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Pistol Annies: Plain Truths, Sharp Humor, Three-Part Harmony

Pistol Annies: The name itself implies a tough country-girl persona, and the band's members can back it up. Born in Texas, Miranda Lambert is an avid hunter. Angaleena Presley hails from three generations of Kentucky coal miners. And Ashley Monroe was raised in East Tennessee near the Smoky Mountains. But in song, they don't brag about their toughness. Instead, on the new album Annie Up, they utilize big, macho guitar riffs as a musical metaphor for their strength.

Pistol Annies' brand of country incorporates hefty doses of gospel, blues, bluegrass and rock, and uses them cleverly to juxtapose vibrant narratives. In "Hush Hush," the trio offers a strategy for dealing with a disastrous family gathering: Hide your true nature, they say, and keep quiet. But the message is set to a boisterous rockabilly rave-up that suggests otherwise.

Country music has long been an arena where women speak plain truths about their lives in a way that strongly resonates with fans — but only a few do it with a tremendous sense of humor. Pistol Annies' members carry on the tradition of Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton with songs like "Unhappily Married," turning mundane complaints of a lengthy marriage into something so funny that you can't help but feel good about it.

The members of Pistol Annies co-write their material as a group — joining three distinct perspectives, but all clearly resonating with one another. Likewise, there's magic in their harmonies, with Lambert's audacious Texas twang playing off Monroe's melodic vulnerability and Presley's sweet trill. In a year when we've already seen a bunch of strong releases by female country artists, Pistol Annies' members only add to a tremendous 2013, with three powerful voices that are even more commanding together.

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