The Pistol Annies present an important element to mainstream country as a unique project that compiles well-recognized star power with independent substance and a rootsy sound. Ahead of the release of their third album Interstate Gospel, they have made available three new songs which pick up where the trio left off in 2013—presenting music with a bit more twangy tones than you would expect from a major label project, along with songs that are willing to say something off-the-script from today’s radio fare. If anything, these three new songs are even more country than the leading songs from their previous two records.
Beyond the songs themselves, possibly the most important question to ask is which one will be selected as a bona fide single to push to country radio and to the public to help spread awareness of the album, which is ultimately the goal of any single, radio or otherwise. One of the reasons we’ve seen the disappearance of women from the country music charts recently is the unwillingness by the industry to champion specific tracks.
With Kacey Musgraves’ recent album release, two songs were sent to country radio simultaneously, damming both from being considered legitimately for the radio format, and also confusing playlist curators as to what should be the focus. With the din of music and information the public is faced with every day, it is imperative one song and one song only is marked as the spearhead for a given project, pushed forward until the public becomes weary of its powers, and then a second single is selected.
Whether it’s any of these three songs, or another selection from the new album, it’s important one song from the Pistol Annies is settled upon to give radio and playlists the option to include it en masse. If the single ultimately fails, so be it. But it shouldn’t fail because no effort was made, or because it was unclear what the lead single was.
“Got My Name Changed Back”
This is classic Pistol Annies, with the saunter and attitude the band has built their personas around. The Pistol Annies aren’t just a country music supergroup. They’re a performing troupe imbued with the thematic approach of women outsmarting their men, enacting revenge, or at times outright taking advantage of the opposite sex for their own personal gain. “I broke his heart and I took his money,” Miranda Lambert sings victoriously, but at the heart of this song is a very country theme many can relate to involving divorce, while also revitalizing the classic country approach of confronting taboos of the American South—something also at the heart of the Pistol Annies project.
The “Yeah Yeah!” lines could have been toned down a bit, but this is what The Pistol Annies do, and that answer chorus will be a fun moment from the stage when “Got My Name Changed Back” is featured live.
Possibly the biggest takeaway from the song is the extended breaks both the dobro and electric guitar are given. Instead of wearing out the theme of the track with additional verses, it becomes an instrumental exhibition to fill the time. Though The Pistol Annies are far from radio darlings, this is still a mainstream project recorded and released under the auspices of Sony Nashville. More instrumentation is always a welcomed element from Music Row, and also makes the song more appealing to the opposite sex. Even if you’re not receptive to the theme of post-divorce freedom, you can’t helped be sucked in by stellar musical performances, while giving the song a good energy.
Drawing from the sense of freedom one succumbs to when you take the ramp onto the highway with no intention of exiting for hours, the title track of the Pistol Annies impending third album draws parallels to this sensation, and the uplifting and unburdening of the spirit when immersed in the songs or stories of the Holy Ghost. Led mostly by Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe, “Interstate Gospel” should be a good tone setter for the upcoming album. The Pistol Annies have always offered an escape of the mind for listeners, and who doesn’t daydream of freedom-inducing road trips when mired in the doldrums of everyday life?
Like “Got My Name Changed Back,” “Interstate Gospel” is rootsy and woody in its musical approach. It lets the lyrics set the mood, but then is willing to leave some of the storytelling to the instruments themselves, setting an up-tempo experience to match the pentameter of the white lines passing under the wheels of a road trip.
“Best Years Of My Life”
A slow ballad with sentimental lyrics, “Best Years of My Life” shows a willingness to admit to vulnerability and regret by the Annies, and is also more lyrical driven and thoughtful compared to the other two early tracks. Though a band like Hellbound Glory may tip its hat to slipping the term “Percocet” into a country song rhyming it decently, the pentameter of this first line of this song creates an initial speed bump in the otherwise smooth track. But “Best Years Of My Life” settles into being an emotionally-stirring song and performance, willing to admit there are consequences to the behavior often unfolding in others Pistol Annies songs, which is a lost sense of purpose and the attempt to fill it with intoxicants and other self-destructive behaviors.
To understand what the Pistol Annies do, you have to buy into the fantasy element they look to set in their music. It’s escapism. But no fully-fleshed narrative is complete without repercussions, or a presentation of the other side of the coin. This is what “Best Years Of My Life” accomplishes.