Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Pistol Annies

  • Hell on Heels [Columbia, 2011] A
  • Annie Up [RCA, 2013] A-
  • Interstate Gospel [RCA, 2018] A

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Hell on Heels [Columbia, 2011]
Slight, bright, and perfect--Ramones for bad girls, country edition. The ringleader is Miranda Lambert in "Gunpowder & Lead" mode, but they're definitely a trio--Ashley Monroe has a co-write on seven of Lambert's eight songs and Angaleena Presley's "Lemon Drop" is the catchiest of all even if she stole it from John Prine, as is her damn right. After the gold-digging title track, they're poorer than punks even on "Takin' Pills," a road song about three bad girls making their career move. Chirping their expertly executed tunes, scorning the guitar swagger good old boys think makes them so sexy, they're a pop cartoon worth more than gold. Dig? A

Annie Up [RCA, 2013]
A lark evolves into a business proposition as an album of 10 inspired three-minute songs eventuates in an album of 12 expert three-and-a-half-minute songs. Because the three principals are still smart and spunky, some of these are superb: the family dysfunction playlet "Hush Hush," the objectification expose "Being Pretty Ain't Pretty," the 'til-death-do-us-part "I Hope You're the End of My Story." But because the three principals are Music City pros with a release schedule, some of them are merely expert, and two drag big time: the ensemble's five-minute "Blues You're a Buzz Kill," which is the latter solely, and Angeleena Presley's one-dimensional "Loved by a Workin' Man," which kisses up to the usual Nashville-male chauvinist cliches. A-

Interstate Gospel [RCA, 2018]
Did Miranda Lambert/Ashley Monroe/Angaleena Presley, as the composer credits on 13 of these 14 songs put it, come up with the "Jesus is the bread of life / Without him we're toast" opener or lift it from some rakish evangelist I'm too provincial to know about? I wouldn't rule the evangelist out, because while the writing is every bit as sharp as on their near-perfect 2011 debut, these bad-girl and mad-wife nuggets take sin seriously. "Stop Drop and Roll One" and "Got My Name Changed Back" retain the threesome's signature devil-may-care. But there's a deep sadness in "When I Was His Wife"s been-there-don't-do-that, "Leavers Lullabye"'s love-ain't-enough, "Best Years of My Life"'s "hankering for intellectual emptiness," and the blood, sweat, and bitterness of "5 Acres of Turnips." "Cheyenne" envies a gal who can take love or leave it, "Milkman" wishes Mama had cheated, and "Commissary" is so glad the abuser folks fronted for got beaten to a pulp in jail. Even the steadfastly unharmonious path to enduring matrimony laid out by the closing "This Too Shall Pass" suggests the wisdom of maturity. Why am I not surprised the woman who did herself a favor by shitcanning Blake Shelton didn't pitch in on it? A