Following a very public divorce from fellow country singer Blake Shelton last year, contemporary country queen Miranda Lambert is back. The Weight Of These Wings, Lambert’s seventh studio album, is a whopping 24-track, double disc LP. It’s also undoubtedly her most vulnerable album yet. If you were expecting a Crazy Ex-Girlfriend/Four The Record style break-up album, you’ll be surprised – but not disappointed. Gone are the days of “If he wants a fight, well, now he’s got one / And he ain’t seen me crazy yet”. Weight Of These Wings is a breakup album, but it’s a positive one. Instead of the anger and bitterness seen throughout her previous releases, Lambert has decided to take a seemingly more elegant approach, focusing on moving on and fixing herself up “gracefully”. There’s no Gunpowder and Lead involved in this break-up.
It isn’t just the lyrics that are more relaxed this time around. Sonically the album is more sombre, with a vintage country feel. She plays heavily with fuzzed out guitar and distorted vocals across the majority of the tracks – it’s easy to picture any of them playing out of a jukebox in Nashville in the 50s. This almost static-effect sound is really refreshing: it somehow makes the whole album feel more raw and natural, as if it were recorded without fancy studios and computer editing. It helps with the mellow atmosphere of the tracks, too. This new sound means that you don’t have to listen to the lyrics themselves to realise just how much Lambert is emotionally revealing herself. Ugly Lights highlights these qualities perfectly: the fuzzy vocals make it sound particularly raw and grungy. She doesn’t just sing about being the last one in a bar, “I’ll be sitting here alone / When the ugly lights come on”, she gives the impression that this song has been recorded late at night in a bar as well. It’s a really effective method of making the whole album seem more authentic.
As effective as this new sound is, Lambert does switch it up a little throughout the album – definitely a good idea, considering there are 24 tracks. We Should Be Friends is more of a nod to her previous style, with classic country electric guitar riffs and the reintroduction of her powerfully commanding vocals. It has that hoe-down drum beat throughout in the background, and particular emphasis on her Southern twang. She sings stereotypically country lyrics, too: “If you’re looking for love but willing to fight / Over men and momma’s and Miller Lite”. It’s a great county song which is needed to maintain interest across the huge number of tracks, but is definitely overshadowed by the emotion of the rest of the album. Similarly, closing track I’ve Got Wheels is more reminiscent of the old Miranda Lambert. It’s slower than before, just like the rest of Weight Of These Wings, but there’s an obvious hopefulness that isn’t seen elsewhere – the uplifting closer that every break-up album needs.
A special mention has to go to the first track on the second disc, Tin Man. The mellow acoustic guitar sets the sombre mood before Lambert’s vocals come in. There isn’t any distortion or fuzz used here, giving all of the attention to her crisp voice. You can hear the pain as she sings, referencing the heartless Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz and singing about how lucky he is: “Better thank your lucky stars / If you ever felt one breakin’ / You’d never want a heart.” After her divorce Lambert quit giving interviews. Fans need not look further than this track to feel how much torment her breakup put her through. Weight Of These Wings is a huge testament to her; she successfully navigates the lowest depths of sadness whilst also managing to find strength in herself.
This isn’t just an album for country fans. Weight Of These Wings is for anyone who has ever been through a breakup, and for anyone who is a fan of raw, honest music. There aren’t many artists who could release 24 great songs, let alone songs so sonically different from previous releases. Lambert took a risk with this album, but it paid off.