Angaleena Presley Goes Out On Her Own

Angaleena 2Angaleena Presley, a member of the Pistol Annies, recently released a solo album called American Middle Class. In it she establishes herself as an alt country force with smart honest lyrics, and a wide array of musical influences. Her slightly husky voice is at times haunting, and then blunt, confronting life’s tragedies and disappointments without pretense. Each track leaves the listener with the sense that Presley has seen her fair share of hard living, and she wants the rest of America to see it too.

The first song, “Ain’t no Man,” sets the tone for the album, immediately laying on Americana guitar and introducing the electric organ. She uses a series of vivid metaphors to describe a woman who has closed herself off from love. For example she sings, “Sturdy as a trailer in a hurricane, sweet as the smell of turpentine,” and, “mean as a snake in a small town zoo, ain’t nobody who could ever get to her hear.” Ignoring the traditional verse chorus form popular on the radio today in favor of uninterrupted narratives, its clear Presley is a different kind of country artist.\

It’s easy to pick out the gospel and blue grass influences throughout the album, both in instrumentals and the imagery of her lyrics. The steel guitar and banjo can be heard throughout the album alongside acoustic and electric guitars. She also sings about church, the devil, and sin in a way that places those things as symbols of the culture she is representing.

AngaleenaPresley also tackles the problems small middle class communities are facing that are often ignored or pushed under the rug. In “Pain Pills,” and “Dry County Blues,” she confronts boredom as a disease that people are self-treating with alcohol and drugs, and the damage that creates in the community. She subtly draws attention to the fact that much of this is due to the economy, and the loss of middle class jobs, “half the county’s laid off, laid up, or getting high.”

In my opinion, Presley really shines in her ability to root the album in a physical place and time. “All I Ever Wanted” ends with a recording of a drug addicted neighbor reciting scripture, and the title track, “American Middle Class,” features her father, a Kentucky coal miner, talking in an actual mine where he works. Though Presley is not shy about bringing up sensitive issues, she maintains a respect for the people and place she is singing about. She comes across more as if she is sympathizing rather than condemning.

I truly enjoyed American Middle Class and its more traditional country sound. It’s not an album you put on for background noise, but something you really listen to and reflect on. It’s not all serious though. “Knocked up,” and “Drunk,” provide some offbeat humor to contrast with some of the other tracks. Angaleena Presley’s style is somewhat like Kasey Musgraves, so if you like her, and even if you don’t, I highly recommend you give this album a listen.


Filed under Americana, Reviews

2 Responses to Angaleena Presley Goes Out On Her Own

  1. Tom Oren

    I really enjoyed reading this post. I have never heard this album before, but right in the few first sentences you made me want to go listen to it!
    You do a great job describing the way the songs sound, and differentiating between the instruments uses to made her point. I also like the fact that you emphasized the point she makes, and to what audience she is referring to.
    You did a great job describing the artist’s position in the song and as a singer in general, which is helpful to people like me who never listened to the song before.
    I think its important that at the end you mentioned how you like the album, but I would like to know more about how it made you feel as a listener!

  2. Thanks, Elizabeth, for the suggestion. I like “difficult” country music, and so I am looking forward to giving Angaleena a listen. I would be curious to know a little more about her past. For one, is she related to ELVIS Presley? (I don’t imagine it’s a popular last name, but what do I know?). For another, how did she become a member of the Pistol Annies? The only reason I know the Annies is because they appear in the Blake Shelton song “Boys ‘Round Here,” but my impression was that they were all fairly famous in their own right (Miranda Lambert, etc.). In any case, I’m glad that Kacey Musgraves’ incredible success seems to be giving studios the guts to release albums like this one from up-and-coming female singers. — Dusty

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