So since Pistol Annies released their debut album ‘Hell On Heels’ last August, I’ve been lapping up their music. As you may have realised, I’ve been a big fan of Miranda Lambert for years so naturally jumped on the PA bandwagon. The album is certainly different to Miranda’s musical standpoint although obviously shows elements of her, and in my view is kind of a modern tribute to Honky-Tonk. The album sounds a fair bit rougher than Miranda’s more clean cut songs, and is decidedly ‘more country’ (if that makes any sense) than half of what is played on the radio in the current scene. It definitely is in line with Miranda’s Texas roots as it pays homage to the Western ‘cowboy’ sound of the 1940s all the way through to the 1970s (not that I’m saying the whole thing is Miranda I just don’t know as much about the other two).
These girls are a modern incarnation of Honky-Tonk Angels and I love it. You only have to look at their latest video for ‘Takin’ Pills’ (released today) to note the cowboy boots, cigarettes, truck driving and truck stops, guitars, liquor and the glaring desert sunshine to see they’re driving this image with full force. No matter what your taste in clothes I think every girl would want to dress like them, and no matter what your taste in women I think every man would want them. Why do I love it? It’s different. A lot of today’s current country music continues in the same vein, and while I have no issue with Nashville’s poppy sound, sometimes the songs romanticise country working class life far too much, it’s all too sweet and pretty and nostalgic. Hell On Heels covers subjects such as divorce, men, women’s struggles, drinking, smoking, unwanted pregnancy, hard times and economic struggle and family feuds. They seem to be far more in touch with real people than most of country today and they do so with a wry smile as they sing about the characters that really inhabit the small towns in America.
Most of all it’s nice to see women singing about more than love and heartbreak. There have always been strong women in country music but it seems like lately the feisty ones are few and far between. I believe the last ones we had were the Dixie Chicks and a lot of their music was still quite Nashville-esque… unfortunately it seems that there is still sexism in country music because if someone like Eric Church had said what they did most people wouldn’t have cared. Having said that, that was nine years ago and I hope that following the silence that arrived in their wake the Pistol Annies are opening up an avenue for more feisty opinionated women to be successful in the industry. Sure, country music in general will never be able to say or sing about the things that pop and rock stars do, but that’s part of the origins of the genre. There is definitely more room for equality between men and women in country and I believe the Pistol Annies can begin to make that change again. When Honky-Tonk and Western styles originally came around there was little acceptance of ‘loose’ women, but in this modern age I think people are much more comfortable with the idea and hopefully PA will use their position to voice some issues and equal the score a little.
It’d be nice to see someone push the boundaries again, if only for a little while.