by Aprille Hanson
When I first heard the single “Me and Charlie Talking” coming out of my radio speakers, I was immediately hooked. The sweet tune of innocent love was so different than anything else on the radio, it made me an immediate fan of a singer named Miranda Lambert. As hard as it is to believe, it’s been 10 years since that song debuted and her third place finish on the reality singing competition “Nashville Star” is pretty well forgotten. What Lambert has done in 10 years is forge a new path in country music to become a powerful and badass female voice that is truly the modern day queen of the genre. Sure, she took along some influences from the original tough cookie Loretta Lynn, but Lambert is truly her own artist.
10. “New Strings” (Kerosene, 2005)
While this might not be the go-to song for many fans of Lambert, it’s one of her best. Written by her and reaching 25 on the Billboard charts, the song tells the story of a girl making her get away, breaking free from a bad relationship. But it’s not the hard-kicking melody with foot stomping and guitars blazing. The girl is just simply making her getaway out west, packing the good, leaving the rest because she’ll have all she’ll ever need: “I got this old guitar and a brand new set of strings.” It shows Lambert’s heart as a songwriter and her love for just pure music, which makes it an important song in her legacy.
9. “All That’s Left” (featuring The Time Jumpers) (Platinum, 2014)
Lambert moved into a new sound with her most recent album with songs like “Platinum,” “Little Red Wagon” and “Something Bad,” her duet with Carrie Underwood. But people that write her off as trying to conform to the new country sound are way off base. Sure, this album does take some risks and some songs have more of a pop sound than fans are used to from her. However, it’s certainly a hybrid. There’s no better song to explain that then “All That’s Left” that is Texas Swing at its finest, with help from the incredible ensemble The Time Jumpers. Lambert is a Texas girl and her roots come out full-force in this song, about a woman who is just done with the divorce process – “no more signin’, no more whinin’, cause all that’s left for you to do is leave.” It’s a cute song, co-written by the great Tom T. Hall (which is so easy to detect), but why it’s so important in her discography is her willingness to explore new sounds but always staying true to her country sound.
8. “Famous in a Small Town” (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, 2007)
In 2006, the population of Lindale, Texas, where Lambert grew up, hovered just above 5,000. Co-written by Lambert, “Famous in a Small Town” is pretty much her story. She explained that her lyrics really do convey what life was like in her town. What’s important to note is that there’s no mention of dirt roads, parties in a hayfield or tractors backing up a two lane road. What it does explain is how people search out fame, but in a small town, everyone dies famous. Some of the best lyrics include:
“I dreamed of going to Nashville / Put my money down and placed my bet / But I just got the first buck of the season / I made the front page of the Turner Town Gazette” and “Whether you're late for church or you're stuck in jail / hey words gonna get around,” because it’s just so believable. That is small town living.
7. “All Kinds of Kinds” (Four the Record, 2011)
While it’s safe to say that Lambert’s most recent album Platinum pushed her sound to new areas, “All Kinds of Kinds” was her first forte into a new realm. This was a message song, without a hint of sap. She starts out by singing “Ilsa was an acrobat who went and fell in love with that / Horatio the human cannonball / A weddin' 'neath the big top tent with barkers, clowns and elephants / Sideshow family oddities and all.” Yeah, this is not your typical country song. She goes on to sing about a cross-dressing congressmen and an over-dosing pharmacist. But the final message of the song is how people “point the finger / let ignorance linger / if they’d look in the mirror they’d find” that this world is made up of “all kinds of kinds.” In the hands of anyone else, this song would never have been played on the radio, but thank God Lambert got the message out there.
6. “White Liar” (Revolution, 2009)
The album Revolution revolutionized Lambert’s career. She won Grammys, country award honors and was thrust into the spotlight more than ever before, while still making fantastic music. “White Liar” is similar to the sound on her first album, talking about a woman who finds out her significant other is a white liar and how those lies can spread “just like a fire.” The music video makes this song even more special, as Lambert, playing the bride, walks down the aisle past her soon-to-be husband’s affairs. But she’s got a secret – she’s been lying too, and runs off with the best man. The severely underrated Jamey Johnson makes a cameo as the preacher. It’s such an important moment in her career, the original handwritten copy of “White Liar” is in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
5. “Over You” (Four the Record, 2011)
By now, most people know the backstory of “Over You,” but as a refresher: as a teenager, her husband, country superstar Blake Shelton, lost his older brother in a car accident. The two co-wrote the song about losing a loved one and Shelton could not emotionally handle singing it, so it was given to Lambert. For as tough as Lambert is, this song shows how she can dig down deep and deliver a song with such heart wrenching emotion on lines like, “But you went away / how dare you / I miss you.” Her emotions made this song an award-winner, taking both the ACM and CMA Song of the Year honors. This song added another layer to her talents as an artist.
4. “Mama’s Broken Heart” (Four the Record, 2011)
“Mama’s Broken Heart” was such a fun one for Lambert to play with. I say “play” because it’s about an emotionally unstable woman after a break-up. The song starts out a bit slow, with Lambert’s sigh at the beginning, before jumping into the lyrics “I cut my bangs with some rusty kitchen scissors / I screamed his name ‘til the neighbors called the cops / I numbed the pain at the expense of my liver / don’t know what I did next all I know I couldn’t stop.” Soon, word got around to the “barflies and the Baptists” and enters the mother. It’s a generational gap song, when a Southern lady doesn’t lose her mind over a guy. After all, it’s just a break-up, but as Lambert sings, “this ain’t my mama’s broken heart.” The song is pulsating in the verses before exploding in the chorus. It’s a song so perfect for Lambert to sing it’s hard to believe she didn’t have a hand in writing it. Those lyrical geniuses are Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally and Kacey Musgraves, which makes total sense. I could easily see Clark or Musgraves singing this song, but it wouldn’t have the grit and crazy Lambert brings to it.
3. “Kerosene” (Kerosene, 2005)
Ladies and gentlemen, step right up to see history in the making. “Kerosene” off of her first album of the same name set the tone for Lambert’s entire career. She’s had so many badass songs in her repertoire, but this song started it all. The fact that she made such a bold statement on her first album shows her talent for taking risks. The third single off her album, it reached No. 15 on the Hot Country Songs charts, her first top 20 hit. Written by Lambert, the song is about a woman who is out for revenge after her love cheats on her. She’s a woman who is “giving up on love cause love's given up on me.” If the song weren’t just great on its own, then came the unforgettable music video, of Lambert walking on a mission, emptying a container of kerosene as she sings straight into the camera. The best lyrics are: “Forget your high society, I'm soakin' it in Kerosene / Light 'em up and watch them burn, teach them what they need to learn HA!” To go from the sweet “Me and Charlie Talking” to this was masterful.
2. “Gunpowder and Lead” (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, 2007)
The second you hear the opening beats of “Gunpowder and Lead” you know what’s coming. Fanwise, it has to be Lambert’s most popular song. Co-written by Lambert, the song talks about a woman who plans to shoot her abusive husband who just got released from prison. If “Kerosene” set up her reputation, this song solidified it. Who knows if the real Lambert is as tough as the women she sings about and it really doesn’t matter – we, as fans, believe she is because of how honest and true to these characters she becomes. The song is from her own experience growing up, watching her parents take in women who had been abused and sharing a room with them. You can almost imagine a young Lambert seeing these bruised and battered women and not quite understanding why this happens. The adult Lambert understands the reality and put forth the right amount of sass and grit to pull a song like this off – no other artist could have done it. She’s not the first to sing about this theme ("Goodbye Earl" by the Dixie Chicks and "Independence Day" by Martina McBride) but she’s certainly the first to take it to the level of: “I’m gonna show him what little girls are made of / gunpowder and lead.”
1. “The House That Built Me” (Revolution, 2009).
It’s funny to think that an artist built on a tough persona, releasing badass songs that revolutionized the female sound in country music would have her best song be a nostalgic ballad. But, you can’t put Lambert in just one box. Written by Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin, ‘House’ is about a woman who goes back to her childhood home, reminiscing with the homeowner about how its where she learned to play guitar, the fact that her favorite dog is buried in the yard and how her father gave life to her mother’s dream by building the house. She’s gotten lost in this world and the only way to find herself is to go back home. Even before this song, I thought, as I’m sure so many people have, about going back to my childhood home and what that’d be like – to see the ghosts of myself growing up. Shamblin went back home to his childhood home in Texas at least once a year and based his experience off of that. However, her best song almost went to her husband. Blake Shelton was supposed to record the song, but Lambert fell in love with it. I have no doubt Shelton would have made it a hit. But Lambert brought a woman’s heart to it that would have been lost on Shelton’s version, when she quietly sings, “If I could just come in, I swear I’ll leave / won’t take nothin’ but a memory / from the house that, built me.”
by Aprille Hanson
If you want to hear the truth about small-town living, the last thing you need to listen to is mainstream country radio. It’s not about partying down a dirt road, kicking the dust up and riding around in trucks. I don’t know of any artist today that captures the simplicity and at the same time the complexity of small town living while still having a sound that’s very marketable (despite low airplay) better than Kacey Musgraves. She’s cute as a button, tough as nails and her greatest weapon of all – total honesty. Her latest song “Biscuits” is a pretty simple concept – “Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy.” It’s so Southern and the play on words is masterfully creative. It was co-written by Musgraves, the hit-maker Shane McAnally and a star in her own right Brandy Clark. It’s a silly song, but with nuggets of real wisdom: “Taking down your neighbor won’t take you any higher,” “Pourin’ salt in my sugar won’t make yours any sweeter,” “Pissin’ in my yard won’t make yours any greener” and “The holiest of holies even slip from time to time.” These lyrics are just phenomenal and the music video is even better. With Musgraves not afraid to look drab and old-fashioned at the beginning to the “Hee-Haw” type atmosphere for the chorus (complete with a fiddle playing Muppet and a baby goat) that shows her in a cute, short Western dress, she is just masterful in her vision. Musgraves knows herself, her music and her fans. She’s a true artist who doesn’t need to pander to country radio. She’s just flat-out better than that.
by Julian Spivey
I’m a little irritated tonight and figured I’d write it out.
As a former journalism student and one who runs his own entertainment website online I’m a bit of a journalism nerd. I love journalism when it’s done right and hate it when it’s done wrong. A lot of the time you’ll see it done wrong these days, but from my viewpoint that’s mostly on the broadcast side of things.
One of the things about journalism that thoroughly pisses me off is that so many readers don’t actually know much about the inner-workings of the medium. They don’t realize things like the code of journalism and the little rules we as journalists have for our work. The biggest rule maybe of them all is it’s our duty to report the news no matter what.
There is a country music website that I enjoy called Saving Country Music that is run solely by a writer who goes by the penname Triggerman. It’s a terrific website, the best country music site on the Internet in my opinion. The only thing I can’t stand about the website, in fact, is that the creator/writer goes by a penname, instead of his real name Kyle Coroneos, which can only be found under the ‘About’ section on his website.
I don’t believe journalists, and if he’s not a professionally trained one he’s become one through his site’s popularity, should go by pennames. This is especially true when you have opinions as strong as Coroneos’. I have strong opinions too in my writing and my full name is always there to accompany them. I even use my full name when responding in comments sections of websites so my opinions at least hold a little credibility and aren’t from some anonymous avatar. People should always own up to their opinions and the only way to truly do so is signing your complete name.
But, I digress, because this isn’t so much about my one minor critique of Coroneos’ fantastic website.
This is about a piece of news he published, caught utter hell for and eventually caved to the masses and deleted.
Jon Hensley, the manager for performers Shooter Jennings and Wanda Jackson, died on Monday, June 1 at a young age and an obituary for him was published on Saving Country Music. It was a pretty standard obituary telling of the news of his death and his life and career.
There was absolutely nothing wrong with this article.
And yet dozens of folks took offense to it and claimed it to be disrespectful and offensive to the memory of Hensley and his family and friends.
The reasoning given was that Hensley hated the Saving Country Music website and he and Coroneos apparently had unspecified bad blood between themselves. This potential bad blood had no noticeable impact on the straightforward obituary.
Coroneos defended his obit from many people taking issue with it for quite a while on both his website and on Twitter, before finally taking it down in the early morning hours of June 2.
I’m irritated by the response of people toward a piece of journalism and I’m irritated by the poor decision of the author/journalist to remove his work (even though it’s his website and his decision).
People simply don’t understand journalism. The sole point of journalism is to publish news for the public. So many people, however, believe its intent to be to bring negativity to the world. Journalists aren’t the heartless individuals people make us out to be, we just have a job that needs to be done. That job is to publish news.
Hensley was affiliated with country music and Saving Country Music as a website dealing in country music news had every right to publish an article about Hensley’s death. The fact that Hensley disliked Saving Country Music and may have had bad blood with the creator of the site honestly had no relevancy to the story.
It’s important to note that just because readers don’t like a story doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have been published. If every article ever written was deleted or redacted because people took offense there simply would not be any journalism ever again.
Publishing a news story is all Saving Country Music did and in doing so did nothing wrong or out of the ordinary and, in fact, was merely doing its purpose.
What the website did do wrong is kowtow to the masses and eventually delete the obituary.
If you give in to readers in such a way as a journalist you lose your credibility and show the readers that they have a say in what you publish on your website. This is the very reason journalists are instructed almost from day one in college to never let a subject of an article read said article prior to being published.
I run an online entertainment website, this very one, and I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that if I publish something you will never get me in a million years to delete it simply because you disagree with it or find it offensive.
That’s a fact.
That’s journalism 101.
You have options as a reader. You can turn away from the article and refuse to read it. You can say your peace about it in the comments section. You can never visit the website or read the publication as long as you live. Those are all reasonable ways to object to a piece of journalism you don’t like.
Demanding a journalist remove his work is never a reasonable way to act toward an article or editorial. It’s a slap in the face to the medium of journalism and a real, true journalist would merely laugh at your suggestion.
These people ignorant of journalism getting a journalist to stoop to their demands is a huge blow for the medium.
It doesn’t make Saving Country Music a worthless online publication. I suspect it will remain the best country music website on the Internet. But, unfortunately it does prove that Coroneos can be too easily swayed and there’s a little bit of a loss of respect there as one journalist to another.
You’re never going to get me to cave so easily, so don’t even try.