Even within a grainy Zoom window, the expression on Miranda Lambert's face said it all.
Asked what she thought of Garth Brooks' recent request not to be considered for entertainer of the year at the Country Music Assn. Awards - one of Nashville's two upcoming awards shows, along with Wednesday night's Academy of Country Music Awards - the country singer grinned, chuckling quietly under her breath.
"I think that last year was b - and that Carrie should've taken it," she said.
If Brooks' controversial appeal was meant to quell a backlash among fans who felt he'd robbed Carrie Underwood in 2019, Lambert's reaction captured a certain lack of surprise that a man could find a way to make such a gesture more about him than about the structural inequities of a genre that routinely undervalues its female artists.
Since she emerged a decade and a half ago with pugnacious hits like "Kerosene," "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" and "Gunpowder & Lead," Lambert, 36, has become a focal point of Nashville's woman problem - a creative powerhouse and touring superstar who still struggles to get her music played on country radio with anything like the regularity of men half as talented as she is.
Yet there are signs of hope, as she pointed out in a video chat with her friend Ashley McBryde, 37, who toured with Lambert last year and recorded a cover of Elvin Bishop's "Fooled Around and Fell in Love" that featured all of Lambert's opening acts: McBryde, Maren Morris, Tenille Townes, Elle King and Caylee Hammack.
In July, Lambert's "Bluebird" - a dreamy midtempo number from her 2019 album "Wildcard" - gave the singer her first solo No. 1 on Billboard's Country Airplay chart in eight years, while McBryde's soulful "One Night Standards" recently reached a career-best No. 11. Now "Wildcard" is nominated for album of the year at the ACM Awards, where Lambert is also up for female artist of the year and McBryde's "Girl Goin' Nowhere" is nominated for song of the year. (Lambert is expected to perform at the ACMs, which already named "Fooled Around and Fell in Love" the music event of the year.)
Lambert's showing for November's CMA Awards is even more impressive, with a leading seven nods, including one alongside Underwood for entertainer of the year - the first time more than one woman has been nominated in that category since 2000, when Faith Hill and the Dixie Chicks made the cut. "Wildcard" is up for album of the year too, for which she'll compete against McBryde's second major-label disc, "Never Will."
"Wildcard," which Lambert said drew from Bob Seger and Fleetwood Mac, piles on the guitars (and the frisky humor) after the singer's somber 2016 "The Weight of These Wings," which documented her divorce from Blake Shelton. "Never Will" has some of the granular small-town storytelling of "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road" by McBryde's beloved Lucinda Williams.
For the afternoon Zoom call, Lambert dialed in from her home in New York, where she lives part-time with her husband, Brendan McLoughlin, an NYPD officer she married last year. McBryde was at her manager's office in Nashville.