“I think if you’re from the South, you’re just a little more proud than anybody that’s not,” say Texas-born Miranda Lambert, whose contribution to Southern Family, a concept record about being raised in the fertile, fabled soil below the Mason-Dixon Line, is “Sweet By and By,” a tribute to her parents and the support of family. (Listen to the song below.)
“Family’s the light that guides us, blessed be the ties that bind us/Sweet by and by,” Lambert sings in the dreamy first track released from the all-star compilation. Due March 18th, Southern Family also features Morgane Stapleton’s interpretation of “You Are My Sunshine,” with help from husband Chris, as well as songs from Jason Isbell, Brandy Clark, Jamey Johnson, Holly Williams, Zac Brown and Shooter Jennings, among others.
The brainchild of producer Dave Cobb, who is releasing it on his Low Country Sound label via Elektra Records, Southern Family was initially inspired by a 1978 LP called White Mansions, a landmark country concept album about the Civil War that featured Waylon Jennings and his wife, Jessi Colter. That album was penned by Englishman Paul Kennerley, who would later write country hits for the Judds, Marty Stuart, Patty Loveless and Emmylou Harris (to whom he was also married for eight years).
“Everything on that record spoke to me,” Cobb tells Rolling Stone Country, noting that Kennerley hadn’t even been to America at the time he wrote White Mansions. “I’ve been possessed with it and I try to convert everybody to it for years. I really steal half of my tricks from that one record.”
The exploration of the familial concept wasn’t Cobb’s only reason for pursuing the artists who participated.
“Selfishly, I wanted Chris to be on the same record as Jason Isbell, and Morgane to be on the same record as John Paul White or any of the other people who have done it,” says Cobb, citing a few of the acts who have played a part in his red-hot Grammy-nominated career.
“It’s about bringing these artists that are right under the surface,” he continues. “I think the Stapletons and Isbell and all these artists are artists that are going to matter in the future. They are legitimate timeless artists and this scene is bubbling right under a lot of people’s ears. It’s strength in numbers of having so many gifted, talented artists together, unify, and make one record for the right reason.”
“Sweet By and By” marks Lambert’s first recorded music since her 2014 LP Platinum, which included the Number One duet “Something Bad” with Carrie Underwood.