Miranda Lambert's new album Wildcard (released on Nov. 1) opens with scenes from her domestic life and ends with her hanging out at her second home -- a honky-tonk. It's a perfect beginning and end to the singer-songwriter's stellar seventh solo studio album, one that finds her balancing life as a "wild child and a homing pigeon" as she sings on "Settling Down." The 14-track album, her first with producer Jay Joyce, marks a period of her life as a newlywed (she announced her marriage to NYPD officer Brendan McLoughlin in February) and a part-time New Yorker. (When she's not on the road, she splits her time between NYC and Tennessee.) But whether it's on her front porch in Tennessee or a tiny New York City fire escape, Lambert is still doing what she does best: writing incredible songs.
"I can keep it clean on Sundays and keep the lights and water on/ But I can't keep my white trash off the lawn"
(Written by Miranda Lambert, Luke Dick, Natalie Hemby, Laura Veltz)
"I'm finally on the up and up, a little 401K/ Traded in my trailer park for a neighborhood with a gate," Lambert sings in this ode to domestic bliss that includes a "Cadillac on a cinder block" and "dog hair on the Restoration Hardware." She may have traded in the barbed wire for a more HOA-friendly white picket fence, but, in true country fashion, Lambert's not about to get above her raisin'.
"I believe in music/ Personal communion can lead you right to the light"
(Written by Lambert, Brent Cobb, Mike Harris, Joshua Taylor)
The East Texas native has her country funk moment on "Holy Water" and God bless her for it. Featuring gospel quartet the McCrary Sisters, the Brent Cobb co-write is a swampy, southern skewering of religious and political corruption ("they're makin' deals with the devil in the good Lord's name," she sings) that would sound right at home on The Righteous Gemstones soundtrack. But while Lambert is more comfortable fishing on a river bank than preaching from a pulpit, she leaves us with a hopeful message: "I believe in music," she sings. "Personal communion can lead you right to the light."
"Way Too Pretty For Prison"
"They don't have rhinestone ball and chains/ Lunch trays don't come with Chardonnay"
(Written by Lambert, Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna and Liz Rose)
You really can't overstate the cultural impact of Thelma and Louise. Before Mary Anne and Wanda fed Earl those black-eyed peas and starting slinging "Tennessee ham and strawberry jam" on the roadside, Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon were pointing that 1966 Thunderbird toward Mexico and gunning it for the border. So it's particularly thrilling when this Lambert/ Maren Morris duet name drops the iconic duo ("We've been watchin' too much TV/ You ain't Thelma, I ain't Louise/ But if we asked 'em, they'd both agree we should put him through it."). But "Way Too Pretty for Prison," which Lambert co-wrote with country hitmakers The Love Junkies (Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna and Liz Rose), stops short of homicide. Instead, it's a delightfully slap-happy, booze-fueled conversation between two BFFs on a mission to heal a heartbreak. "You get what you settle for," Thelma & Louise protagonist Louise Sawyer tells Thelma Dickinson in the 1991 film. And these two friends won't let the other settle for anything less than what they deserve.
"I ain't no Napa Valley/ New York City seems okay/ I'm a little bit more Tennessee and there's whiskey in my veins"
(Written by Lambert, Ashley Monroe, K.S. Rhoads)
Wildcard may go down as Lambert's most rocking album yet, but in truth, it's a return to her scorching "Kerosene" days. Or as Lambert put it during a September industry event: "I'm just back, bitches." "Locomotive," which Lambert penned with Pistol Annies bandmate Ashley Monroe, finds the singer deliriously happy and as edgy as ever.
"If the house just keeps on winning, I got a wildcard up my sleeve"
(Written by Lambert, Luke Dick and Natalie Hemby)
If there's one song on Wildcard that captures Lambert's "music is medicine" mantra, it's "Bluebird," a reflection on life lessons and the healing power of songwriting. "I'll keep a light on in my soul/ I'll keep a bluebird in my heart," she sings.
"I could love a picket fence if it wrapped around the world"
(Written by Lambert, Luke Dick and Natalie Hemby)
On "Runnin' Just in Case," the album-opener on Lambert's 2016 record The Weight of These Wings, she sings "Happiness ain't prison but there's freedom in a broken heart." "Settling Down" finds Lambert with a mended heart, but one that's still "going both directions" -- torn between gardens and white picket fences and feeling fenced in. "Is happiness on the highway," she questions. "Or is it parked in the driveway?"
"I've had a pretty good time in the checkout line with all the free press I've been gettin'/ It's pretty bitchin'"
(Written by Lambert, Luke Dick, Natalie Hemby, Jon Randall)
Lambert takes a well-earned victory lap on "Pretty Bitchin'," a celebration of her life: ups, downs and tabloid fodder included. We may not all have a "pretty Airstream rollin' down the road," but most of us have had a messy love life at one point or another. The anthemic "Pretty Bitchin'" is a reminder to move through life with your head (and Dixie cup filled with Tito's) held high.
"The boys around here drink domestic beer/ They're all hat and no cattle"
(Written by Lambert, Jon Randall, Jack Ingram)
"I've got a track record/ My past is checkered as the floor at the diner on Main Street"
(Written by Lambert, Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna, Liz Rose)
"I can't help it: I'm in love with love," Lambert sings on this New Wave-tinged tune that pays homage to her often public love life. If this is Lambert's "Seven Year Ache," it's also her moment of reckoning with her role in breaking her own heart. "Girls like me don't mean it, but we don't know better," she sings.
"On a bar stool for the cheap thrills/ Watching drunks all drown with no life guard"
(Written by Lambert and Liz Rose)
Ever the student of country music, Lambert will always be drawn to the corner of a dark bar, especially one with a "jukebox junkie" who plays "nothin' but country." Even when she's not nursing a heartache, she's still drawn to a barstool and a little "Misery and Gin." "I know a thing or two about broke hearts," she sings. "Neon truth can hit real hard in a dark bar."
"I'll never not feel at home in a honky tonk, that's just the way it is," Lambert said in a press release. "A song like 'Dark Bars' is something I love, and I'm never going to get over that. It's not shameful to be drawn to places where those stories are, you know? And all of that is me."