It’s been 10 years since Texas-born singer-songwriter Miranda Lambert released her debut full-length album “Kerosene” and burst on to the modern country music scene with a rich Lone Star drawl and sassy attitude.
Back in 2005, Lambert was better known as the pigtailed vocalist and guitarist who auditioned and placed well on TV reality show “Nashville Star,” a music competition based on the “American Idol” format.
These days, having successfully navigated the obstacles and hazards of the competitive, fickle and often cut-throat major label country world and stardom, Lambert has graduated from innocent up-and-comer to seasoned veteran with her wits and artistic style intact.
Armed with a chart-topping studio album titled “Platinum” and on the heels of several Country Music Association Awards and Grammy Award nominations, Lambert is ready to steer her Certified Platinum Tour toward the Lowcountry.
In December, Lambert was awarded CMT Artist of the Year during a live broadcast from Nashville, Tenn. She also became the most decorated female artist in the history of the Country Music Association Awards with 11 CMA trophies in all.
The Grammy Awards recently named four nominations for Lambert, including Best Country Album.
It seems that the Certified Platinum Tour has all the momentum and energy it needs to please any country music fan as it bounces across the Southeast.
Over the past decade, Lambert’s radio-friendly studio recordings, saucy lyrics, fiery performances and very publicized marriage to country singer Blake Shelton (a co-host of the musical competition TV show “The Voice”) helped earn her a bit of a “bad girl” reputation. But listening to the varied country, pop, blues and rock tunes on “Platinum,” a slickly produced 16-track collection at nearly double-album length, it’s clear that Lambert, now 30, has emerged as a worldly wise, joyfully hardened songsmith with a cleverly “womanist” approach to celebrity status — a tough and confident female artist with her musical versatility, lyrical humor and performance style in full force.
Lambert’s music journey started as a young teen growing up in Lindale, Texas, a rural town about an hour east of Dallas. Lambert’s father, veteran country guitarist Rick Lambert, played plenty of country music in the house when Lambert was a youngster, and he encouraged her to learn to sing, play guitar and compose songs.
Eager to learn and gain experience, Lambert began playing local talent contests when she was 16, earning early success at the Johnnie High’s Country Music Revue in Arlington, Texas. She formed her first group, the Texas Pride Band, at age 17. In 2001, she documented her budding songwriting skills on a family-financed, independently released self-titled album.
By 2003, Lambert was confident enough to audition for “Nashville Star.” She won a spot on the show and temporarily moved to Music City to appear on the show throughout the season. She eventually finished third, landing a recording contract with Sony.
Sony released her first major label single, “Me and Charlie Talking,” in 2004. Lambert followed through in early 2005 with the 11-song album “Kerosene,” a lively, tuneful, slickly packaged collection with a hint of redneck girly-ness (she wrote or co-wrote nearly every track). Fans and critics responded positively, and “Kerosene” eventually went platinum.
Lambert sharpened her songwriting tone and expanded her vocal stylings and range a bit on 2007’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” touching on themes of infidelity, rotten relationships, revenge and self-confidence.
She branched out even further on the rowdy and rebellious 2009 album “Revolution,” singing about personal relationship experiences, childhood adventures and a few nods to her romance with fellow country star Shelton. A handful of the 15 songs on “Revolution” rocked harder than some expected, which helped Lambert cross over well into new audience territory.
By 2011, Lambert was a bona fide country super star, well established as one of the more independent-minded leading female artists of the genre. Taking a fun detour from solo work, she indulged in a musical side project called Pistol Annies with singer-songwriters Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley. The Pistol Annies’ debut album hit the street two months before Lambert’s next solo disc, “Four the Record.”
Lambert wrote or co-wrote nearly half of “Four the Record,” which featured a more easy-going, relaxed vibe compared to “Revolution.” Over the next year and a half, she toured extensively and climbed the charts with the sugary ballad “Over You,” the soulful anthem “Baggage Claim,” and the country-rockers “Fastest Girl in Town” and “Mama’s Broken Heart.” The collection went on to become one of her best-selling releases.
There’s a wide and wild variety of musical styles, personal tales and country girl audacity on Lambert’s latest release, “Platinum.” Some tracks seem nostalgic and refined, harking back to the instrumentation and production style of vintage country and bluegrass; the slickest tunes lean way more into the modern radio-pop style. The guts of the set nestle into a blend of bluesy, guitar-driven rock ’n’ roll and big-beat country. Lyrically, there’s plenty of spirited femininity and resoluteness.
On the waltzy, melodic opening track “Girls,” Lambert says, “If you think you’re the only one she’ll want in this world/ Then you don’t know nothin’ about girls.”
A straight-ahead dance-beat drives the title track, on which Lambert sends several messages with a chorus that compares super-blonde hair color with massive record sales: “What doesn’t kill you only makes you blonder/My heels and my hotel, they just got taller/Somethin’ about platinum irrefutably looks as good on records as it does on me.”
Some of trad-country and bluegrass-tinged tunes veer far away from Lambert’s more pop-oriented hits (and far away from much of so-called “bro-country” side of the top contemporary country music scene). She collaborates with Nashville-based string band the Time Jumpers on a respectful and lively rendition of Tom T. Hall’s “All That’s Left.” She drawls about Grandpa and the good ol’ days on the foot-stompin’ hillbilly jam “Old Sh!t.” Boozy saloon piano and dobro accent the jolly, bluesy gem “Gravity’s a Bitch.”
On the jumpy “Priscilla” — a song that seems to borrow a tropical drumbeat from Michael Franti’s hit “Say Hey (I Love You)” — Lambert compares herself to Elvis Presley’s better half: “I’m married to a man who’s married to attention.”
On the heavier, fist-pumpin’ side of things, Lambert belts it out with colleague Carrie Underwood on the shiny duet “Somethin’ Bad” (a song co-written by Nashville songwriter/producer Chris DeStefano). She nods to boozin’ and cryin’ on the straightforward alt-country rocker “Hard Staying Sober.”
The fast-paced, amusingly risque “Little Red Wagon” would have fit in well with some of the New Wave pop hits of MTV’s earliest days.
The goofy production on mid-tempo pop tune “Two Rings Shy” resembles some of Paul McCartney’s sillier love songs during his Wings days.
The smooth synthesizers on the low-energy “Smokin’ and Drinkin’,” a collaboration with Little Big Town, might lure some listeners into a light sleep.
One of the strongest standouts of the set is actually one of most sparsely arranged — the slow-swaggering, waltz-rhythm ballad “Holding on to You,” a bluesy number co-written by fellow Pistol Annie Monroe.
The song boasts tastefully subdued backing piano, drums, rhythm guitar and pedal steel that allows Lambert plenty of space to croon with an unusually dynamic delivery.
As a modern country release, “Platinum” seems all over the musical map, but as a personalized effort, it’s an impressive step ahead for Lambert.
“I feel like ‘Platinum,’ it’s a lifestyle kind of an album, and it’s a lifestyle kind of a feel. It kind of lends itself to gettin’ campy and tailgate-y, you know?” Lambert told CMT Hot 20 Countdown recently.
“This, sort of, is setting me up for the next decade of my career and what’s to come and who I am as an artist now going forward,” she added.