Pistol Annies – the trio of singers and songwriters Miranda Lambert, Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe – has been praised for their 2013 LP Annie Up, a dry collection of songs about drinking and divorce.
The album, however, was released during a critical reversal in the Land Jump, which resulted from the record-breaking success of Florida Georgia Line and Nelly's "Cruise", which had appeared on the radio just a few weeks earlier Annie Up, Over the next five years, the mainstream country has largely accepted the submission, which offered "Cruise": male voices singing about parties, and women about smooth, pop-affine production. The ethos of the Pistol Annies, who are pervading their Classicist country with desperation and misfortune in profound arrangements, has not been welcomed in the mainstream of the genre for some time.
Her solution? They doubled the Roots mix over the last decade, and brought together the Monroe roots in East Tennessee, Presley's hard-nosed Kentucky country rock, and Lamberts Texas honky-tonk. On paper, the latest Annies, like his predecessors, focuses on the kind of small urban drama the group has become known for. Their songs are populated by men and women struggling with prescription drugs, marriage, midlife crisis and malaise (and marijuana).
Unlike previous efforts, where their stories depended on a heavy dose of dark humor, the songs continued Intergovernmental Gospel convey a much more intimate personal urgency. The result of the housewife's harmony blues on "Best Years of My Life" to Lambert's haunting ballad after the divorce from "Masterpiece" is a sharply rendered sketch of wounded hearts and shaken souls, which remains the group's most moving work to date.
Much of the success of LP 3 can be attributed to songwriting, which is sharper, deeper, and funnier than ever. Songs like "When I was His Wife" and "Commissary" follow the pathetic, laughing pathos of John Prine and tell stories of bleak misfortune with a shrug of his shoulders. When they spit out a brand-name liner ("even old Moses was a basket"), they do so sparingly, often in the moment their otherwise sad bag tales could use a pick-me-up. And when the group in the third person writes like "Cheyenne," an ode to a woman who is not burdened by decent jobs and eager men, it shows that she shows more of herself in her characters than ever before.
For the last five years, Monroe, Presley and Lambert have each experienced some of the earth-shaking life-changes – marriage, divorce, birth – that they have skillfully documented in their careers in songs and on Interstate, The Annies sing and write from the other side of the heart and eternal love, freshly educated families and recently broken families. This album reflects a compelling closeness to their material, from the new single manifest "Got My Name Changed Back" to the new single "Leavers Lullaby". "There would be no deserting," Monroe sings devastating clarity regarding the latter, "if it were easy enough to love someone."
But the most influencing element of Intergovernmental Gospel The group may focus more on ancestry and ancestry, on the ways in which family traditions, traumas, and patriarchal practices are passed down from generation to generation. "Milkman" is a moving sketch of a mother-daughter relationship delivered with deep empathy. At the heart of the album is "5 Acres of Turnips," a bluegrass blues infused with Sixties Girl Group pop, subtly incorporating a family's ambiguous, turbulent past into a metaphor perhaps for the tortured heritage of the American South. In the song, Presley and Lambert conjure Bobbie Gentry's "Ode to Billie Joe," the band's "King Harvest (Will Surely Come)," and "Merry Go Round," by Kacey Musgraves, while sketching out the rough details of a family from their own Family long plagued will own buried story. "Generations of shame," Lambert sings, "in the name of my grandfather."
The 14 songs up Intergovernmental Gospel tell a close-knit tale of adult disquiet, bitter-sweet farewells and hard-won independence. The Pistol Annies are several albums for their own individual and collective careers. They are less interested in singing that they are tearing down the homes of their ex-husbands than their own boring life to start afresh. "Wild and exhausted," as the pistol Annies put it. "Pay what it costs to feel free."