In one of her only interviews within the last few months, Miranda Lambert said she was at peace with the fact that she can’t control how fans will interpret her double-album The Weight of These Wings.
“Every record I’ve ever made has been a reflection of where I am right then in my life, however old I am,” she told Billboard in August. “And I’ve never held back at all. But this time with what I happened to be going through in my life, being honest was never really a choice. Everybody knew anyway. So I just said, ‘I’m gonna journal it, and — good days and bad days — use it for my art.’”
Now that fans have had the chance to live with the music for a few days, all the questions they’ve had for her since 2014’s Platinum can be pretty much answered in one song on album one, The Nerve. It’s “You Wouldn’t Know Me,” by Shake Russell from his 1996 album Deep in the West.
Over angelic Appalachian guitar picking and washboard scratching, she sings, “You wouldn’t know me if you saw me here/I’m changing day to day, that’s right/You’ll never know me by askin’ how I feel/You’ll never keep up that way.” Very true. Change comes to every human being — celebrity and non-celebrity — whether they’re responsible for it or not. It’s best to just let the music do all the talking.
As Lambert’s first album release since the end of her marriage with Blake Shelton, it’s easy to let the mind wonder about the people she sings about in every song, especially since most of them are delivered in the first person. But it’s a risk she’s willing to take. (CMT.com requested an interview with Lambert to talk about the new music last week, but there hasn’t been a response).
At times, the lyrics celebrate giving commitment a try in “Getaway Driver” and “Pushin’ Time.” Other times she sings about commitment issues in “Runnin’ Just In Case,” “Use My Heart,” “Things That Break,” “Well-Rested,” “To Learn Her” and “Vice.”
Her characters know exactly who they are — flaws and all — in the title track, “Ugly Lights,” “Good ‘Ol Days,” “Tom Boy” and “For the Birds.” And they know exactly what they want in “Pink Sunglasses,” “Bad Boy,” “Smoking Jacket” and “We Should Be Friends.” Then the collection offers great songs about gettin’ gone in “Highway Vagabond,” “Covered Wagon,” “I’ve Got Wheels” and “Six Degrees of Separation,” the latter of which stars a lead who can’t shake off the ghost of a previous relationship.
“Tin Man” stars a soul who wants to trade their broken heart for the Tin Man’s suit of armor, while there’s hope for brighter days in “Dear Old Sun.” Overall, “Highway Vagabond” might carry the collection’s underlying message of self-acceptance and accountability: “If we ain’t broke down, then we ain’t doing something right,” she sings.
Physical CD copies of The Weight of These Wings were sent to Nashville media with a note from Lambert herself. “Nashville is the only place that I could have made this record,” it reads. “I wanted you to know what I have been working on for the past two years.” It’s signed in print, “Thank you, Love, Miranda.”
Here is an in depth look at her collaborators on The Nerve and The Heart, produced by Frank Liddell, Eric Masse and Glenn Worf. They are a group of music makers who know her creative heart, mind and ears best at this chapter in her life.
Luke Dick: This is the first time Dick has appeared on one of Lambert’s albums. He co-wrote the road trip-ready “Highway Vagabond” with Shane McAnally and Natalie Hemby and “Pink Sunglasses” with Hemby and Rodney Clawson. Dick has co-written songs recorded by Dierks Bentley, The Cadillac Three, Eric Church and Kip Moore. His punk band Republican Hair released a six-song, self-titled EP in July.
Natalie Hemby: She and Lambert go way back. Hemby has co-written songs on every Lambert album since 2009’s Revolution, which opens with their first No. 1 “White Liar.” Hemby co-wrote 10 songs on The Weight of These Wings including the title track. She is expected to release an album of originals in early 2017.
Shane McAnally: He co-wrote the lead single “Vice” with Lambert and Josh Osborne as well as “Highway Vagabond,” with Dick and Hemby. He is the hit-maker behind “Mama’s Broken Heart,” which was co-written with Kacey Musgraves and Brandy Clark.
Liz Rose: She co-wrote “Ugly Lights,” which has the lead character drinking too much to fall apart and wearing sadness like a souvenir. This is Rose’s first contribution to a Lambert album. Rose is also one part of the three-part songwriting team, the Love Junkies, with Lori McKenna and Hillary Lindsey.
Shake Russell: He is a Texas troubadour who has had songs recorded by Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, Ricky Skaggs, Clint Black and Carolyn Dawn Johnson. Russell’s “You Wouldn’t Know Me” is one of two covers on The Weight of These Wings.
Rodney Clawson: “Pink Sunglasses” marks Clawson’s debut in Lambert’s liner notes. Shelton’s “Sure Be Cool If You Did,” Jason Aldean’s “Burnin’ It Down” and Kenny Chesney’s Grammy-winning “American Kids” are among Clawson’s many hits.
Anderson East: Boyfriend East helped write the ballads “Pushin’ Time” and “Well-Rested.” He also guests on backing vocals. The two met while recording the Southern Family compilation with producer Dave Cobb. East’s major label debut Delilah was released in July, 2015 and he is also listed as a producer on 2014’s The Goldmine by rising artist Kelsey Waldon.
Josh Osborne: “Vice” marks Osborne’s first hit with Lambert and McAnally. He is also listed among the songwriters on Brandy Clark’s Big Day in a Small Town, Kenny Chesney’s Cosmic Hallelujah, Keith Urban’s Ripcord, Jennifer Nettles’ Playing With Fire and Drake White’s Spark.
Lucie Silvas: At times it’s hard to tell who played quarterback on “Smoking Jacket.” The chord structures are classic Silvas while the songs’ mysteriousness can easily be attributed to either her or her co-writers, Lambert and Hemby. Silvas’ latest album Letters to Ghosts was released in Sept. 2015. Her husband is John Osborne from Brothers Osborne, who toured with Lambert on 2016’s Keeper of the Flame tour.
Foy Vance: Vance is a blue-eyed soul artist from Northern Ireland. His latest album The Wild Swan is available now. He co-wrote “Pushin’ Time” with East and Lambert.
Danny O’Keefe: O’Keefe has been releasing music since the ‘70s. His sophomore album, 1972’s O’Keefe featured his biggest hit “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues,” which was later covered by Elvis Presley and many others. Lambert’s version of “Covered Wagon” is from O’Keefe’s 1971 self-titled debut.
Ashley Monroe: Monroe is a fellow Pistol Annie who has been a longtime Lambert collaborator since 2009’s Revolution. She co-wrote “Use My Heart” and the classic country weeper “To Learn Her.” They also co-wrote “Good at Leavin’” on Monroe’s latest album The Blade.
Waylon Payne: Payne co-wrote “To Learn Her” and “Use My Heart” with Lambert and Monroe. He is also the sole writer behind “Solitary Thinkin’” on Lee Ann Womack’s 2008 album Call Me Crazy, and he portrayed Jerry Lee Lewis in the Oscar-winning Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line. He is the son of Grammy-winner Sammi Smith and guitarist Jody Payne.
Jack Ingram: He, Lambert and Jon Randall co-wrote The Heart’s opening track, “Tin Man.” Ingram can be considered one of Lambert’s guardian angels in music. In 2007, they co-headlined an episode of CMT Cross Country. His latest album Midnight Motel was released in June.
Jon Randall: “Tin Man” marks Randall’s songwriting debut on one of Lambert’s album. His songs have been recorded by Dierks Bentley, Gary Allan, Reba McEntire and Patty Loveless. He co-wrote the Brad Paisley-Alison Krauss smash “Whiskey Lullabye” with Bill Anderson.
Brent Cobb: He co-wrote “Good ‘Ol Days” with Lambert and Adam Hood. He co-wrote “Old Sh!t” on Platinum, Little Big Town’s “Pavement Ends,” Chesney’s “Don’t It” and “Grandpa’s Farm” which has been featured on three country albums including Hood’s The Shape of Things. His latest album Shine On Rainy Day was released in October.
Adam Hood: Hood and Lambert also go way back. In 2007, Lambert was introduced to his music while passing through New Braunfels, Texas, with her mother Bev when their car broke down. While waiting for a hotel vacancy, the pair ended up at Tavern on the Gruene, where Hood was plugging his album Different Groove on Ray Wylie Hubbard’s KNBT radio show. The chance music moment led to Hood signing one of his first publishing deals in Nashville after an introduction to her publisher Liddell. Since then, Hood has released 2011’s The Shape of Things and 2014’s Welcome to the Big World. He signed a new publishing deal with Dave Cobb’s Low Country Sound and Warner/Chappell Nashville in May. “Good ‘Ol Days” marks Hood’s debut on a Lambert album.
Jessi Alexander: She co-wrote “Things That Break” with Hemby and Lambert, as well as Platinum’s “Holding On to You” with Lambert and Monroe. Alexander also co-wrote Lee Brice’s “I Drive Your Truck,” Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb” and Shelton’s “Mine Would Be You.”
Aaron Raitiere: Raitiere co-wrote three songs on The Weight of These Wings including “For the Birds,” “Well-Rested” and “For the Birds.” He also co-wrote four songs on East’s Delilah.
Nicolle Galyon: She co-wrote “Six Degrees of Separation” and five songs on Platinum including the title track and the No. 1 hit, “Automatic.”
Gwen Sebastian: She is a co-writer of the songs that bookend the entire collection. She co-wrote the opener “Runnin’ Just in Case,” “Dear Old Sun” and the final track, “I’ve Got Wheels.” Since competing on The Voice in 2012, Sebastian has been singing backing vocals for both Lambert and Shelton live on the road.
Terri Jo Box: She co-wrote “Dear Old Sun” with Lambert and Gwen Sebastian and is among the songwriters on Sebastian’s 2013 self-titled debut.
Mando Saenz: Saenz co-wrote “Bad Boy,” and he’s listed as a harmonica player on Platinum. His music has been recorded by Frankie Ballard, Aubrie Sellers, Lee Ann Womack and Stoney LaRue.
Scotty Wray: A guitarist in Lambert’s longtime road band, Wray co-wrote the final song “I’ve Got Wheels” with her and Sebastian. He also co-wrote “Easy Living” on Four the Record.