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Pistol Annies: Plain Truths, Sharp Humor, Three-Part Harmony

May 7, 2013
Originally published on May 7, 2013 8:56 pm

Pistol Annies: The name itself implies a tough country-girl persona, and the band's members can back it up. Born in Texas, Miranda Lambert is an avid hunter. Angaleena Presley hails from three generations of Kentucky coal miners. And Ashley Monroe was raised in East Tennessee near the Smoky Mountains. But in song, they don't brag about their toughness. Instead, on the new album Annie Up, they utilize big, macho guitar riffs as a musical metaphor for their strength.

Pistol Annies' brand of country incorporates hefty doses of gospel, blues, bluegrass and rock, and uses them cleverly to juxtapose vibrant narratives. In "Hush Hush," the trio offers a strategy for dealing with a disastrous family gathering: Hide your true nature, they say, and keep quiet. But the message is set to a boisterous rockabilly rave-up that suggests otherwise.

Country music has long been an arena where women speak plain truths about their lives in a way that strongly resonates with fans — but only a few do it with a tremendous sense of humor. Pistol Annies' members carry on the tradition of Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton with songs like "Unhappily Married," turning mundane complaints of a lengthy marriage into something so funny that you can't help but feel good about it.

The members of Pistol Annies co-write their material as a group — joining three distinct perspectives, but all clearly resonating with one another. Likewise, there's magic in their harmonies, with Lambert's audacious Texas twang playing off Monroe's melodic vulnerability and Presley's sweet trill. In a year when we've already seen a bunch of strong releases by female country artists, Pistol Annies' members only add to a tremendous 2013, with three powerful voices that are even more commanding together.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Time for a quick trip to Nashville through the music of the Pistol Annies.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BEING PRETTY")

CORNISH: These three women: Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley, all have solo career. This is their second collaboration, an album called "Annie Up."

Reviewer Meredith Ochs has been listening up.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I FEEL A SIN COMIN' ON")

MEREDITH OCHS, BYLINE: The Pistol Annies. Their name itself implies a tough country girl persona, and they can back it up. Born in Texas, Miranda Lambert is an avid hunter. Angaleena Presley hails from three generations of Kentucky coal miners. And Ashley Monroe was raised in East Tennessee near the Smoky Mountains. But in song, they don't brag on their toughness. Instead, they utilize big, macho guitar riffs as a musical metaphor for their strength.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I FEEL A SIN COMIN' ON")

OCHS: The Pistol Annies' brand of country incorporates hefty doses of gospel, blues, bluegrass and rock, and they use them cleverly to juxtapose their vibrant narratives. On this song, they offer a strategy for dealing with a disastrous family gathering. Hide your true nature, they say, and keep quiet. But they set it to a boisterous rockabilly rave up that suggests otherwise.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HUSH-HUSH")

OCHS: Country music has long been an arena where women speak plain truths about their lives in a way that strongly resonates with fans. But a few do it with a tremendous sense of humor. The Pistol Annies carry on the tradition of Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton on songs like this one, turning mundane complaints of a lengthy marriage into something so funny that you can't help but feel good about it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNHAPPILY MARRIED")

OCHS: The Pistol Annies co-write their material as a group, joining three distinct perspectives, but all clearly resonating with one another. Likewise, there's magic in their harmonies, with Lambert's audacious Texas twang playing off Monroe's melodic vulnerability and Presley's sweet trill. In a year when we've already seen a number of strong releases by female country artists, The Pistol Annies are making a good case for girl power, with three individual voices that are even more commanding together.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GIRLS LIKE US")

CORNISH: The Pistol Annies' new album is "Annie Up." Our reviewer is Meredith Ochs.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GIRLS LIKE US") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.