Monday, October 13, 2014

Album Review: Angaleena Presley, "American Middle Class"

As one third of the band Pistol Annies, fans the world over have already been introduced to Holler Annie.  But on Tuesday, October 14, those same fans will get to know the name and voice behind the stage moniker as Angaleena Presley is set to release her solo debut album today.  American Middle Class (Slate Creek Records) is an autobiographical project that sets Angaleena front and center, removing her from the shadows of her Annies' cohorts Ashley Monroe and Miranda Lambert.  

This album is the life story (so far) of Angaleena Presley.  It is a brave, thoughtful and inspiring project that sets the bar high for many singer-songwriters to follow.  The album kicks off with "Ain't No Man", an ode to youthful independence and individuality.  "All I Ever Wanted" speaks to the challenges of being faithful to God and church, but still feeling the desire to go and raise some hell.

"Grocery Store" is a beautiful snapshot of life on a given day in Presley's hometown in Eastern Kentucky, a hardscrabble region of the state where if you elect to stay you can either work in the coal mine or be unemployed.  The title track continues this theme, but what makes this track really special is the inclusion of her father on the record. Mr. Jim Presley introduces "American Middle Class", and this inclusion really lends to the authenticity of the song and album.  If one song could sum up Angaleena's life growing up as a coal miner's daughter, this is it.  It is brilliantly written and beautifully performed.  It is a true highlight of the record.

"Knocked Up" is perhaps the catchiest tune on the album, which describes yet another moment in Angaleena's life.  It offers a somewhat humorous look at a delicate situation that many families world wide have faced over time.  This is a great tune, and speaks to the bravery of Presley to include it on this project.  The topic of her relationship with the baby's father is not left alone with "Knocked Up" as we get an idea of how the relationship may have turned out with "Drunk." 

Angaleena's story is compelling, and it's told in all 12 tracks that she wrote or co-wrote on this album.  There is virtually nothing that is left behind the curtain where this album is concerned.  Songs that deal with small town teenage life ("Dry County Blues"), drug addiction ("Pain Pills") and moving your life forward ("Surrender") are all covered here. Some of the stories presented may not make her too many friends in her hometown, but to present them in any sugar-coated fashion would hurt the authenticity of the song and the story.  This is not to suggest in any way that the stories are presented in a mean-spirited fashion, in fact it is very much the opposite.  The presentation is beautiful, and the listener only feels compassion and love for those involved. 

American Middle Class is an outstanding solo debut from one of the brightest talents to have graced us with her presence.  The songs on this album are real, and they are honest and truthful.  With this debut, Angaleena Presley can take her rightful place among the stellar crop of young female singer-songwriter's who are writing and performing the best country music that is being created today, far away from the clutches of Music Row.  This album is among the best that has been released in 2014, and signals to the music world that not only has Angaleena Presley arrived on the scene, she's going to be here for a long, long time.


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