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Miranda Lambert vents, transforms heartache in the studio and on the road

Randy Lewis, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

It will come as no great surprise to followers of Miranda Lambert's career which song the firebrand Texas singer-songwriter requested to sing in a multi-artist salute to Elton John, which was shot last week at New York's Theater at Madison Square Garden and is set to air later this year on CBS-TV.

Lambert, forthright and a lover of the American South, opted not for one of the "Rocket Man" singer's signature hits, but a deep cut from the album John cites as his personal favorite, a choice he shares with Lambert.

The woman known for blazing songs such as "Gunpowder and Lead" and who moonlights with singer-songwriters Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe in the band Pistol Annies zeroed in on John's song "My Father's Gun," from his 1971 album "Tumbleweed Connection." The cut, as were most on that album, is set during the Civil War; it takes the viewpoint of a son of the South who inherits his father's legacy and must figure out his own place in a troubled world.

She said she tapped her connection into John's camp by way of her longtime producer, Frank Liddell, who is friends with John's songwriting partner of 50 years, Bernie Taupin.

"As soon as word about this came up, I texted him and said, 'A lot of people will probably want to do this one, but I want to be the first to ask,'" Lambert said as her tour bus was pulling into the parking lot of the Spokane Arena in Washington, several days ahead of her arrival Saturday for her L.A.-area date at the Forum in Inglewood.

"It's such a great record, and they have such a love for the American South," said Lambert, 34. The show, "Elton John: I'm Still Standing -- a Grammy Salute" is scheduled to air this spring.

"It was incredible. I got to meet Elton and drink martinis with Bernie, one of the greatest songwriting teams of all time. It's such a cool experience when you meet people that are nice and normal and so iconic -- it's so inspiring."

Lambert herself has been on a roll of inspiration in the last few years, most readily evident in the creative outpouring displayed on her latest work, 2016's "The Weight of These Wings," a double album comprising two dozen songs she wrote in the throes of the meltdown and aftermath of her marriage to country star Blake Shelton.

Said Lambert: "That record is such a journey for me. It was kind of scary at first putting it out, but people were great. I think just being able to say the truth and be able to move on is what we look for in music. Fans are commenting on that."

The vulnerability she exhibits in heartbreak songs such as "Tin Min" and "Things That Break" is disarming. The latter includes her admission that "I leave it all in ruins / Cause I don't know what I'm doing / I'm hard on things that matter / Hold a heart so tight it shatters / So I stay away from things that break."

The album spans a panoply of emotions, as she shares her feelings about finding her way through rough patches in "Pushin' Time": "Sometimes love acts out of spite / And good things happen overnight." In "Well-Rested," as she strives to regain her balance, she pleads with whoever is listening, "Forgive me, I'm finding my wings."

And where is she on that front, a couple years down the line from writing and recording those songs?

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"I feel like I'm one of those people who loves really big, does everything really big," she said, quickly adding as something of an explanation, as if it were needed: "I'm from Texas. But I'm excited about the journey."

A big part of the solace and healing she's found following a messy and very public divorce that was tabloid news fodder for months has come through live performance.

"I re-fall in love with this job every time I go out on the road, and I'm very thankful for that," she said. "I have the most incredible job in the world, and the fans have just been great.

"It's been awesome," she said. "Jon Pardi is on the tour with us, and almost every weekend we have a different opening act. We brought out my friends and people we wanted to see. At the Forum we have Lucie Silvas, who's amazing. I have these people I go watch before I go onstage, and they really inspire me."

Other openers on her 2018 Living Like Hippies Tour include such rising performers as Ashley McBryde, Turnpike Troubadours, Sunny Sweeney, Charlie Worsham and the Steel Woods. Later this summer she'll be sharing dates with Little Big Town.

At the end of 2017 she made just her second transatlantic jaunt for a series of dates in England, Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands.

Of the latter show, a rarity for her in a country where English is not the primary language spoken, she said, "It kind of blew my mind honestly. I was a little worried ... I wasn't sure how that was going to go. But they knew my songs -- I was so thankful."

(c)2018 Los Angeles Times

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