Sunday, July 17, 2011

Pistol Annies, "Hell On Heels"

Songwriters:  Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, Angaleena Presley

It was quite a surprise when country star Miranda Lambert having fallen into the good graces of country radio, and become one of the genre's biggest stars, introduced her new side project performing as part of the trio known as the Pistol Annies.  Miranda's fellow Annies are Ashely Monroe and Angaleena Presley, the former of whom is an talented but underappreciated country crooner who attempted to break into mainstream country music a few years ago, only to be rejected by country radio.

Though Miranda Lambert is obviously the most famous of the Annies (as reflected by the fact that she is often seen in the foreground in publicity shots, with the other two relegated to the background), it's nice to see that this debut single does not sound like Lambert and the Backing Two.  All three ladies shine as they take turns at the mic, rotating lead vocal duties on different verses, while blending their voices together in harmony during the chorus.

I'm usually not a fan of songs that use a pun (in this case "hell on heels/ hell on wheels") as a title hook.  But in this case it works because the content of the verses is consistently interesting such that that pun doesn't have to pull all the weight on its own.  In "Hell On Heels" the ladies let us know in no uncertain terms that they are merciless maneaters and gold-diggers on the hunt for new victims, while also recounting tales of past flings with unfortunate men.  It's the same sassy attitude that Miranda has become famous for.  All three ladies play the part fabulously on a record that seethes coolness.

But the praise must halt for a moment, as there is one problem with this single.  It's not in the lyrics, nor in the voices, but in the arrangement.  Specifically, it sounds like their drummer doesn't quite know what he's doing.  The percussion on this track is wild and noisy, and it detracts from the cool swampy country groove the song has going.  It doesn't totally sink the record, but it does hinder it from being as great as it could have been.

Still, there's clearly a whole lot of talent in this trio.  "Hell On Heels," is mighty good, but at the same time it seems like it might be only a tease.  Maybe they're giving us something really good to whet our appetites for now, while holding something truly outstanding up their sleeves for later.

It's an exciting thing to think about.  Either way, "Hell On Heels" is still one heck of a good single.

(Scores are given on a scale of 1 to 10)