Angaleena Presley is perhaps best-known as one third of the chart-topping country trio Pistol Annies alongside Miranda Lambert and Ashley Monroe. As part of the band she released two albums – Hell on Heels in 2011 and Annie Up in 2013 – before releasing her debut solo album American Middle Class in 2014. That album was a moderate hit for the singer-songwriter peaking at number 29 on the US Top Country Albums chart. Three years on from that release, Angaleena has released her eagerly anticipated second solo record Wrangled.
For Wrangled Angaleena has teamed up with the cream of country music’s talent including her Pistol Annies bandmates Miranda Lambert and Ashley Monroe, Chris Stapleton, Wanda Jackson and Guy Clark. Sonically the album is a million miles away from the mainstream female stars of the genre such as Kelsea Ballerini and Maren Morris. Wrangled harks back to and embraces traditional Country and Americana tackling real-life issues and firmly establishing Angaleena as one of the feistiest women in the genre.
Opening track Dreams Don’t Come True starts off lo-fi before revealing an autobiographical tale that warns dreams and reality are very often not the same thing. Angaleena sings about expecting to land a top record deal and getting hooked on drugs before conceding ‘but I wound up pregnant and strung out on love.’ The track was written with Lambert and Monroe and it’s a surprisingly stark opening to the record.
Second track High School explores the trials and tribulations of being young, not fitting in and being weighed down by expectations. It’s a theme that many can relate to and the wistful instrumentation is fitting for the track.
Wrangled goes to some dark places over its 12 tracks. Only Blood, co-written with Chris Stapleton and featuring his wife Morgane on backing vocals, sounds like a pleasant romantic ditty until you unpack the lyrics. You soon discover it’s actually a tale of domestic abuse and reaching the breaking point. Mama I Tried is a confessional apology to from Angaleena to her mother as she admits to cheating and lying throughout her life over rock-tinged rhythms.
Perhaps the boldest and most stinging moment on the record comes on Country. The fast-paced track sees Angaleena laying down her criticisms of the modern country scene in Nashville and the unfair disadvantage that women have. Unexpectedly the song features a rap from Yelawolf and a shout out to Sturgill Simpson for blazing a path that fights against contemporary Country.
Outlaw offers an interesting contrast to Country with Angaleena admitting that she is attracted to the appeal of making it in the mainstream if for no other reason than to have an easier life. She does admit in the opening verse that it’s a case of the grass is greener but you can understand the conflict for an artist such as Angaleena who is critically acclaimed but commercially not quite where she should be.
The album comes to a close with the punchy, tongue-in-cheek Motel Bible where Angaleena sings about indulging in bourbon enabling Jesus to speak back to her. Alcohol is a common theme in country music but I’ve not heard it sound quite this biting in some time.
Wrangled is an album that deserves a much wider audience than it’ll likely get. Getting on country music for female artists is tough unless they have a pop bent or are collaborating with a male artist. Angaleena has a lot to say in her music and it’s something that country music fans should be listening to. Wrangled is a bold record that doesn’t soften its punches and that makes it all the more enjoyable.
Track List: 1. Dreams Don’t Come True 2. High School 3. Only Blood 4. Country 5. Wrangled 6. Bless My Heart 7. Outlaw 8. Mama I Tried 9. Cheer up Little Darling 10. Groundswell 11. Good Girl Down 12. Motel Bible Record Label: Mining Light Music Release Date: 21st April 2017