‘Out here you’ve got nothing else to lean on…you’ve got sky, desert, emotion.’ The here is Marfa, Texas. Last year Miranda Lambert, Jon Randall and Jack Ingram escaped to their hideaway searching for solace, sunsets and songs. The results are The Marfa Tapes, a bare bones collection which beautifully evokes a place out of time.
The album begins with crackle of the campfire, the sweet sound of guitar strings, the sigh of knowing you’re going to be with friends. It’s hard to understate how much we’ve all needed an escape this year, how much absence and disruption has made us all think about things in a different way and this album feels like it could only have been made in such circumstances. In Your Arms longs for another life, full of adventure, excitement, freedom, danger and romantic drama. When the song ends we hear the trio chatting, awestruck at how good it all sounds. We’re right there with them, drinking it all in.
The cover picture has the three artists in shadow, with the sunset behind them. Despite being a country music superstar Miranda revels in taking a back seat, in being one of the group rather than having to carrying the weight of commercial expectations. This is a trio project and boy do the boys sound incredible too with particular highlights being I Don’t Like It, Breaking a Heart and the stunning closer Amazing Grace (Texas).
The new songs Miranda takes the lead vocal on are brilliantly written with attention to detail that makes you feel and live every line. Waxahachie is about how hard it is to let go of your past. That idea is taken further on Ghost where she tries to burn her ex to the ground, literally and lyrically. By the end of the song she’s moved on I ain’t afraid of ghosts, she sings with quiet strength. On The Wind’s Just Gonna Blow she knows what it’s like to see the skies of your life darken. Storms sometimes last – you have to find a way out for yourself.
Rest assured this is not some album of misery songs though – being with friends is fun, a time to drink, and laugh like on Am I Right or Amarillo, Homegrown Tomatoes and Geraldine which is a Jolene inspired riot. Tequila Does is given a stripped down reimagining, all of them enjoying knocking back the hard stuff round the fire.
Miranda has shared some anxiety about releasing music this raw and exposed but she needn’t have worried – her voice was born to sing like this. The Marfa Tapes proves she can find an authentic alternative to mainstream country in her own way (no Dave Cobb or trendy producers required). Alongside the Pistol Annies and her solo career she now has another equally brilliant outlet for her talents. Choices like these just cement her position as the best artist in modern country music.
Next time you go to Marfa guys give us a call.
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