The Pistol Annies are back for round 2. The all girl trio of Angaleena Presley, Ashley Monroe, and Miranda Lambert made a lot of noise and got a lot of folks talking with their debut Hell On Heels. The ladies are back for more sass, more soul, and more straight up country goodness with their follow-up Annie Up.
Annie Up hits you hard right out of the gate. The bluesy "I Feel A Sin Comin' On" has a leek and sexy lounge feel with some tight harmonies. The sparse instrumental backing really makes the girls three unique voices stand out. They seamlessly slide from that side to a fun look at keeping face with the second track, the lead single "Hush Hush". This song has an upbeat sound and witty lyrics about the lives people lead in front of company. The girls playful poke fun at the deep secrets a family holds, and make you laugh and tap your toes. The playful back and forth looks at marriage between "Unhappily Married" and "Loved by A Working Man" are well done, and show both sides of marriage.
The album goes back and forth between chipper country jams and slow heartfelt ballads, and hits the nail right on the head in most cases. "Damn Thing" and "Don't Talk About It, Tina" are nice upbeat songs with serious twang. These songs are perfect for those who are looking for something more than the same-old same-old from radio. Fun songs don't have to be dumb. The upbeat songs on Annie Up are not brain benders, they still have simplicity and catchiness, but they are not mind-numbingly dumb like the standard radio hit. People seem to forget that traditional country isn't just slow heartbreaking songs, its these barn-burners as well. But, the heartbreaking songs on Annie Up are solid as well. "Blues, You're A Buzzkill" and "Dear Sobriety" are both full of heart and soul. "Dear Sobriety" particularly stands out. Most old country drinking songs are really about the struggles of alcoholism and the pain it causes and eases, not the party atmosphere it has become today. "Dear Sobriety" covers the pain and sorrow that someone struggling with addiction and heartbreak feels. It is a fantastic song.
Straight up love songs are not the norm for the Pistol Annies, but they really deliver a home run on the album closing "I Hope You're The End of My Story". This is my favorite song on the album. It is a sweet, simple love song that sounds earnest and sincere. It isn't overblown with big seeping instrumentals or loud power-notes that most love ballads seem to lean on nowadays. It's quiet and subdued, full of harmony, and it has a sweet message delivered through honest lyrics. I just love it.
The one weakness I see to Annie Up is gender-relatablity. It's not a bad thing, but a lot of the album is directly written for females. "Girls Like Us" and "It Ain't Pretty Bein' Pretty" are the obvious songs in this theme. I just feel like the girl-power hoo-rah can be overbearing sometimes. Of course, I am a man, so maybe its just not aimed at me so I just don't get it. That's perfectly ok, though. I am just being honest, I think the tough girl bit is getting close to cliche and overdone. But, to each their own.
The Pistol Annies are one of the best things going for country music right now. They have traditional sounds and mainstream appeal. The radio world needs some brave souls to blaze a trail if we are going to get it back on track with country music traditions. Miranda Lambert used her name to get these girls front and center, and I thank her for it. They are keeping it country, and I strongly recommend Annie Up!
Stand-out Tracks: "I Feel A Sin Coming On" "Hush Hush" "Dear Sobriety" "I Hope You're The End Of My Story"
"Hush Hush" Music Video