‘The Marfa Tapes’ Paramount+ Special Puts a Visual to Vulnerable Moments

After getting nominated for a Grammy Award, Miranda Lambert, Jack Ingram, and Jon Randall are giving audiences an inside, unfiltered look at the making of their 2021 LP, The Marfa Tapes. Their 15-track project is a rarity in the music world. With fancy technology at our fingertips, fewer artists are showcasing raw, live performances. Current albums are filled with pristine, shining production and what these three creatives did on The Marfa Tapes is unique, refreshing, and the documentary only emphasizes that.

The special opens with Miranda Lambert making breakfast while Jack chooses a record to spin on their sunny morning in Marfa, Texas; he chooses a Glen Campbell vinyl. The ambiance is laid-back and rustic; already reminiscent of the feelings that project while listening to the album.

“All these songs speak to all of our lives and we sort of just write down in our journal and put it on tape and that’s what we’re doing here and it’s scary, it’s risky, it’s very very vulnerable to not have any fixes, to not have any production, to just let the wind blow and the birds and the cows and kind of let it be,” Lambert expresses during the opening segment. “They’re really great songs and they’re really honest and I think a lot of people spend, you know, years and years writing songs that just go by the wayside or kind of get lost in a demo-land or are archived somewhere and I thought why not just put out these songs in the rawest form that we could ‘cause that’s where they started. We don’t know what we’re doing but we know we’re supposed to do it.” Miranda

The mission in making The Marfa Tapes was to not only let unheard songs get their moment but to put art out without thinking of the business side of things. They’re overriding the marketing aspects that seem to overtake modern-day music production and consumption.

The first song presented is “Anchor,” where Jack Ingram takes the lead. The others sit around him with Randall on a chair to his side and Lambert on a couch behind him. Right away, their chemistry as musical partners is shown. Lambert’s vocals lean into the chorus but never enough to take away the heartbreaking vocal performance Ingram puts on display. 

'The Marfa Tapes' on Paramount +

The town of Marfa, which is located in western, Texas and has a population under 2,000, was chosen by Randall who had taken a road trip to the town years before. “When I got out here. I couldn’t believe it. My mind was blown at how beautiful and vast and desolate and interesting the landscape was. It felt like I had been here before and I felt like I belonged out here,” he exclaimed. “And I knew when it was time for us to run away, or run to somewhere, we ran to Marfa.” 

Between each take, the three speak candidly about their relationship and about their music. They touch upon how they first met each other, they speak of the “magic” they feel in their peaceful surroundings, and they note the newfound confidence they had when they arrived in Texas together. The confidence they speak of is easily captured by the stripped-down, natural performances. Through every mistake, they laugh it off, and they sing and strum their guitars with ease and an almost intrinsic bliss.

Moments that stand out are the grittiness in Lambert’s voice while singing “Geraldene” and the way she dances when Ingram and Randall jam out during their guitar-heavy portion of the track. The sassiness of “Geraldene” is contrasted greatly with the dark, deep depths of “Ghost:” one of the vulnerable highlights.

Jon Randall gets his spotlight during the performance of “Amazing Grace – West Texas” which acts as the closer on The Marfa Tapes. He sits with the sun setting behind him as he picks at the guitar strings and lets his voice tell the story. When he’s done, the scene cuts to Lambert and Ingram who were watching behind the camera and Lambert is wiping her tears away. 

The special ends with a performance of “They’ve Closed Down the Honky Tonks.” This shot was presented in black and white and Lambert is seen having to take multiple takes. Her voiceover enters as and she states, “Subconsciously it’s hard to sing because it’s a little too real. But that’s why you got friends that are songwriters that are like, ‘Sing it again’ ‘til you get it.”

The Marfa Tapes will be available to stream this Thursday, January 20th, on Paramount+.

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