ALBUM REVIEW: Pistol Annies – ‘Interstate Gospel’

Well, haven’t we all waited 5 looonng years for this record?! The Pistol Annies are BACK! I am so sickeningly gleeful at this… at the moment it’s probably the most talked-about record in country music, and so it should be! The only words I can use to describe this record are… ‘Pistol Annies’. They have created their own sound completely and it spells out ‘3 badass real women take on life’. These women have experienced a lot in this past 5 years, whilst taking on their own very successful solo careers; their personal lives have been on a tad of a rollercoaster. As they have mentioned several times in the press leading up to the release they have ‘2 husbands, 2 ex-husband, 2 babies, one on the way and 24 animals.’ I mean… how cool! The past 5 years have been reflected impeccably on this record. Now let’s get our nails into ‘Interstate Gospel’.

We have already heard 6 songs prior to the release, immediately showing us the diversity of the record. We have sassy, punchy, ‘middle finger’ kinda country with the first single ‘Got My Name Changed Back’ and also ‘Stop, Drop and Roll’, and then we have the ballady, ‘late night drinking’ kind with ‘Best Years of My Life’ and ‘Masterpiece’. The thing with the Annies is, if one of their songs comes on the radio without an introduction, you’d just know it was them, the way the words are put together and the lyrical style. For example, I could give a good guess as to which of the 3 wrote which line; I reckon Angaleena came up with “Get this thing off of me, where in the hell is my bra?” – you can always guarantee, she’ll be the one who brings what shouldn’t leave a female’s conversation into a song. She doesn’t have a filter in that kind of sense, whereas Miranda doesn’t have a filter in a different kind of sense. “I got myself an ex that I adore, but he got along good with a couple old whores”. I mean, I won’t even go into it, as you already know! Whereas Ashley will always be the one writing about getting high – “I’ve got an edge to just get high.”

The songs that had not yet been released until today, which lie undiscovered, are the deep and dark gems of the record such as ‘Milkman’. This song is probably my favourite off of the record. It’s just so heart-breaking; it lies so bare in the middle of ‘Interstate Gospel’. It kind of comes as a shock, being so unexpected and so, so beautiful. I imagine a huge percentage of the Annies’ audience are women, and this song will touch any woman. It’s the kind of song you send to your mum and say “listen to the lyrics… oh, and I love you” – that’s certainly what I’ll be doing. Specifically, the lyric “sometimes I think mama wants to be more like me, but it’s too late coz her hair’s grey and the years have started showing on her cheeks. Coz mama never did have nothing but Daddy and me.” This lyric is so pure and in a strange way paints a beautiful image, whilst at the same time breaking your heart. It’s that classic thing of, your mum looks after you when you’re young, then the roles slowly reverse, and as this is happening, your mum begins to live her life through you. It’s a topic that almost everybody can relate to.

Moving on to the song, which everyone is most likely itching to hear is ‘When I Was His Wife’. Obviously with ‘the divorce’ that was so highly publicized since the last Pistol Annies record, this song title is so interesting. This song speaks for itself. This is a good, pure and simple country song, with the twist coming as early as the end of the first verse, with the breakdown of what is described to be a perfect marriage. ‘When I Was His Wife’ is not the only song on the record that comes from the breakdown of a marriage; ‘Masterpiece’ is, also. This perhaps more concentrated on the aforementioned marriage, as it was very much in the limelight, and a masterpiece is something to be admired; the definition of something perfect. “Baby, we were just a masterpiece, up there on the wall for all to see.” The difference with this song is it’s telling us everything ‘seems’ perfect, stressing the word ‘seems’. It’s as if admitting it makes you weak. It’s an act, it’s clouding the truth. “Our knuckles white, we held on tight, coz the longest ride, makes the crowd go wild.” – this lyric is so honest and real to this particular situation, it’s actually painful. You do ask yourself the question, if you had it, would you want to let it go?

‘Cheyenne’ is a song about wishing to be a cold-hearted woman when it comes to love. Anyone relate? Well, I’ll let you in on a secret, I’m Cheyenne… haha. This song will split listeners in half, you’re either the author or the character in this situation, and you can firmly connect with either through the lyrics. “If I could treat love like Cheyenne, if I could be just as cold as the beer in her hand, if I could move men and mountains with a wink and grin.” Obviously the author of the song has been terribly scarred by love in the past, so she is wishing to disconnect her heart from it all, as it just makes everything easier, even if we hate to admit it.

Something we can’t not talk about when discussing this record, is the harmonies these 3 women create… WOW! I mean, some of the songs are structured around having a vocally harmonic bridge, just the vocals alone. I feel the harmonies are imperfectly perfect. I assume they record the vocals in a live setting at the same time, and I feel this comes across in the record. You can feel the emotion and each vocal trying to find where each other is. It’s genuinely quite magical. I feel you can hear this tremendously in ‘Milkman’; for example, the bridge is just 3 vocals and an acoustic guitar, each vocal singing its own different melody, kind of like they’re improvising. Yet somehow it works impeccably.

Now, I am pretty biased, as I really do love and appreciate the Pistol Annies, not only for their truthful and honest songwriting, but due to each individual woman. They genuinely don’t have to do this (release this record). They could continue to write these songs and release them individually, judging on what song suits each solo artist. Each of them is successful and talented in their own right. Somehow, they find some left-over magic, in which to create masterpieces such as ‘Interstate Gospel’ and their previous records. They don’t try to fit in with what the genre is telling them to do, especially these days. They write, perform and release their heart and soul, just because of the love of it. They are 3 women, who get together, drink wine, maybe smoke some weed and write songs; it just so happens they can pop to the studio the next day to record what could perhaps be their next single. If you want to hear some genuine country music, go and listen to ‘Interstate Gospel’, it doesn’t get much more transparent than that.

Shannon Hynes
@s_hynesmusic