Wednesday, September 29
Better than: a sixpack of Miller after gettin’ that first buck of the season
Of all things to prop up a mike stand, a simulated shotgun works pretty well, as country music’s current queen Miranda Lambert showed off during “Gunpowder and Lead,” the anthemic revenge tale that makes anyone with testicles cross their legs and anyone with a bad testicle experience whoop with joy. As I said a few years back, Lambert’s perceived authenticity is welcomed, cherished and honored within and outside the country music landscape because she seems to be an honest to God shit-kicker, one of them redneck chicks (her words) you hear about, that found her way through Bacardi (her words) and got a tattoo much to Daddy’s dismay (again, hers). But when it comes down to it, she tells us she just wants to “sit around the campfire and have a beer.” Don’t we all–sure would be nice to indulge once in awhile without having to rent a car, a cabin and an EZPass. It’s borderline unfair for her to ride into town, bragging about campfires and such, where at most we can hope for is a city trashcan set on fire by some drunk NYU kids.
So besides the initial gawking at the handful of cowboy hats, trimmed goatees, boots and western shirts–items that you just don’t see here on a daily basis–a country music concert at a New York City club isn’t that different from any other show. But there are a few things that stand out, at least at Lambert’s gigs: couples sway back and forth, romantically, to “Time To Get A Gun,” the Fred Eaglesmith cover from 2009’s Revolution; those without a partner refrain from doing the lighter-in-the-air thing, instead opting for a simulated gun pointed at her, like they might have done when playing cowboys and Indians as a five-year-old. Another cover song–the rowdy twang of John Prine’s “That’s The Way The World Goes Round”–doesn’t so much as offer a unified clap, but instead sparks up what it only be described as “the stompalong.”
Lambert herself is a smiley burst of energy onstage, a Skittles commercial come to life, bursting with colorful dialogue, twirling around, playing the guitar with the confidence of a woman newly engaged. In fact, she did recently get engaged to fellow countryman Blake Shelton, and like all good girls raised in the South, she proudly displayed her ring for everyone to see. Moments like that made you forget that her vocals were unfortunately muddy during ballads “The House That Built Me” and the excellent single “Dead Flowers,” two of her best narratives that involve houses. Or the two awkward covers of “Long White Cadillac,” which no one seemed to know, thus didn’t care, and the Rick Derringer classic, “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo.” The latter felt rushed, but maybe that’s just because the words “hoochie koo” should only be uttered on stage by those in a 70s cover band down on Wall Street.
But those off moments were fleeting. Most of Lambert’s energy derives not from her shiny hardware, but from uptempo country rock songs like “Sin for a Sin” and “White Liar,” where she gets you pumped up about cheaters and liars–“rock and roll revenge” is probably a more accurate term regarding where she excels. Lambert’s up for a bunch of CMA awards this November; she’ll probably win a handful, too. I’d like to think she’d remember that night in big city New York just a few months prior, where she told us about how much she loved the “ass-kickin’ group of people” she’s surrounded by, just before starting up “Famous In A Small Town.” But that’s the thing with small town country girls–who needs us when they have campfires?
Critical Bias: Have interviewed her twice; very familiar with what G.R.I.T.S. are.
Overheard: “Jets! Jets! Jets! Jets!”
Random Notebook Dump: In an effort to shy away from controversy in the tri-state area, Lambert chose to flash the insignias of both the New York Giants and the New York Jets on the screen behind her during “Famous in a Small Town.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 30, 2010