Miranda Lambert – Palomino

Sony Music Entertainment

Release Date: April 29th 2022

Reviewed by: Joshua Andre

Miranda Lambert– Palomino (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. Actin’ Up
  2. Scenes
  3. In His Arms
  4. Geraldene
  5. Tourist
  6. Music City Queen (feat. The B-52’s)
  7. Strange
  8. Wandering Spirit
  9. I’ll Be Lovin’ You
  10. That’s What Makes the Jukebox Play
  11. Country Money
  12. If I Was a Cowboy
  13. Waxahachie
  14. Pursuit of Happiness
  15. Carousel

Here’s something profound that I’ve just realised over the past few days and weeks. It is that the sacred art of the album, the journey that the artist invites us all to undertake along with them, to journey along with them, to laugh when they laugh, to cry when they cry, to be frustrated just like they were in that moment, to curse, to shout, to scream, to be joyful, to be hopeful… all of those emotions that we all experience when partaking in the listening of an album, a shared communal experience… well I reckon it’s pretty much died at the moment. People are so consumed with the now and with the moment, and how is this music making me feel in the moment (myself included) and we gloss over the singles, and we consume music like it is water. When really, we forget that artists have bared their souls and have been honest and vulnerable to a degree with their projects. They’re taking a risk and showing us all parts of themselves that they may not be comfortable with showing, but they do it anyway all of the love of making music and the fact that creating albums is somewhat of a therapy session. Artists have resonated greatly with us at times, because of their emotional high that we receive from listening to powerful songs here and there; however I think we’ve lost the art of trying to sit through an album from start to finish.

As a reviewer I listen to tons of albums. From all across many different genres. Some near-flawless. Some totally littered with flaws. And everything else in between. And what I’ve realised is that an album’s ‘flow’ hardly matters anymore in the age of digital streaming. And some artists right now seemed to have designed their albums to be listened on shuffle and their songs to be listened to in any order that the consumer and listener chooses. However, recently I’ve come across an album that has blown me away entirely, so much so that I can’t help but encourage you all to listen to the songs on this album in order because it matters. There’s a story coming from this album… and maybe from many albums previous from all different artists.

With this above quote taken from my review of Kacey Musgraves’ star-crossed, I feel as if my sentiments about albums and the way we listen to them as it pertained to Kacey’s latest album, is the same way I feel about this particular ‘review’ or ‘analysis’ if you will. Because these days albums aren’t really consumed by the masses in its entirety. A body of work, say around about 12-15 songs released by the artist, is usually listened to by the consumer in bite size pieces and in a vastly different order. That’s not a bad thing, but it is a thing that I’ve noticed far more than usual lately. Most of us listeners (myself included!), probably don’t know the blood, sweat and tears that it takes to craft an honest, authentic, and vulnerable album, and the intentionality of the order of the songs. And as such, as I was listening to Miranda Lambert’s latest album Palomino, I found myself in awe of Miranda’s craft, her song writing ability, her ability to make us feel and care about these tracks. Palomino is a concept album if ever there was one- there’s a story thread that lives on in each of the 15 songs! And though I’m not really an expert nor a connoisseur of traditional country albums (read our country reviews here to find our focuses placed more so on pop/country albums!); the fact that I wanted to listen to something different that stretched my musical boundaries, coupled with the fact that Miranda was recently an artist that I wanted to dive deep into, but never really had the chance until now… well it meant that I went into Palomino with no expectations. I didn’t know anything about Miranda… and I realised that she is probably one of the most powerful, inspiring, thought-provoking, compelling and honest artists at the moment- in any genre!

It’s a physical journey. We started with the ‘Tourist.’ Then we wrote ‘Scenes’ next. Between those two songs, the person on the journey was meeting all these people, taking a road trip out west, so we started chasing that. We actually looked at maps on our phone. I was like, ‘We haven’t been to Nashville yet.’ So we wrote ‘Music City Queen.’ Luke [Dick] was like, ‘We need to do some northeast stuff,’ so we wrote ‘Pursuit of Happiness.’ I was watching Heartworn Highways. In that movie, Townes’ dog is named Geraldene. I was with Jack [Ingram] and Jon Randall on a picnic blanket in Marfa and I said, ‘What about Geraldene? That’s the song title. Who’s she? Let’s write something about her.

[for “Carousel”], She’s in love with Harlan Giovanni, who’s a trapeze artist. What’s not romantic about flying through the air? And how do you not think about that when you take your stroller to the fair and hear these noises and smell the cotton candy. It was just so emotional writing about this beautiful woman who lived in this crazy life with these sequins and then just put it in a cedar chest forever. And now she’s a soccer mom and loving that, too. That’s one of those songs that I feel we were really lucky to pull. It came down out of the sky and we were lucky enough to catch it. I don’t even know if I’ll ever be able to sing it live for a long time just because it just wrecks me for this character, the narrator, the whole story, because it is very close to home.

Flying blind into this project of 15 songs, I didn’t read any of the behind-the-scenes stories of the songs while I was listening to them. This meant that I was free to have my own interpretation of these multi-layered songs, however if you all have a different viewpoint of Palomino, that’s more than ok. Album opener “Actin’ Up” is an energetic, punchy rock/alternative/country melody, where Miranda dives in and speaks about an incessant and innate need to ‘act up’ and to take risks in your life for the sake of it. It’s a fun track that doesn’t take itself seriously, and reminds us that we all shouldn’t be so uptight sometimes; and this melody is a homage and a ode to bad behaviour… in the best possible way! Following on from the high octane first track, is probably the reason for the persona in the first song wanting to ‘act up’. It’s a concept album, meaning the next track informs us about the previous track, and all of the songs tell a story in its entirety. With the second track in particular, “Scenes”, we see the persona running away from their ex and their problems- always on the go and always wanting to move on ‘to the next scene’. Miranda beautifully describes a nomad and a gypsy’s life; and reminds us that sometimes it is the right time to run away from our deepest and darkest secrets. But at other times, it’s best to tackles our demons head on- and this song subtly asks the question of when is running away productive, and when is it not.

The rest of Palomino is a joy to listen to. More than that; it is a breath of fresh air and is one of my favourite albums of the year. “In His Arms”, a simply yet effective acoustic guitar ballad and a prayer of sorts. The melody features the persona tired from running (from the previous track!) and instead just wishing she was in her ex’s arms, and asking the questions of ‘…is he playing in some house band in Dallas? Is he breaking horses in San Antone? Is he all alone in the neon light? I wish I was in his arms tonight, is he praying for rain out in West Texas? Is he lost in the Marfa lights? Is he out there looking for me wishing I was in his arms tonight?…’; while the same persona voices their thoughts about a friend (or frenemy) in “Geraldene”. A song where Miranda as the persona sings about her uncomfortable and sometimes antagonistic relationship with her sometimes-friend; Miranda also begs to ask the question to us about whether we all hold grudges to our friends. Simply because grudges aren’t worth it, and this song subtly encourages us to forgive those who hurt us. The powerful, compelling ballad “Tourist”, probably the most meaningful song on the album, speaks about humanity’s innate desire to belong to a community (any community!) and our need for people. Miranda bares her soul here, revealing that she feels like she doesn’t belong in any one place. As she speaks from the perspective of a travelling musician; I feel like this song is applicable to all of us who know that Heaven is our home, and that Earth is only temporary. With Miranda crying out that ‘…I’m just a tourist, I don’t know where I belong, it might sound foolish, yeah, but nowhere feels like home, so I roam from town to town, taking snapshots of the world, and I laugh away the lonely, and give a local bar a whirl, and I wanna see it all so I keep movin’, I’m just a tourist…’; this introspective melody reminds us that we all can feel out of place sometimes- and that’s just a part of life this side of heaven. But knowing that this life isn’t the end is comforting and knowing that Jesus has a place for each of us in Heaven; should make us smile!

“Music City Queen”, with the B-52’s, is a fun, joyous and celebratory occasion, with Miranda and the B-52’s singing about everyone throwing a party and having fun because of the good things that are happening in your life. it’s a song that breaks the narrative of the wandering nomad persona she has developed for us within the past few tracks, and it’s a nice change of pace. Although the dancing and the celebrating could be what our persona is doing while trying to get over her ex. “Strange”, the first single from Palomino speaks about the shifting landscape and the changes over the years that our protagonist is noticing as she wanders through the town and on her self-development and self-enrichment quest. As Miranda through our protagonist reminds us that everywhere she goes, she feels strange because there’s ‘…coyotes on my left and wolves on my right, sun keeps shinin’ in the middle of the night, urban feels suburban, Main Street ain’t main, yeah, and times like these make me feel strange…’, we are reminded about how things change through the years through no fault of our own- making us feel like strangers in our own time, and longing for the times of yesteryear, which we believe are the best. It’s like how people always want to relive their childhood and long to go back to the time when they are teenagers or in university. Not the school part, but the atmosphere of everything happening at the time. “Strange” reminds us that sometimes it’s ok to feel disconnected from your own time, and sometimes it’s ok to reminisce about the past. It’s when that keeps you from living well in the present and being the best version of yourself as you can be… well, then thinking about the past can be a problem.

Mick Jagger’s “Wandering Spirit” is next, and Miranda records a sublime cover of the rock melody; with the subject matter of the song carrying on from “Strange”. With Miranda earnestly and vibrantly relaying that she feels like a wandering spirit and a soul with no home (similar themes to “Strange”, “Tourist” and “Scenes”); we are encouraged to seek out truth and to keep asking questions about our doubts to do with life, faith, and everything else in between. However the song also subtly encourages us to not stay in the midst of wandering- and to finally land on something, no matter where it is. “I’ll Be Lovin’ You”, musically quite different from anything Miranda’s recorded on this album, is a hymn-like gospel infused melody, with Miranda through the protagonist sings that she will still love her ex no matter where she is on the road and in her life, that ‘…I’ll be lovin’ you, no matter where I roam, I’ll be lovin’ you, you’re at the end of every road, when the stars are out at night, when the sky is crystal blue, I’ll do the only thing I know to do, I’ll be lovin’ you…’. It’s a simple, sweet, yet effective melody about standing by your friends and family, while “That’s What Makes the Jukebox Play” is a heart-warming, encouraging melody relaying to us all that there’s a song out there for everyone in every situation. There’s a song that makes your feel sad, aa song that makes you feel happy, as well as every other kind of emotion like love, hate, pain, heartbreak, joy, happiness, desire, longing, and every other emotion in between. With Miranda relaying the power of the song in this track; “That’s What Makes The Jukebox Play”, like “There’s a Song For Everything” from Maren Morris, is a melody that is extremely important for all of us to hear. “Country Money”, a laid-back country/acoustic melody about people working real hard in the country, making money that most of us all take for granted (people like farmers and small businesses and cherry pickers and bakers and butchers), speaks about the reality that some people aren’t appreciated enough (and they should be!); while album standout “If I Was A Cowboy” features Miranda at her brilliant vocal best, as she compelling sings about the protagonist in this album wishing she could have the same opportunities as her ex, because she knows she would be better at his job than him. It’s a fun, sassy, in-your-face song about the inequalities between men and women today, with Miranda highlighting that sometimes a shakeup in society is needed for all of us to know that men and women should be treated equally, with love and respect.

“Waxahachie”, a song about a specific place, is the county seat of Ellis County, Texas, United States, and on this track, Miranda sings about her love for a place that is so out there, of something that is so out of the norm. This melody reminds us that we can love things in this world that don’t resonate with other people… and in effect this song is saying that it’s ok to be different. The penultimate offering is “Pursuit Of Happiness”, and might be one of the deepest racks of 2022. As Miranda powerfully and refreshingly sings about her pursuit of happiness, of satisfaction and of fulfillment in this life; we are reminded that sometimes we can be running our whole lives to chase something that we mightn’t even attain- when sometimes happiness is just spending time with our friends, family and with God. Palomino then ends with “Carousel”, probably the most ‘story’ of all of the 15 tracks. With this song comparing the life of a musician to the life of someone in the circus, Miranda sings about all of the fame, the glitz and the glamour, and then juxtaposes it with the life of a stay-at-home mum. And maybe that’s the whole point of this album. To find out that after all of the running and the searching for meaning and purpose and the wanting to find something special at the end of the yellow brick road; that all you were really searching for was home, a place to belong- and it was right with your family and friends. “Carousel” and by some extent Palomino, is Miranda’s own journey of finding meaning and purpose in somewhere else during the pandemic- in the fame of music and in the lights of another city… and instead finding it within and with family. Isn’t that the case with everyone and everything? We believe that the grass is greener on the other side. But really… it’s not. Everyone may think that they covet everyone else’s life- and this song speaks about the fact that it’s ok to realise that the life you wanted before isn’t the life you want now, or even the life you need.

I definitely am still one of those hopeless romantics about making records. I know we’re in a time where it’s not as it was before, and with all the ways people listen to music these days, it’s not necessarily about an album or the order you put it in. But I still love that part. This is the first record I’ve written I feel like that did have sort of an intention — I won’t say “concept.” It’s got definitely this travel theme to it, and this whole road-trippy vibe. I’ve had nuggets of that throughout my career, even on “Weight of These Wings” with “Highway Vagabond,” and in “All Kinds of Kinds,” with the characters. I feel like this record just took all that sentiment up a notch. With these characters we got to make up, and the places we got to go, it was a very different writing style. I’ve never met so many people in a record before.

Well, there was only one place to shoot this album cover. I was like, we have shoot this in the California desert, period. This record just sounds like that. To me it has a little bit of that California country, early ‘70s vibe to it, which we all love — the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers are inspiration to all of us. I think we brought some of that in, and then we brought some ZZ Top, and some Rosanne Cash or Linda Ronstadt vibes.

Part country, part Americana, and part folk; Palomino is nothing short of brilliance and a work of art. Miranda Lambert takes us all on a journey that we all need to be on- if only to realise and appreciate this life we have now. Yes, this life is messy, and complicated and full of ups and downs. But through the messiness and through the heartache, we can appreciate the wins and we can see God’s fingerprints in motion. We all mightn’t be avid fans of Miranda. But we all must listen to this album, because it is a Godsend. It’s THE album of the year thus far (tied with Ben Rector’s The Joy Of Music… and presumably also tied with Hailey Whitters’ Raised which Jon reviewed!), and I will listen to this again and again and again… in order of the track list. Miranda Lambert reminds us that home is with our family and not some far away time and place when we gain enough material possessions. And for that fact alone… can I say well done, Miranda! I absolutely cannot wait to hear what you have next in the pipeline!

You know, I’ve always thought of entertainer as a bigger thing than ticket sales. I mean, I’ve been in this industry for almost two decades. and everybody that gets in the category deserves to win it. So nobody’s ever mad, you know what I mean? We’re all working our asses off. But it is few and far between for women to win. So I kind of, in a way, had given up on it. It was always nice to be nominated. I wasn’t nominated that many times, but any time I was in that category, I was thankful. And I was always rooting for Carrie, if I wasn’t in it, every time she was nominated for both ACMs and CMAs, because it’s important.

To me, entertainer of the year is the person that’s represented country music in the best way in a year. … And because I had just not counted on it for so long… I had so many other great things, so I guess I just didn’t want to seem greedy or put too much pressure on that. I won some amazing awards at the ACMs and was thankful for what I already had. And the fact that I’m still in the game — like I said, I haven’t missed one ACMs in 17 consecutive years. That’s a good run. And so, to me, it means how you’ve represented country and all the work that you’ve put into yourself as a brand and into your fans. And I put out “The Marfa Tapes,” and I put out a Pistol Annies Christmas record, and I made “Palomino,” which is coming out now, and I had really done some great things with Mutt Nation (her dog adoption charity)… I just feel like it did fall when it was supposed to, even though maybe earlier in my career I thought, “Man, this is my year,” and then it wasn’t.

I’m on my bus right now, headed to my first tour date and I’m doing a tour with Little Big Town, one of my favorite bands. And we’ve all been around for a really long time, and the fact that we can still go out and do this is so important. And I’ve got a residency in Vegas. I have a record coming. My brand is doing really well at Boot Barn. So I just feel like more than ever, I want to wear that title with pride and really work my ass off this year, to know that I’ve earned it. Because entertainer is something you really have to earn. The fact that my peers recognized that really means the world to me. I saw somewhere that Carrie (Underwood) said “long overdue,” and that really touched me. That’s really sweet for her to comment something like that, because we know what we put into it. We do all the same stuff, doing this career for so long. 

4 songs to listen to: Tourist, Strange, If I Was A Cowboy, Carousel

Score: 5/5

RIYL: Kacey Musgraves, Luke Bryan, Kelsea Ballerini, Little Big Town, Lady A, Eric Church, Carly Pearce

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