Miranda Lambert has always done what she wanted to do and staked her claim as a by-God country singer that rocks when she wants to and croons a soft ballad when she gets a mind to. Lambert cannily writes the lyrics and tunes that suit her mood, and on Wildcard she’s defiant, joyous, coy, and has a wildcard up her sleeve.
The celebratory tongue-in-cheek good time “It All Comes Out in the Wash,” for example, features a rousing chorus that affirms that no matter the bad choices anyone makes — dating the wrong guy, “wearing a white shirt to crawfish boil,” getting knocked up in a truck at the 7-11 —it’ll all come out in the wash. The bright pop of the song rides along perky background vocals — which repeat the refrain “you put that sucker on spin” — whose very inflections reek of humor and facetiousness.
Lambert wrote “It All Comes Out in the Wash” with the Love Junkies (Hilary Lindsey, Lori McKenna, Liz Rose), as well as “Way Too Pretty for Prison,” “Fire Escape,” and “Track Record.” “Way Too Pretty for Prison” opens with a ringing guitar riff reminiscent of ELO’s “Evil Woman” before opening into a prancing stomp, featuring nod-and-a-wink lyrics that show no remorse for thinking about killing a cheating man. The singer declares, though, that no matter how much she and her friends want to kill the man, or get even, or take revenge, or escape their deadly dull daily lives like Thelma and Louise, they won’t do it because they’re “way too pretty for prison.” After all, in prison “they don’t have rhinestone ball and chains,” and 15 women have to use one sink.
“Locomotive” is a straight-ahead country boogie on which the singer declares that she’s going to keep moving forward even though she’s been down on her luck. “Holy Water” opens sparsely with a shimmering Dobro and slide guitar and blossoms into a cascading chorus of vocals and chorus in a gospel-inflected tune that reveals the ways that holiness and light often hide unholiness and darkness. The cascading minor chord “Fire Escape” shimmers with a nostalgia for another time, even as the singer pleads with her lover to meet her in the place where they can climb higher and higher into their love.
Lambert’s having fun on Wildcard. She’s inviting us to celebrate with her, and to find our ways through the vagaries of loss and love as her infectious music carries us along. Wildcard showcases Lambert’s fiery personality, her willingness, as always, to speak straight from the heart, and her way with a phrase — “I can’t keep my roots from showing / I can’t keep my white trash off the lawn.” The wildcard up Lambert’s sleeve might be the queen of hearts, but this album is her ace.