Angaleena Presley of the Pistol Annies shows she’s ready for the spotlight with a superb second solo album | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Angaleena Presley of the Pistol Annies shows she’s ready for the spotlight with a superb second solo album

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Angaleena Presley is probably the least-known member of brash all-star country trio the Pistol Annies, where she’s flanked by Miranda Lambert and Ashley Monroe, but judging from the release of her second solo album, Wrangled (Mining Light Music/Thirty Tigers), she might ultimately emerge as the most talented. She wrote or cowrote every tune, and follows the same no-bullshit template as her more famous cohorts. On “Groundswell” Presley rejects the suffocating rules of Nashville and laments the sheer grind (“It’s a rainy night in Georgia / And I’m praying that the T-shirts and records will sell”), while on the title track she refuses patriarchal prescriptions over an irresistible country-soul melody (“The girls down at church can go to hell / Ironing shirts and keeping babies quiet / Ain’t no life, it’s a live-in jail”). Though the dopey redneck rap from Yelawolf on the southern-fried mess “Country” isn’t a very interesting tweak, Presley’s nervy indictments of organized religion are stunning: “Only Blood” excoriates the hypocrisy and abuse of a preacher husband before turning his own words against him at the end, sweetly singing, “He was greeted with a pistol and a fire in her black eye / She said I’ve talked to Jesus / And he’s been telling me only blood can set me free.” Likewise, album closer “Motel Bible” converts blaspheming into a virtue: “I can talk to Jesus any time I please / One more shot of bourbon, he’ll be talking back to me.” Altogether, the record represents one of the most appealing subversions of country conventions I’ve heard in years. Presley’s superb studio band toggles between honky-tonk and country rock with a touch of pop gloss, masterfully supporting her soulful voice and sharpening the hooks embedded in her melodies.   v

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