A version of this review appears in Friday’s Weekend Life section of The Oklahoman.
Miranda Lambert “Platinum” (RCA Nashville)
She may be a Texas native, but Miranda Lambert explores her more recently planted Oklahoma roots on “Platinum.”
Of course, her classic country, country-rock, ‘90s country, blues-country and contemporary country roots also are showing on her fifth studio album, and the results get a bit flyaway by the end of the almost hour-long to-do.
Over the past five years, the superstar singer-songwriter has come to favor longer track lists – 2009’s strong “Revolution” boasted 15 cuts, while 2011’s stellar “Four the Record” numbered 14 – and she reaches the tipping point with “Platinum’s” 16-song lineup.
The knowing opening track “Girls” sort of sets up the album’s eclectic approach, with lyrics like “Imagine your best friend and your worst enemy” paying homage to the complex, even conflicting nature of the feminine spirit. Without a clear, overarching concept, theme or sound, though, “Platinum’s” just too much to take in, nearly allowing the brassy gaffes to outshine the sassy highlights.
The Tishomingo resident clearly has taken a shine to her adopted home state, and Oklahoma music fans will enjoy hearing Lambert’s polished cover of Audra Mae’s hard-charging “Little Red Wagon,” even if it just doesn’t rev like the Sooner-born and bred songstress’ more freewheeling rendition.
Lambert teams up with Oklahoma native Vince Gill and the Western swing band The Time Jumpers for Tom T. Hall’s feisty, fiddle-spiked kiss-off “All That’s Left.” She also pays homage to classic country – though on her own terms, including much salty language – on the comically frank “Gravity’s a B**ch” and the nostalgically downhome “Old Sh!t.”
The Grammy winner, who turned 30 in November, clearly has nostalgia on the brain; her chart-topping first single “Automatic” doesn’t sound old-school, but it ponders if life was better before instant communication and gratification. She name-drops early 1990s vocal groups like Shenandoah and Okie-dominated Restless Heart while borrowing their countrified soft rock sound for “Another Sunday in the South.”
Lambert shares the blame with current country quartet Little Big Town for the album’s biggest misstep, “Smokin’ and Drinkin,’” a wistful toast to the old days garishly gussied up with electro-pop flourishes. The self-proclaimed Beyonce super-fan has better luck with the pseudo-rapped title track, the witty lyrics about therapeutic hairstyling ensuring that sonic gamble pays off.
Talk about taking risks: Lambert puts her Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association female vocalist of the year titles on the line by teaming with big-voiced Checotah native Carrie Underwood for the country-rocker “Somethin’ Bad.” The fist-pumper has been unfairly maligned as their answer to the bro-country hits dominating the charts, but at least their duet (co-written by Oklahoma-bred songsmith Brett James) relates an actual story rather than a series of lame field-party pick-up lines.
Still, Lambert is at her best when she is at her most real and relatable, whether she’s commiserating with Priscilla Presley about the woes of celebrity marriage on the jaunty “Priscilla,” gliding through a bluesy slow dance with her man (she’s married to fellow Oklahoma country superstar Blake Shelton, for those who dwell under rocks) on “Holding on to You” or wrestling with regrets and rejection on the solo-penned confessional “Bathroom Sink,” the album’s unlikely highlight.