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Pistol Annies

Annie Up – 2013 (Sony)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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CDs by Pistol Annies

For those who thought "Hell on Heels" was a one-off side project for Miranda Lambert (along with sidekicks Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe), think again. The Annies, aka "Lonestar Annie" (Lambert), "Hippie Annie" (Monroe), and "Holler Annie" (Presley), are no novelty act. Instead, they tackle material that you just are unlikely to hear on mainstream country radio both in subject matter and sonics.

Like the debut, this one also makes it quite clear that this is not merely a vehicle for Lambert to do something under another moniker. Presley and Monroe, who released her own very strong solo disc a few months ago, are equal partners with the three often trading lines within a song. The lead vocalist alters from song to song among the dozen. Lambert's is the most recognizable for obvious reasons (Don't Talk About Him, Tina), but Presley and Monroe more than hold their own with their far more famous teammate.

The first single, Hush Hush is the most obvious radio choice, and it's a good one at that. Catchy (it's easy to imagine a crowd singing "Hush hush" in concert) and cute with a real good melody, the song describes family secrets that ought to remain under wraps.

The songs are not the Stand By Your Man garden variety either as the words to Being Pretty Ain't Pretty, Unhappily Married, Dear Sobriety (with the latter a wish to return to leaving the booze behind) and Girls Like Us can attest. In the latter, the Annies sing: "Girls like us, we don't mess around/We don't tie you up just to let you down/Don't girls like us make the world go around and around." They're out to live their lives, not someone else's. Sort of. By disc's conclusion (I Hope You're the End of My Story), the Annies hope that their man will be around forever.

The sound veers towards the traditional (Tina ) with lots of acoustic guitar, mandolin and vocal harmonies. Pistol Annies also changed things up a bit this time as the sound is occasionally a bit on the heavier side compared to "Hell on Heels." Loved by a Workin' Man has a much denser feel as does the sometimes bluesy lead-off I Feel a Sin Comin' On.

Pistol Annies were tasty the first time around. And it's a good thing that they didn't call it a career after a successful one and done. They avoid the soph slump as well in a sometimes harder-edged disc that still reeks of attitude. Lots of it.