With her progressive new release Palomino, Miranda Lambert has crafted a record that explores the world and the people in it, seeking beauty and adventure all around.
For superstar Miranda Lambert, each of her seven consecutive No. 1 albums has presented a chance to explore a new theme while pushing herself across varying sonic landscapes, and Palomino keeps the forward momentum going. With a core band of drummer Fred Eltringham (the Black Crowes), bass/keyboardist Ian Fitchuk (Sam Hunt, Joy Oladokun, Birdy) and guitarist Rob McNelley (Joe Bonamassa, Beth Hart, Buddy Guy) joining, they worked close to the bone, exploring what the songs could be while retaining Lambert’s serious country flavors.
Her first solo album since 2019’s GRAMMY-winning Wildcard, Palomino opens with a slow build and a low-slung vibe on “Actin’ Up,” with the opening track serving as the first in a series of postcards from the road, images and moments, places seen and swallowed whole, characters you won’t forget... It’s all here in a brew of styles, sounds and wordplay that are 100% Miranda.
A line from the first song written for the album perhaps sums up the project as a whole best: “there’s always been a stranger in my soul / who loves a good goodbye and a good hello,” she sings in “Tourist.” On Palomino, her inner stranger travels lyrically from Fort Worth to the Mojave Desert; Battambang, Cambodia to Maine; the Crystal Palace in Bakersfield to the Rocky Mountains and beyond. In each destination and with every character met along the way, Lambert’s freewheeling trek is a work of unbridled freedom and self-discovery without painful introspection.
“The making of this record has been one of the most fun and creative experiences of my career,” reflects the woman who holds the title of most-awarded artist in ACM history. “Luke Dick, Natalie Hemby, and I went out to my farm in Tennessee in 2020 and started writing songs. We figured while we have time let’s get out to the country and see what happens. The first one we wrote was ‘Tourist’ and that set us on a path to create something with a bit of a theme. Since we couldn’t travel at the time, we decided to go on a journey through songs. I hope y’all are ready to travel with us wandering spirits and meet some cool characters with great stories.”
Tapping longtime songwriting collaborators Luke Dick (Eric Church, Kacey Musgraves) and Jon Randall (Emmylou Harris, Dierks Bentley) to co-produce with her, Lambert once again pushes the envelope of what country music can contain. Whether the bump-and-grind thump of the one who can’t be extinguished on “I’ll Be Loving You,” the skunk weed strut of “Geraldene,” the gorgeously hushed vintage bar-room heartbreak of “That’s What Makes The Jukebox Play,” or the sunny life code that informs the ever-curious songwriter on “Tourist,” Lambert has fashioned a true song cycle, a journey of one woman questing for happiness and the folks she meets along the way.
There’s the go-lightly acousticness that suggests ‘80s Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on “Pursuit of Happiness,” the breezy Beyoncé-invoking Wild West truth of “If I Was A Cowboy” featuring the legendary Al Perkins on steel and the funky Deee-Lite meets Creedence Clearwater Revival trip down the Cumberland River on “Music City Queen” with the B-52s.
“Unthinkable things coming together,” marvels the woman who has won the Academy of Country Music’s Female Artist of the Year a record-setting nine consecutive times and the Country Music Association’s Female Vocalist of the Year seven times. “When Natalie, who is such a bad ass singer and the kind of person who raises the cool in every room, started singing ‘Rollin’ on the river...,’ we were all like, ‘What if the B-52s sing on this?’ They loved the song. They zoomed in with Luke and Jon and sang their part, which gives me so much joy. I missed their zoom, ‘cause I was on a plane; but to zoom the B-52s into your record? Yes, please.”
It’s that desire to taste it all, to explore the possibilities while sidestepping the statements and judgements that colors Palomino. And it’s not all happy-go-lucky stuff, even if it feels that way. Yearning and driving through the night on the sweeping “Waxahachie,” the tumbling “Strange” offers a more philosophical approach to being out of sorts. By “Carousel,” the almost lullaby closer, we meet Elaina, a former circus highwire walker/trapeze artist living in Nacogdoches as a mother and wife. With the exhaled truth of how she came to leave the circus – “She fell so hard because he always let her fly / Till he left her heart suspended in a cotton candy sky...” – with a broken heart she couldn’t heal, it speaks volumes about the multitude of lives most people contain.
For Lambert – and lovers of her wild-eyed country – Palomino is as much about the journey as the destination and the characters along the way.