Pistol Annies - Hell On Heels
By: Matt Bjorke
Listening to The Pistol Annie’s Hell on Heels album is like listening to a modern take on the Honky Tonk Angels trio of Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette. Only instead of being three superstar females, The Pistol Annies feature superstar Miranda Lambert and her girlfriends in songwriters Angaleena Presley (writer of Ashton Shepherd’s “Look It Up”) and Ashley Monroe, who has her own solo record deal on Warner Brothers Records after an older one with Columbia Records years ago.
The concept for the album is simple; the girls share lead vocals on different verses of songs and then sing leads on other songs throughout the record. And, a majority of the songs focus on Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe more than Miranda Lambert.
One listen through Hell on Heels as an album and it’s immediately evident that the trio wasn’t really aiming for commercial country airplay with the record. Even the title track lead single (as music video only) has sassiness and a spark not really heard on the radio these days. “Takin’ Pills” is one of many Loretta-like charmers on the album that feature a basic four piece country band backing the trio up with a steady stream of steel guitar audible throughout the album as well.
“Boys From The South” is the first song on the record that feels like it could’ve genuinely been on a contemporary country recording and not just because Miranda takes the lead reigns here. In fact, the song is just a strong story about the charms of southern men and the way they are attractive to women. While the lyrics are vague about what that ‘something’ is, the song still sounds great.
Angaleena Presley has a couple of tracks on the album that she wrote all by herself and they show off the roots of her career in the blues with “The Hunter’s Wife” being a particularly charming track and “Lemon Drop” telling a real story of a person scraping by to make a life for themselves hand-to-mouth.
Ashley Monroe has always been a gifted singer and when she gets the chance to showcase her sound here, on “Beige” and on the group numbers “Hell on Heels,” “Bad Example” and the fantastic closing tune of family dysfunction; “Family Feud.” The latter song rivals Presley’s tunes and “Boys From The South” as the best of the record.
While this record is ultimately more of a showcase for Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe and somewhat of a ‘vanity project’ for Miranda Lambert, it still is a strong album certainly worth listening to over and over again.
Originally posted September 13, 2011.