This was Miranda Lambert as she has never been before.
For her first Artist in Residence concert at the Country Music Hall of Fame, Miranda Lambert focused on the “ones that got away,” delivering a career-spanning retrospective of songs she loves, but has rarely performed.
But for Lambert, who unspools her jagged life in her lyrics, singing the “deepest cuts” of her celebrated albums also meant going to her most raw and painful places.
“I feel like I’ve just been through three years of therapy,” she announced near the end of the concert.
Lambert, 34, was performing the first of two shows as the 2018 artist-in-residence for Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. For an hour and 20 minutes in the intimate CMA Theater, the sold-out crowd experienced what Lambert called “the ones that got away” show.
“We have not played some of these live ever before so I hope you have forgiving ears,” she told her audience. “And I also want to warn you, if you don’t like sad songs, you might want to go ahead and leave.”
Her offer had no takers — “sad,” after all, is country’s middle name — and Lambert launched into a musical journey that took her through the six albums she has released since 2005.
The stage was small and the stage lights basic, leaving all the theatrics to the songs. Lambert’s only backup was a five-person, mostly acoustic band and an ever-present cup spiked with her beloved Tito’s vodka.
The set began with “Love Is Looking for You,” which Lambert said she wrote when she was just 17, then she brought out her original muse, dad Richard Lee (Rick) Lambert, an amateur country musician, to perform their “Greyhound Bound for Nowhere.”
“The first song we ever wrote together was a cheating song,” she explained, adding, “Kinda weird, but it’s all right.”
Miranda’s repeatedly said if you want to know about her life, all you have to do is listen to her music, and by the time she got to her second record, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, things got personal, as she introduced the track “Desperation.”
“I wrote it by myself when I was like — I don’t know — 21 and heartbroken,” she told the capacity crowd in the CMA Theater. “Still heartbroken to this day, that’s how it goes.”
“But I was foreshadowing then. I’m foreshadowing now for the next ten years I guess,” she added, as the audience laughed.
Lambert then cycled through heart-shattering songs — “Bring Me Down,” “More Like Her” and “Dead Flowers” — before inviting to the stage “sister songwriter” Natalie Hemby to lighten the mood. Their three-song set began with a little mutual admiration that alluded to another famous country singer-songwriter pairing.
“You’re my George Strait,” Hemby declared.
Lambert knew her cue well. “You’re my Dean Dillon,” she replied.
From the library of music they have created together, the two women chose two songs that are little heard, the whimsical “Airstream Song” and the wistful “Virginia Bluebell,” before stepping outside of the night’s theme for their first collaborative No. 1, “White Liar.”
Hemby recounted her first meeting with Lambert soon after the star’s third-place finish, at age 19, on the USA Network singing competition show, Nashville Star.
“I was just like, ‘Oh my God, I love your hat,’” Hemby recalled. “And she’s like, ‘Thanks, I got it at Walmart for five dollars.’ And I was like, ‘Oh my God, I love this girl.’ And she’s like, ‘My favorite things are bird dogs and chicken-fried steak,’ and I was like, ‘Who is this woman?’”
“Miranda was in a love story,” Moorer said, recalling why she wrote “Oklahoma Sky,” which appeared on Lambert’s 2011 album, Four the Record. “And I was thinking about her, and I had that going in my mind.”
The song, inspired by the Oklahoma home that Shelton and Lambert shared, promises a lifetime of happily-ever-afters, but Moorer told the real “end of the story”: “You know, the dudes, they come and go. The song remains.”
The two women soldiered through the now-bittersweet lyrics, Lambert clutching her heart when she sang the song’s first line, “How long has it taken me to find you?” As the musicians took over between verses, Moorer offered Lambert a comforting embrace.