If there was one thing Lambert clearly didn't do after her divorce from Blake Shelton it was sit around moping. Throwing herself into writing and recording, the result's this double CD, split into two discs of twelve songs, the first, titled The Nerve, addresses the courage, boldness ad resolution to carry on with life post break-up. while the second, The Heart, takes time out for reflection on the turbulence of emotions.
The first dozen open with the stifled percussion and reverb guitars of the atmospheric swirl of rhe road and romance themed 'Runnin' Just in Case' as she defiantly declares "Happiness ain't prison. but there's freedom in a broken heart." With her distinctive Texas twang. Lambert successful straddles the border between mainstream Nashville and Americana, part Dolly, part Emmylou, part Loretta and part Lucinda just as she can also bring funky rock blues to the party, as she does on 'Highway Vagabond', another road song.
The well worn escape from heartache in bars and booze provides a fruitful well on which to draw and Lambert hauls up a full bucket on the likes of the train rhythm rolling 'Ugly Lights' ("I don't remember when the liquor started kicking in") where sings how she "sits and watch the whiskey pour, the married men, the exit door" and the itchy 'We Should Be Friends - "if you use alcohol as a sedative and 'bless your heart' as a negative."
Elsewhere, she claims Shake Russell's middle finger break-up song 'You Wouldn't Know Me' for her own scuttling romp, gets into a Spirit In The Sky meets Katy Perry groove for 'Pink Sunglasses', gets behind the wheel of classic country on the pedal steel coloured 'Getaway Driver' (a co-write with new beau Anderson East), refuses to play the numb your feelings game with the slow bluesy 'Vice' and, on a song that surely shares a kinship with Sister Sledge's 'Slowhand', describes the sort of man she's looking for (someone who'll "make a habit of loving me 'til it hurts") on the sexually steaming 'Smoking Jacket 'with its steel and trumpet. Next thing you know, she's ready to give her heart again on the gently dobro rippling East duet 'Pushin' Time' ("if it has to end I tears I hope it's in sixty years") while, after digging back into the past for a swampy cover of Danny O'Keefe's 'Covered Wagon' that swaps slide for piano, closes the set with 'Use My Heart', co-penned with Ashley Monroe and Waylon Payne, where she's again scared about becoming vulnerable again and that while she may say she doesn't "give two shits no more" nevertheless "the thought of loving you just makes me sick."
On then to the second round which comes out of its corner with "Tin Man" on which she assures the Wizard of Oz character that's not missing anything by not having a heart to be broken, its simple acoustic backing swirled with synths and electric guitar reverb. Cynicism and despondency doesn't last, however, and, while on 'Things That Break', "born a bull in a china cabinet", she may anticipate disaster ("put a blanket underneath a hollow tree, when the wind blows hard it will fall on me"), come the Guy Clark Texas twang of the uptempo bouncy 'For The Birds' she seeking sunshine and happiness and "love that makes this crazy world go round."
By contrast, another co-write with East, the steel-stained waltz 'Well-Rested' is probably the slowest number on the album, taking the tempo up slightly for the lazy warmth of feminist self-assertion 'Tomboy' before heading back to honky tonk country on the classic Tammy Wynette-styled 'To Learn Her' with Hargus Robbins on saloon piano.
Having taken a breather, the rhythm cranks back up on the tribal thrumming beat of 'Keeper of the Flame', a power ballad that finds strength to move on by looking back at the trail other songwriters blazed before her. The groove stays funky for 'Bad Boy' (complete with fluffed intro and restart) with some subdued wah wah guitar bubbling below the rhythm as the album heads into the final stretch with the throbbing bassline and squally guitars of 'Six Degrees of Separation', another song that looks to the road to eat up the heartache only to find "you're all over this damn nation."
With hints of Emmylou, the penultimate slow march rhythm 'Dear Old Sun' calls on Southern soul and gospel for its prayer for renewal as its warmth dries the tears of the heart's winter night befote the alum ends where it began, back on the road with "I've Got Wheels", "rolling on" and, even through "sometimes these wings get a little heavy", ready to face whatever lies ahead as guitar Luke Reynolds lifts the song to the skies. She soars.
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