News in late September that the Annies were working together again five years after the release of their sophomore album “ Annie Up” understandably sent their fans into a frenzy on social media. Individually Miranda, Angaleena and Ashley are three of country music’s most talented and respected artists, all at the top of their game right now………put them together and you just know that the results will always be something very special indeed and this is surely one of the most widely anticipated albums in a very long time!
The ladies have all been busy with solo projects and their personal lives ( I’ll just leave that one here!!) but are apparently constantly in touch and the trigger for this album came from a song Miranda began to write. With the first verse and chorus of “ When I Was His Wife” completed she knew immediately it was one for the Annies, sent what she had to the other two members and within five minutes both had replied with verses of their own! Hello album number three! They holed themselves up for a few days at a time over a couple of months , coming up with twenty or so potential songs which have been whittled down to thirteen for this release, the titles mailed out to fans on postcards! Several of the songs were made available in advance, too, only whetting appetites even more!
“ These are our stories, our friend’s stories and your stories. Our hope is that when you listen, you feel some of the magic that we felt when we were writing these songs” they say of the tracks they all co-wrote ( the one exception being the closer, “ This Too Shall Pass” which was composed by Angaleena and Ashley ). Once more Frank Liddell is at the helm as producer ( he has worked on all three of their albums ) alongside Glen Worf ( who also co-produced “ Annie Up” ) and Eric Masse, and there are some superb musicians on the project. Not really wanting to single out any in particular I feel I must mention the incredible pedal steel and lead guitar throughout, and it’s great to hear some beautiful piano on a coupe of the tracks and even some brass on “ Leaver’s Lullaby”. Vocally, whether individually ( the three quite often take a verse each in a song) or in harmony, the album is, as expected, stunning!
Over all my thoughts are that this is generally a much more reflective, observational collection of songs than we have heard on the Annies past albums, and my favourites from it do tend to come from the thought provoking ballads . “ Best Years Of My Life” is a particular heart wrencher, despite starting off with a line that I noticed evoked laughter when they performed at the Ryman recently ….. ” I picked a good day for a recreational percocet “ Ashley sings at the beginning of this pedal-steel heavy lament about woman trapped in a loveless marriage who copes by self medicating. Then there’s “ Milkman”, a stripped back track in which a daughter wishes that her mother had lived a more colourful life herself so that she’d be less likely to criticise her own wild side. Towards the end it flips to wonder if their mother has any regrets, but even if she does it is too late now to change her straight laced existence. The woman singing that song could even be “ Cheyenne”, on the surface a fun loving, beer drinking gal who picks up cowboys in bars but never seems to get too attached to anyone. But it seems there is something dark in her past that has made her like this …..“ nobody can blame her for the chip on her shoulder” ….we hear early on in the track, giving her an air of mystery.“ Leaver’s Lullaby”, “ Masterpiece”and the afore mentioned “ When I Was His Wife” are all ballads which reflect on the end of relationships in their own ways and I could easily write an essay on each but will spare you….just go listen!
That’s not to say that the album devoid of the Pistol Annies renown fun, the lead single, the catchy upbeat “ Got my Name Changed Back” ( of course another divorce inspired write! ) and accompanying video is definite proof of that…Yeah Yeah!! “ It’s not about us at all! ” Angaleena joked in a recent interview in which they also listed the stats that between them the three have two ex-husband, two husbands, two kids ( one on the way) and twenty five animals.
And then there’s the title track , a clever and often irreverent look at the church signs seen so frequently by the roadside in America’s bible belt ( plus a few they made up themselves apparently!) which of course is appropriately gospel tinged sonically and features some fantastic honky tonk piano. “ Sugar Daddy” with its fabulous bass line and blues groove is also full of Annie’ s sass, each of them taking it in turn to describe what they’d ideally like out of such a relationship which tells you a fair bit about their characters! “ Stop Drop And Roll One” is total fun, a tribute to the great relationship Ashley, Angaleena and Miranda have and was apparently the result of Miranda shouting out during one of their writing sessions “ We’re on a roll here, maybe we should stop, drop and roll one” which lead them to halting work on “ Name Changed Back” to get this one written!! Who wouldn’t want to be a fly on the wall at one of their retreats?
In case you haven’t realised yet, I’m already totally bowled over by this album , having had access to it for just a couple of days it’s definitely one of my “ albums of the year” and with every listen I hear something different, whether it’s a lyric, harmony or arrangement. I just want to shout from the rooftops that any true country music fan needs it in their life ( I’m confident that most reading this already have it! ) Thank you, Pistol Annies , for continuing to fly the flag for country music in general and for female country artists in particular. And yes, ladies, I for one feel the magic!
- “Interstate Prelude”
- “Stop Drop and Roll One”
- “Best Years of My Life”
- “5 Acres of Turnips”
- “When I Was His Wife”
- “Got My Name Changed Back”
- “Sugar Daddy”
- “Leavers Lullaby”
- “Interstate Gospel”
- “This Too Shall Pass”