The Weight of These Wings
(Sony Music Nashville ***1/2)
nolead ends Miranda Lambert hits the road in the first verse of the opening song of her sixth album. "There's trouble where I'm going, but I'm gonna go there anyway," she sings on "Runnin' Just in Case." And two discs and two dozen songs later, on "I've Got Wheels," the country star is still rolling, keeping a move on as she figures out where she's headed next on this quiet, unflinching, impressively crafted road map through heartache and its aftermath.
Wings is, of course, Lambert's first album since the breakup of her marriage to The Voice star Blake Shelton, and, as you would expect, it's more self-critical, compelling, and, well, honest, than her ex's 2016 effort, If I'm Honest. Starting with the single "Vice," Lambert makes herself vulnerable in ways mainstream country stars don't dare. And rather than settle scores, the 33-year-old songwriter who used to be known for revenge songs like "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" is more likely to point the finger at herself ("Another bed I shouldn't crawl out of at 7 a.m. with shoes in my hand / Said I wouldn't do it but I did it again"). Lambert cowrote 20 of the tunes, including "Getaway Driver," with new boyfriend Anderson East, who also sings on the lovely, hopeful "Pushin' Time."
Divided into halves labeled The Nerve and The Heart, Weight includes covers of Shake Russell's "You Wouldn't Know Me," and Danny O'Keefe's "Covered Wagon," the latter of which seems inconsequential compared to the quality of the writing that surrounds it.
- Dan DeLuca
nolead begins Metallica
nolead ends nolead begins Hardwired . . . To Self-Destruct
nolead ends nolead begins (Blackened/Rhino ***)
nolead ends Ten hard, dark studio albums into its 25-year career as thrash smetal's biggest pop stars and group therapy patients, the members of Metallica still do their marauding mightiest to maintain the doom, gloom, and primal death howl that put the quartet on the map. That's been a long, ugly slog, for sure. Plunging into the fresh hell of new skulking depths, angry lyrics, and thundering sludge rock is the quartet's nasty mien.
At least, that's what they do with zealous animal grace on this album's title tune, as well as the gnarly "Spit Out the Bone." The monstrously beautiful (or beautifully monstrous) melodies of "Atlas Rise!" and "ManUNkind" show that old dogs can do new tricks - if you slather them with meaty riffs and the occasional fleet Kirk Hammett guitar solo.
The two-disc package gets weighed down by some lame pacing issues ("Am I Savage?"), faux prog-rock rhythms ("Confusion"), and any attempt at ballad-baking. That argues for the three-album version, which includes a recent, ferociously played concert of Metallica classics such as "The Four Horsemen" and "Ride the Lightning." The Hardwired bonus also includes inspired covers of its inspirations - a thick take on Deep Purple's "When a Blind Man Cries," an opulently evil version of Iron Maiden's "Remember Tomorrow," and a sensational "Ronnie [James Dio] Rising" medley - that make Metallica sound far younger than its years. Grrrreat.
- A.D. Amorosi
nolead begins Mo Pitney
nolead ends nolead begins Behind This Guitar
nolead ends nolead begins (Curb ***)
nolead ends He looks like a kid (he's 24), but Mo Pitney sounds like an old soul. On one of the best debuts of the year, the Illinois native cannily evokes country traditionalism with enough spit and polish to give his music a contemporary appeal.
It starts with the voice - like Josh Turner's, Pitney's baritone is a classic country instrument. And it extends to the songs. The singer cowrote 10 of the 12, and he assiduously avoids bro-country cliches. Instead, he addresses age-old country themes with plainspoken eloquence, whether he's extolling the virtues of "Country," running into an old flame in the supermarket ("Cleanup on Aisle Five"), or remembering a beloved pet ("It's Just a Dog").
Pitney does betray youthful exuberance when he's telling the twang-fueled tale of how "I Met Merle Haggard Today." Unlike a lot of young country singers who invoke the names of legends, Pitney doesn't seem to be trying to boost his own credibility by implying a musical kinship with the Hag. He's just telling a story in his typically charming, unpretentious manner. If Merle were alive, we imagine he'd be pretty pleased with Pitney's take on country.
- Nick Cristiano