr. Tin Man / I’m glad we talked this out / You can take mine if you want it / It’s in pieces now / By the way there Mr. Tin Man / If you don’t mind the scars / You give me your armor / You can have my heart,” she sings.

“Use My Heart,” the final song on “The Nerve” disc actually begins a several song descent into the frigid depths of human emotion. Combined the two-disc project includes a dark, numbing middle perfect for self-imposed isolation. It’s uncomfortably familiar.

Conversely, “Pushin’ Time” is the most arresting love song. Her duet with Anderson East details a passionate, unexpected and maybe unwanted romance. She’s guarded here and throughout the album, never really showing the swagger fans have seen countless times before — most recently on “Little Red Wagon” — but comfortable rolling around in the misery of depression.

There’s no fewer than six songs that find Lambert in motion, either running from or toward something special. “Runnin’ Just in Case” (“Happiness ain’t prison, but there’s freedom in a broken heart”) and “Highway Vagabond” open the album, while “I’ve Got Wheels” closes it. The later is a song of hope, performed over a shuffling 4/4 beat.

“Sometimes these wings get a little heavy / I can’t stay between the lines but I’m rocking steady / When I can’t fly, I start to fall / But I’ve got wheels, I’m rolling on,” she sings.

Musically, this isn’t Lambert’s most dynamic album. Most songs are slow-to-mid-tempo, acoustic and steel guitar drenched expressions of the heart. A few lean punk, and at least one (the Eric Clapton-esque “Covered Wagon”) borrows from blues. Many of the techniques she used on Four the Record reemerge here, but as a whole the project is more introspective. The Weight of These Wings is a throwback to an old-school tear-in-my-beer time of country music when artists worried more about what’s inside their heart than outside pressures and expectations.

The Single

Co-writer Josh Osborne talked about Lambert’s candor during the writing of “Vice,” the first single from The Weight of These Wings. “It’s written so much on the line of, it could be real, or it could be a character. And we purposely — and will continue to — leave that open to interpretation,” Osborne tells Taste of Country. “It really is written from a point of view that I think is a relatable point of view. A lot of people struggle with things that are their weaknesses.”

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In November, Lambert released “We Should Be Friends” as her second single.

Miranda Lambert, The Weight of These Wings’ Track Listing:

Disc 1: “The Nerve”
1. “Runnin’ Just In Case” (Miranda Lambert, Gwen Sebastian)
2. “Highway Vagabond” (Luke Dick, Natalie Hemby, Shane McAnally)
3. “Ugly Nights” (Lambert, Hemby, Liz Rose)
4. “You Wouldn’t Know Me” (Shake Russell)
5. “We Should Be Friends” (Lambert)
6. “Pink Sunglasses” (Rodney Clawson, Dick, Hemby)
7. “Getaway Driver” (Lambert, Anderson East, Hemby)
8. “Vice” (Lambert, McAnally, Josh Osborne)
9. “Smoking Jacket” (Lambert, Hemby, Lucie Silvas)
10. “Pushin’ Time” (Lambert, Hemby, Foy Vance)
11. “Covered Wagon” (Danny O’Keefe)
12. “Use My Heart” (Lambert, Ashley Monroe, Waylon Payne)

Disc 2: “The Heart”
1. “Tin Man” (Lambert, Jack Ingram, Jon Randall)
2. “Good Ol’ Days” (Lambert, Brent Cobb, Adam Hood)
3. “Things That Break” (Lambert, Jessi Alexander, Hemby)
4. “For the Birds” (Lambert, Aaron Raitiere)
5. “Well-Rested” (Lambert, East, Raitiere)
6. “Tomboy” (Lambert, Hemby, Raitiere)
7. “To Learn Her” (Lambert, Monroe, Payne)
8. “Keeper of the Flame” (Lambert, Hemby, Rose)
9. “Bad Boy” (Lambert, Saenz)
10. “Six Degrees of Separation” (Lambert, Galyon, Hemby)
11. “Dear Old Sun” (Lambert, Terri Jo Box, Sebastian)
12. “I’ve Got Wheels” (Lambert, Sebastian, Scotty Wray)

Miranda Lambert at Her Most Unforgettable

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