Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert, Jon Randall
The Marfa Tapes


4.5
superb

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
May 9th, 2021 | 32 replies


Release Date: 05/07/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A pop-country superstar retreats to the hillside and rediscovers her roots. Surrounded by close friends, it's as warm and inviting as her work has ever sounded.

Sometimes you have to escape yourself to discover who you actully are. That's sort of the impetus behind The Marfa Tapes, an album of raw country/folk songs that sound starkly different from anything we're used to hearing from a mainstream icon like Miranda Lambert. Joined by lifelong friends and fellow Texas residents Jack Ingram ("Wherever You Are") and Jon Randall (writer/producer for Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley), the trio retreated to Marfa - a small area of the state that Randall describes as "magical" and that Lambert admits is "like a whole other state in itself" which resulted in "instant chemistry." The final product is difficult to argue with; The Marfa Tapes is a gorgeously bare collection of folk/American tunes which showcase a totally new side of these three talented musicians.

The Marfa Tapes creaks and groans like an old wooden swing. These are hand-crafted, acoustic guitar driven songs which could easily have become hits with a few coats of studio varnish, yet they retain so much more heart and soul in their elemental forms. The then vs. now contrast is most noticeable with Lambert, a pop/country superstar whose vocals are as bare-bones and unpolished as we've ever heard across her celebrated career. The emotion behind Lambert's delivery can be felt triplefold when she reaches those high notes, and you can hear a tiny crack or shriek that normally would have been ironed out by a corporate Nashville label. It's emblematic of the entire experience, which feels like friends gathered around a bonfire for the sole purpose of sharing time, and music. In fact, that's exactly what this is.

I'd call The Marfa Tapes a labor of love if it didn't sound so effortless. Ingram and Randall contribute beautiful cuts of their own (don't assume this is just another platform for Lambert), and when the three play together, the end product is as dynamic as it is breathtaking. I'm sure Lambert will go on to create many more shimmering pop records - but if she settles into this full-band approach and continues to write beautifully raw folk music, it just might be the best move she ever makes from an artistic standpoint. The Marfa Tapes comes as a genuinely welcome surprise - proof that less is more, and that sometimes stripping everything down to the basics is indeed the best way to move forward.



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user ratings (12)
3.7
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Pho3nix
May 10th 2021


1100 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

The cover alone draws me in. I don't think I've ever listened to Miranda Lambert before - gonna have to check this.



Thanks for the rev!

Nocte
Staff Reviewer
May 10th 2021


14281 Comments


This kind of intrigued me a little while I was adding it to the new releases post. That said I don't think I checked a single at all. Maybe tonight's the night.

Succinct write-up Sowing. Lovely work.

Digging: Diskord - Degenerations

SowingSeason
Moderator
May 10th 2021


38097 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks Pho3nix, Nocte. This has its roots in the big pop-country scene from a personnel standpoint (Lambert is obviously recognizable, but Ingram and Randall are also all over the scene), but it's pretty much only from a personnel standpoint. The songs themselves are stripped down to the bone, and they do very little to dress this up. It's exactly my kind of thing and I love the idea of folks who made it big willingly taking a step back and ignoring the bright lights. I already bumped my score up after listening to it during my morning commute; it's almost perfect for minimal country/folk and my only complaint is a small handful of goofy/predictable lyrics. But even then, it's just a blip and not enough to overpower all the beauty here.

Digging: Bruno Pernadas - Private Reasons

Feather
May 10th 2021


6955 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Sowing becoming a straight up cowboy over the past couple years has been quite a development. Will check this out, I know nothing about any of these 3.

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
May 10th 2021


2404 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This falls right between a 3 and a 3.5 for me right now. I'm not big on the vast majority of contemporary radio country artists, and Miranda Lambert's no exception (not familiar with the other artists on this album), but the review's right that this has a lot more "heart and soul" then you'd expect from these type of artists. Some pretty weak moments but also some very nice highlights, a definite mixed bag for me.

SowingSeason
Moderator
May 10th 2021


38097 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I'm a big Miranda Lambert fan and there's just something so intimate about this

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
May 10th 2021


2404 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Definitely agree that it's an "intimate" listen Sowing, I'll definitely be giving this some more spins and may bump up the rating if it grows on me. At the very least, there's a few songs are here that I expect to be spinning a decent amount.

porcupinetheater
Contributing Reviewer
May 10th 2021


7925 Comments


Hear it was such a rewarding experience they're already working on the follow up, the Bofa Tapes

Clumseee
May 10th 2021


1694 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

What a lovely listen

SowingSeason
Moderator
May 11th 2021


38097 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

First 3 songs are downright mesmerizing, then there's a slight dip but things get good again around Ghost through Tin Man. And the closer is beautiful. Not perfect front to end just as Sunnyvale said, but it really does shine at its best.

SowingSeason
Moderator
May 12th 2021


38097 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Didn't expect Pitchfork to jump on this one, but they did with a respectable score too:

https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/jack-ingram-miranda-lambert-jon-rand-the-marfa-tapes/

Clumseee
May 12th 2021


1694 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Anchor is SO nice

SowingSeason
Moderator
May 12th 2021


38097 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Hell yeah it is. Even I'll admit that this could have been 4-5 tracks shorter, but my God is the good stuff good. I think I Don't Like It, The Wind's Just Gonna Blow, and Tin Man are competing for my favorite right now.

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
May 18th 2021


2404 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Just bumped my rating on this, definitely a couple gems here.

SowingSeason
Moderator
May 18th 2021


38097 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Love to see it. My least favorites are 'Am I Right or Amarillo' and 'Homegrown Tomatoes'. They're a bit silly and don't fit the intimate vibe as well IMO. But outside of that they do a good job of staying on focus. Highlights for me are: In His Arms, I Don't Like It, The Wind's Just Gonna Blow, Ghost, Geraldene, Tinman, Anchor, and Amazing Grace (West Texas).

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
May 18th 2021


2404 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

My top five are probably The Wind's Just Gonna Blow, Am I Right Or Amarillo (that one just works for me), We'll Always Have The Blues, Tinman, and Amazing Grace (West Texas).

SowingSeason
Moderator
May 19th 2021


38097 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The Wind's Just Gonna Blow is prob my #1, it's just perfect

Rockjocky
May 19th 2021


10 Comments


I wouldn't have given this album a shot were it not for your review Sowing.

I'm an old-style country fan and pop-country normally makes me want to get sick; I generally think of it as music that can't make it as either Pop or Country but this really has me re-thinking Lambert's talent. Lacking slick production, this album shows genuine soul that is missing in this environment of over-produced music.

gryndstone
May 19th 2021


2037 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This was very enjoyable. Something about the one take process is really endearing. I feel like I'm listening to the scenario on the album cover, three people with guitars huddled around a campfire on a warm evening.

SowingSeason
Moderator
May 20th 2021


38097 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

@Rockjocky - I'm sort of the same way, I very much prefer grassroots country. I think this showcases what a pop superstar can sound like when you strip away all the frills. You're dead-on with your analysis of this allowing the soul of the music to shine.

@gryndstone - I imagine the same thing every time; basically an evening sky around a fire with acoustic guitars and some whiskey. Such an intimate environment.

Either of you have a favorite set of songs from this? I specified mine earlier in the thread but am quite interested in hearing other opinions.



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