Lambert Side Project Pistol Annies Shake Things Up

Angaleena Presley was doing what she usually does at 2 a.m. – sleeping –when the phone rang.

On the other end of the line was Ashley Monroe, who had been hanging out with her friend Miranda Lambert and, perhaps, having a cocktail or two.

“And I went, ‘Hey, this better be important, by God,’“ Presley recalled, her young son sleeping next to her.

“Turns out it was, huh?” Monroe said.

That call 2½ years ago led to Pistol Annies, a concept group of sorts that’s aimed at shaking things up and drawing attention to female singer-songwriters who get sometimes get overlooked in the rush to find the next big star.

“I just happened to be the one that got successful,” said Lambert, whose breakthrough 2009 album Revolution established her as one of country’s elite acts, with Grammy, ACM and CMA trophies to go along with her recent status. “There’s a whole bunch of us that you haven’t heard yet.”

Photo: AP Photo
Miranda Lambert, left, Angaleena Presley, center, and Ashley Monroe, in Nashville, Tenn.

The trio launched the aptly titled Hell on Heels this week. It’s a deep country take on life for the modern woman, running from glam to glum and back again.

Lambert, dubbed “Lone Star Annie,” has been friends with Monroe (“Hippie Annie”) since soon after both signed with Sony several years ago. Monroe met Presley (“Holler Annie”) separately through her publisher.

Monroe decided that late night to put her two friends together after she and Lambert began talking about Presley’s music. The friends started getting together to have fun. Alcohol might have been involved, though no one will confirm it. There was never talk of a concept group or even writing songs together. But eventually the guitars came out, and so did Pistol Annies.

Hell on Heels has an attitude for sure, best evidenced in the title song, the wonderfully tart “Bad Example,” and Lambert’s ode to jerks (“Trailer for Rent”). But it’s more remarkable for its reflection of the times and how poverty and unhappiness are just a decision or two away. There are unpaid bills and plenty of pills. There’s heartbreak and disrespect from a handful of lowlife men. There are hard decisions and wrong choices.

Monroe says the perspective comes from their backgrounds, each of which has been meager at times. The struggles Lambert’s family faced are well-documented by now. Monroe lost her father when she was 13. And Presley actually grew up a coal miner’s daughter in Beauty, Ky., before chucking her college degree and heading for Nashville.

Like life, the album alternates between good times and bad.

“It seems like when we all three got together, that’s what came out,” Monroe said. “We never thought about it, ever. … When we get together to write I guess that part just comes out. We know what it’s like to be struggling.”