Miranda Lambert Once Again Dominates Country Music Critics’ Poll

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But there’s no denying that this was the year of Miranda Lambert, who dominated the Scene’s annual Country Music Critics’ Poll in nearly every way imaginable. The 89 voting critics from all over the world have handed Lambert victories for Album of the Year (The Weight of These Wings), Single of the Year (“Vice”), Female Vocalist of the Year and Artist of the Year.

In fact, Lambert has dominated the voting over the past decade as no one else has in the poll’s 17-year history. With this year’s triumphs, the singer sets new records in the poll for the most Female Vocalist of the Year awards (six), the most Single of the Year awards (four) and the most Album of the Year awards (four, including one with Pistol Annies). She has also tied the Dixie Chicks for the most Artist of the Year awards (four).

Lambert is not shying away from the challenge of history. Last year she released a self-consciously ambitious double album with 94 minutes of music packed into 24 songs in a variety of styles. The first line she sings on the set comes from the song “Runnin’ Just in Case” — “There’s trouble where I’m going, but I’m gonna go there anyway.”

The subsequent lyrics put that line in the context of fleeing a relationship gone bad to search for something better. But as Lambert, over a U2-like guitar drone, murmurs the names of the music-infused cities she’s passing through — Lafayette, Birmingham and Lubbock — she seems to also be looking for a new kind of Southern song, a new kind of country music.

There’s trouble where she’s going — the sales numbers will always be lower on the frontier than down at the swimming hole where all the pickup trucks full of six-packs are parked — but she’s headed for the mountains, where history will be resurrected and reshaped. She’s proving that you can write and sing songs as sad as “Tin Man,” as funny as “Pink Sunglasses,” as romantic as “To Learn Her” or as bittersweet as “The Ugly Lights” with one foot in the past and one foot in the future.

This is most clear on the poll’s Single of the Year, “Vice,” which begins as a tribute to an old country cheating song that squeezes the heart as soon as the needle drops on the vinyl. Before long, though, the narrator is not just remembering the song but living it, as she awakes in “another bed I shouldn’t crawl out of at 7 a.m. with shoes in my hand achat viagra sur internet.” What began as nostalgia is suddenly as immediate as the distorted lead guitar that blossoms under the vocal.

Later on the album, she sings that she’s the “Keeper of the Flame” not just “for the ones that came before” but also “for the little pilot lights waiting to ignite.” History is measured not only by your own achievements, but also by the influence you cast, and the critics have saluted Lambert for the work she’s inspired as much as for the work she’s done herself.

The echo of her influence can be heard in Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley (her two bandmates in Pistol Annies), in Brandy Clark and Kacey Musgraves (two of the writers she’s covered) and in Aubrie Sellers (the stepdaughter of her longtime producer, Frank Liddell). These women haven’t sold records in Lambert-sized numbers, but they’ve all made admirable music that’s been honored in this poll since 2013.

 

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