Ahead of her new album, Miranda Lambert recently released the lonely single “Vice,” complete with a needle-drop-on-vinyl effect at the outset. The singer-songwriter, who previously mined nostalgia with the Top Five hit, “Automatic,” has long included cool, sometimes obscure cover songs in her live shows.
At a tour stop in Bangor, Maine, last Sunday, Lambert, joined by tourmates Kip Moore and Brothers Osborne, dusted off a Little Feat tune that coincidentally was also featured that night in Cameron Crowe’s Showtime series, Roadies. “Willin’,” penned by the late Lowell George and included on the influential country-rock group’s first two LPs, was, according to George, the tune that got him fired from Frank Zappa’s band, the Mothers of Invention. “I wrote a song about dope,” he told concertgoers in 1975. But more than just a lonely truck driver’s meditation about “weed, whites and wine,” “Willin’,” famously covered by Linda Ronstadt on the 1974 LP, Heart Like a Wheel, is a thematic precursor to current tunes spun at Americana radio stations throughout the country. In Lambert’s capable hands (aided by a soulful vocal turn from Kip Moore) the song has become a set-list staple during encores on this summer’s Keeper of the Flame Tour.
Also featuring in the concert-closing set is Lambert’s version of Kris Kristofferson’s iconic “Me and Bobby McGee,” for which the audience in Bangor was treated to an additional special guest, introduced by Lambert as “my boyfriend, Anderson East.” In spite of the tune becoming an opportunity for Lambert to highlight her opening acts and band members, East eschewed the solo spot and stood by Lambert as she led the group sing-along. Earlier this year, however, the Alabama-born R&B musician, who is now based in Nashville, did sing on the Sixties soul classic, “My Girl,” when Lambert surprised the crowd at a Chris Stapleton gig where East was the opening act.
The Keeper of the Flame trek continues with upcoming shows this weekend in Maryland and Massachusetts.