Miranda Lambert, 'Four the Record' (RCA Nashville)

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Four the Record
Critical Mass
Release Date: November 1, 2011
Label: RCA Nashville

by Theon Weber

Miranda Lambert cowrote every song on Hell on Heels, the August debut of her country-gal trio Pistol Annies, so it's hard to fault her fourth solo record for featuring only a handful of self-penned tunes. Besides, her writers are often worthy. When, on one song, Mom calls to complain that the singer is handling a breakup badly, the truth lies in a punning cliché: "This ain't my mama's broken heart." Initially, we think the phrase means that breakups were different in Mom's day, but it really just means that the pain isn't hers, it's the daughter's alone. Elsewhere, the arrangements are bright and spacious, from the layered, percolating guitar on "Safe" and "Oklahoma Sky" to the fuzzy, love-stoned lope of "Fine Tune."

But most of the words on Four the Record are flat, even when they're Lambert's. "Baggage Claim" describes the leather on a suitcase but never fleshes out the hang-ups it's supposed to represent; "Fastest Girl in Town" gets off some funny bad-seed lines but doesn't go as deep as the Pistol Annies' "Housewife's Prayer," which paints the post-economic-meltdown world as one best negotiated by a woman with more brains (and looks) than scruples. The real strength here is the feline sharpness of Lambert's voice, letting petulance evaporate into a sigh on the simplest of lines: "You went away / How dare you / I miss you."

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