As solo artists, Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley are outspoken about what it means to be a woman in the world. And when the three songwriters join together in the Pistol Annies, watch out: Together, the trio is even more awe-inspiring and empowering.
The Pistol Annies' 2011 debut album, Hell on Heels, is full of songs about women who are tired of conforming to societal expectations or dealing with deadbeat men. But the album also features open-hearted protagonists who are reverent and romantic toward the good guys they've met, which adds welcome songwriting density.
Hell on Heels' music is equally boundary-flaunting: Sassy honky-tonk, plucky country and smoldering roadhouse blues abound — all driven by the twangy, wise-beyond-their-years, multi-part harmonies. The album was certified gold, and peaked at No. 1 on the country charts. The Pistol Annies' 2013 project, Annie Up, adds instrumental grit and features expanded arrangements, and was just as successful, landing at No. 2 on the Billboard country charts and peaking at No. 5 on the overall Billboard Top 200.
With the forthcoming release of the Pistol Annies' third album, Interstate Gospel (due out Nov. 2) and the band's recent return to the stage, it's a good time to look back at the group's career to date and assess where they've been -- and where they're going. Here are the Top 10 Pistol Annies songs.
"Interstate Gospel"From 2018's "Interstate Gospel"
The group's irreverent sense of humor crops up throughout the new song "Interstate Gospel," which likens being on the road to finding religion. The brisk tune, which is driven by boogie-woogie piano, starts with a pun-geared couplet ("Jesus is the bread of life, without him you're toast / Hallelujah, y'all, I've found the Holy Ghost") and then drops some wisdom: "To be almost saved only means that you're lost / Sins are expensive, and Jesus paid the cost."
"Housewife's Prayer"From 2011's 'Hell on Heels'
A cry-in-your-beer ballad, "Housewife's Prayer" features a woman who is tired of her life and ready to take drastic measures. More specifically, she's ready to burn her house down, she's so sick of job and family stress and her household's shortcomings. Heartfelt and resonant, it's a song to which anyone dealing with seemingly insurmountable problems can relate.
"Got My Name Changed Back"From 2018's "Interstate Gospel"
This cheeky, twangy song is an entirely relatable ode to getting rid of your married name after a divorce, and what it means to reclaim your maiden name: "I done let a man get the best of me / Spent an afternoon at the DMV / Got my name changed back." Lambert takes lead vocals, although the rest of the Annies chime in to add well-timed "yeah-yeah"s and pointed harmonies on the line "I broke his heart and took his money!"
"Loved By a Workin' Man"From 2013's 'Annie Up'
Sung and written by Presley, "Loved By a Workin' Man" is an ode to (as the title implies) being in a relationship with a handy dude "with a heart the size of Texas, two arms to hold you tight," she details. "He won't do the laundry, but he'll keep your car real clean / And he'll make you feel like the prettiest thing that he's ever seen." In a nod to the title, the song's instrumentation hews toward grimy blues textures with a hefty rhythmic edge that mimics grinding heavy machinery.
"Boys From the South"From 2011's 'Hell on Heels'
One of Hell on Heels' subtle highlights is the easygoing, pedal steel-brightened "Boys From the South." Co-written by Monroe and Lambert, and featuring the latter on lead vocals, the old-fashioned song is an ode to the charms of Southern boys and men. "Maybe he's in Florida, somewhere in the pines," Lambert sings. "Maybe on the Delta, throwin' out a line / Maybe he's in Georgia, starin' at the stars / Maybe Tennessee, pickin' on a guitar."
"Girls Like Us"From 2013's 'Annie Up'
Another collaborative song, the slow waltz "Girls Like Us" is a sparse, acoustic-based ode to no-nonsense women who keep on keeping on despite external stresses and busy lives: "Girls like us / We don't mess around / We don't tie you up / Just to let you down." The kicker, of course, is this stark reminder about why women deserve respect: "Don't girls like us make the world go 'round and 'round?
"Dear Sobriety"From 2013's 'Annie Up'
"Dear Sobriety" is one of the most powerful Pistol Annies songs. Sung by Monroe, the wrenching, stripped-back tune is from the perspective of someone who's fallen off the wagon and is desperate to get back on. "Dear Sobriety / Please come back to me," she implores. "I left you high and dry / I'm doomed for good this time." Sparse instrumentation and a languid tempo underscore the seriousness of the tune.
"Lemon Drop"From 2011's 'Hell on Heels'
"Lemon Drop" is a quintessential country tune, one that laments a tough life where money's tight ("Bought a TV on a credit card / It'll take me 10 years to pay it off") and luxuries are few and far between. However, the chorus is pure optimism, looking on the bright side: "My life is like a lemon drop / I'm sucking on the bitter to get to the sweet part / I know there are better days ahead." Austere acoustic guitar and brushed drums allow the trio's voices to rise to the forefront, hopeful and wizened all at once.
"Hush Hush"From 2013's 'Annie Up'
This rollicking barnburner, which peaked just outside the Top 40 on the country charts, takes a somewhat-humorous look at families who bury their drama and secrets for the sake of appearances: "Hide your tattoo, put on your Sunday best / Pretend you're not a mess, be the happy family in the front pew." Still, the sardonic tone at the heart of "Hush Hush" points to disapproval of such secrecy, as the chorus asserts: "Hush, hush, don't you dare say a word / Hush, hush, don't you know the truth hurts."
"Hell on Heels"From 2011's 'Hell on Heels'
The slinky, desert-twang title track of the Pistol Annies' debut album is a threat rather than a promise -- and it doubles as a de facto mission statement for the group, something underscored by the fact all three women co-wrote the song and sing on it. Verses describe the various luxury items (e.g., cars, jewelry) the female protagonists have received -- or, in some cases, taken -- from men. It's a script-flipping song about the power wielded by women: "I done made the devil a deal / He made me pretty / He made me smart / And I'm gonna break me a million hearts."