Miranda Lambert: 'Platinum'
Miranda Lambert's fifth studio album 'Platinum' presents an emotionally centered 30-year-old's perspective on the world. Few songs cut deep lyrically, but the singer hardly plays it safe.
Find risk-taking in songs like 'Little Red Wagon,' 'Two Rings Shy' and her sexy love song 'Holding on to You.' It's all in the production and her vocal stylings. The first is a great punk rocker while the latter sizzles like something off her husband's most recent album. Both are enjoyable new sides to this singer.
On 'Platinum,' Lambert turns inward for many of the signature tracks. 'Priscilla,' 'Bathroom Sink' and 'Old Sh*t' will strike a chord with a select group, but none of the three wraps an arm around a wide swatch of country music fans.
'Babies Makin' Babies,' 'Smokin' and Drinkin' with Little Big Town and 'Another Sunday in the South' are three that are more accessible. Ashley Monroe helped Lambert write 'Sunday,' as well as 'Holding on to You,' the best song on 'Platinum.'
"I got drunk with the Highwaymen / Felt the burn of the desert wind … Ain't no moment like when I'm holding on to you," she sings. Her voice is fragile, as if she's not quite as confident performing this song as she is 'Somethin' Bad' or the fiery 'Two Rings Shy.' The cracks are endearing and sexy. Her vulnerability is always something to cherish.
With 16 songs, 'Platinum' is a beast of a project to appreciate in a day, week or even a month. There isn't a gut-punch moment like 'Over You' or 'The House That Built Me.' Instead fans will find a theme weaving throughout.
'Girls' begins the project, setting a tone for several strong female-centric songs to follow. In a way they do, and this album could be labeled a female empowerment record. But more than anything it's just the evolution of a one of country's all-time great female vocalists, a woman not afraid to take chances but no longer compelled to take them when unnecessary.
Key Tracks: 'Priscilla,' 'Holding on to You,' 'Little Red Wagon'
'Priscilla': This song refers to Priscilla Presley, Elvis' wife. It's a fascinating comparison between Blake Shelton and the King. One almost thinks Lambert is the Elvis of the relationship, but that's not how she sees it.
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Willie Nelson: Band of Brothers
What does an 81-year old country music legend do to keep life interesting for himself? Go back to something he's good at: writing songs. This is, astonishingly, the first Willie Nelson album to be dominated by self-penned material since the one-two punch of "Spirit" and "Teatro," released more than 15 years ago. Less astonishingly, it's his best work by far since then, almost completely free of the questionable song choices and duet overloads that marred his albums in the intervening years. (Sure enough, the sole duet here, with Jamey Johnson on a cover of Billy Joe Shaver's "The Git Go," is also the weakest track, despite its warm, wizened gospel-blues vibe.)
Right from the first few jaunty seconds of the opener, "Bring It On" — the wailing harmonica, the swooping pedal steel and the wry initial couplet, "They say there is no gain without pain/Well, I must be gaining a lot" — "Band of Brothers" bears all the marks of an old-fashioned country gem. The nine new originals (out of 14 total tracks) are sharp and often hilarious. "Wives and Girlfriends" is practically a three-minute stand-up routine, while "I Thought I Left You" compares an ex-lover to measles and whooping cough against the backdrop of a stately ballad.
Nelson's casually conversational singing, with its sudden drops into the bass register and unmistakable natural tremolo, is as good as it has ever been, and the same goes for his ragged but right mariachi-jazz guitar solos. In his ninth decade, this Texas troubadour still is making music that can match anything in his long, distinguished catalog.
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Lucy Hale: 'Road Between': Track-By-Track Review
"Pretty Little Liars" star Lucy Hale is more than just another actor trying to crossover into the music world. She's been singing most of her life, and before she started spending most of her days on sets, she placed in the top 5 of a one-and-done "American Idol" spinoff show called "American Juniors" at the age of 14.
Her 11-song debut album "Road Between" is filled with powerful, catchy choruses and moments that display Hale's voice in many different ways. "A lot of people don't know Lucy the person," she recently told Billboard. "They just know me from characters I played. I think after listening to the album, they'll have a clearer idea of the kind of girl I am. It's really real." "Road Between" covers a lot of familiar country-ground, where relationships are at the core of most songs -- but above all, it sounds honest and wholesome. Here's a track-by-track breakdown of Lucy Hale's music debut.
1. "You Sound Good to Me"
Lucy Hale opens her debut album with an upbeat, positive guitar number that immediately shows off her the best part of "Road Between": her voice. We learn that the object of her affection sounds "like a melody" as Hale introduces her audience to the simple pop-country sound she favors.
2. "From the Backseat": This tune is one of the more nostalgic numbers of "Road Between," and is a great example of Hale's storytelling prowess. At first, the song sounds a bit R-rated, as she confesses she's "learning to love from the backseat," but if anything, it's a trip down simpler times in the country.
3. "Nervous Girls"
Hale told Billboard this is one of her favorite songs, saying it's about knowing "it's okay not to be okay." It's a redemptive ballad that shows Hale hasn't become out of touch surrounded by so much Hollywood glamor she's been engulfed in during her day job on "Pretty Little Liars."
4. "Red Dress" (Featuring Joe Nichols):
"Road Between" is certainly a showcase for Hale's singing, but "Red Dress," a classic-sounding country duet, makes room to showcase Joe Nichols. His deep voice pairs well with hers, and it's one of the more purely romantic moments on the album.
5. "Goodbye Gone":
"Goodbye Gone" is Hale's attempt at a country-rock, quasi-revenge anthem in the vein of Carrie Underwood or Miranda Lambert, where she's getting even via stealing her ex's Trans Am. In this case, getting over cheaters might not be Hale's strong suit.
6. "Kiss Me"
Like a lot of pop-country artists, Hale likes to focus on relationship perils, and "Kiss Me" features on of her best lines, as she confesses "Don't you know I want you with me and it ain't just cause I'm tipsy."
7. "Road Between":
The title track is a tender power ballad about breaking down, being in the "middle of the madness" and finding yourself. Like "Nervous Girls," it's a guitar-driven song about empowerment.
8. "Lie a Little Better":
At times Hale sounds a bit like Shania Twain, and this song channels the country icon in fine form. It's a pounding, giddy guitar number that pits the words and music as opposites -- despite the fun, spunky arrangement, it's really about playing coy around someone you want, and failing at it.
9. "That's What I Call Crazy":
Hale's songs don't feature many tales of debauchery, but this tune delves a bit into the drinking and cursing -- in a playful, harmless way, of course. The song was co-written by Kacey Musgraves and sounds ready-made for country radio.
10. "Love Tonight":
As the album winds down, it's clear that Hale loves singing about love -- but on "Love Tonight," she's exploring that time-honored tradition of ill-advised hook-ups. It's an amusing, funky song about a quick fling, fleeting moments and bad decisions.
11. "Just Another Song":
"Road Between" ends with a number Hale co-wrote, and it's one of the album's best. "Just Another Song" starts off as a simple-sounding folk tune about how life is great when the dishes are done, but opens up into one of the more personal moments of the record, with gorgeous orchestration in the background as Hale wrestles through getting over someone. It's proof she's more than just a "Pretty Little Liar," and potentially our next big country obsession.
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