Miranda Lambert’s voice is never gonna end up in the pantheon of great singers to come out of country music, but when she recorded covers of songs by Patty Griffin, Gillian Welch and Carlene Carter/Susannah Clark (the immortal “Easy From Now On”) when she first hit stardom with her Crazy ExGirlfriend album in 2007, I had to admit I was impressed. And these crafty ways continue on her latest, Platinum, where she records a swinging steel and fiddle cover of Tom T. Hall’s “All That’s Left” (with Vince Gill and Paul Franklin), ruminates on her fate as “a small town girl with compensation” in the album’s title track and rues lost loves in the smooth, almost 10CClike ballad, “Smokin’ and Drinkin’” (a duet with Little Big Town), where she’s also found a way to selectively use the vocoder in ways that doesn’t make you want to laugh or wretch. “Old Shit” even has a little bluegrass flavor about it. And then there’s “Gravity is a Bitch” which she cowrote, which is a near classic in the canon of bluesy barroom piano anthems. This girl has more going on in her music and her mind than might be apparent at first glance.
All that is not to say that Lambert doesn’t lose her footing here and there. In tunes like “Automatic” the production is revved up to ridiculous levels as she reaches too hard for a hit. And yes, to answer the obvious question, the production job, which is immense, will be too much for those who like their music recorded with fewer layers and less splash. Platinum is sonically squashed to some degree, yet the MP3 advance and finished CD I heard fell squarely into the decently wellmade modern Pro Tools record category.