“We’re on fire I think, so stop drop and roll one” cry The Pistol Annies at the beginning of their November 2nd release Interstate Gospel. One of the highlights of the album for me, summarizing a feeling of not knowing what you can do when in trouble but enjoy yourself. A theme of self care continues throughout the album, such as on “Best Years of My Life” when Miranda Lambert sings “I picked a good day for a recreational percocet/I’ve got a need to just get high” or on “Changed My Name Back” as the group celebrates cutting out the toxic people in your life.
What I love about The Pistol Annies is that they’re women putting themselves first. They’re not the typical pop country woman pining over a man or upset that he left her, they are independent souls taking care of themselves. In a genre dominated by excessively masculine posturing singer songwriters, The Pistol Annies capture a distinctly feminine and empowering mood. I’ve only been a fan of Lambert for a few months, and never heard of Ashley Monroe or Angaleena Presley, but this country supergroup is a powerful combination of singers as evident from this album alone. These songs aren’t the stereotypes of modern country women so perfectly embodied on Taylor Swift’s first three albums, these are complicated characters with sometimes self contradicting feelings. “Cheyenne” so beautifully illustrates the complex set of emotions of admiration for someone to the point of wishing to become them, despite their often prevalent flaws.
The musicianship is as fantastic as the lyrics are powerful. Guitars serenade over often frustrated or lamenting words to weave together a complicated emotional soundscape. Fiddles and mandolins punctuate the background of guitars and drums in a typical but beautiful execution of modern country. Rhythmically interesting tracks like “Sugar Daddy” pepper a bit of groove into the album, and the rocking title track “Interstate Gospel” is just about the best country song I’ve heard out of Nashville in years. Mariachi horns contrast with an electric guitar on “Leavers Lullaby” for a compelling portrait of abandonment.
The Pistol Annies are what country music should be in 2018. Completely alien to the modern Nashville sound that Steve Earl beautifully skewered as “rap for people who are afraid of black people.” It relishes in the roots of country while staying distinctly grounded in the modern production style. Far from a throwback act like Colter Wall or Hank Williams III, Pistol Annies are bringing a breath of fresh air to a genre that desperately needs it.
The Pistol Annies’ Interstate Gospel is available now for MP3 Download and CD purchase on Amazon.
Elizabeth von Teig is a musician and author living in Brighton, Massachusetts. Her expertise is classic rock, folk punk, and the blues.