Today is the blessed day that have we woken up to not one but two brand new solo songs from Miranda Lambert. They are her first in three years – not that she’s been quiet that whole time – we’ve been treated to tours, the Pistol Annies incredible album and her personal life has been as eventual as ever, with her marrying again earlier this year.
Fans, like myself, have been waiting patiently for this new material and like with any new release from your favourite artist, it can be an uncertain time. I have to admit I was a little nervous when I heard the snippets and live versions of the new songs. Such snapshots taken out of context are never the best indication of what a song is exactly going to sound like so I tried to remain positive that she wasn’t going to release some poppy, rap inspired song. And having gone with a brand new producer, moving from Frank Liddell to Jay Joyce there’s always another slight question mark over how things will sound. Plus Vice had been such an incredible first song from the last album era, so it felt almost like anything was going to pale in comparison.
The thing I kept reminding myself before I listened to these songs is to trust her. Even when there’s moments that go wrong or the occasional song I’m not keen on, when you look at the wider picture of her career she always produces the goods.
So I listened. And felt instant relief. These are damn good songs. Maybe they don’t hit Vice level of songwriting but few songs ever do. Both ‘It All Comes Out in the Wash’ and ‘Locomotive’ are fun and funny and absolutely what I want to hear from Miranda right now.
Coming out after her divorce, her previous album The Weight of These Wings was always going to have an element of heavy introspection to it. We know she can sing those songs better than anyone. And Pistol Annies only continued in that same vein, albeit with Name Changed Back and Sugar Daddy adding an element of irreverent fun to the proceedings.
But for this upcoming seventh album she went for a reset and I think it’s a smart decision. Her life has changed, she’s happy again and music is going to reflect it. Lead song ‘It All Comes Out in the Wash’, written with the Love Junkies Hillary Lindsey, Liz Rose and Lori McKenna is full of trademark sass, reminding us that all the shit you’ve been through doesn’t matter in the long run. Everything will work out in the end. Miranda’s shrug it off attitude is a perfect way to address all the tabloid bullshit she’s been through, even when she says none of the scenarios are personal to her. We all know what she’s singing about.
Musically and lyrically the song itself isn’t anything particularly groundbreaking or original. It is quite reminiscent of the song Platinum with the idea of using bleach to wash out your problems, Pink Sunglasses in the IDGAF attitude and is structurally very similar to We Should Be Friends. What saves this song is that she mixes all the best elements of those songs and something better has come out in the, well, wash.
And then Locomotive is the ‘country punk’ inspired number she debuted at CMA fest last month. Co written with K.S. Rhodes and Ashley Monroe, it’s a total runaway train which hits 100mph from the start and doesn’t slow down until it’s done. It echoes some of her Crazy Ex Girlfriend album in terms of the speed of it and also Little Red Wagon in the delivery of the verses. Maybe some won’t like the way she rattles through the song but I think it’s a total blast. Also it’s going to be great live where she can really blaze some energy into it.
I’m not sure either of these songs are going to interest pop country fans, the classic country purists or those who want to see Miranda embrace her Americana side. But for real fans who want to hear her slam a few songs into the ground with the heel of her cowboy boot then they are perfect.
And as for whether country radio will play either of these songs my instinct is to say: of course they won’t. They haven’t played any Pistol Annies songs. They didn’t even hardly play Tin Man ffs. She hasn’t embraced snap tracks or pop country trends. These are catchy upbeat country rock songs and I just can’t see that being enough to change their minds. If country radio finally wakes up and puts these suckers on spin then that’s great but these songs will survive and thrive without its help.
Miranda Lambert has never released a bad album and on this evidence her steam train ain’t slowing down any time soon. Listen and let me know what you think of the songs in the comments or on social media.