In­ter­state Gospel

Variety - - Reviews -

Artist: Pis­tol An­nies

La­bel: RCA Records Nashville Pro­duc­ers: Frank Lid­dell, Glenn Worf, Eric Masse

Mis­er­abil­ism has be­come a nearly lost art in Nashville as coun­try mu­sic has grown in­creas­ingly, buoy­antly ex­ur­ban. (You know you’re old if the an­cient joke about play­ing a coun­try record back­ward and get­ting your wife, dog and truck back makes a lick of sense.) But leave it to some of the genre’s lead­ing ladies , whose rea­sons for woe in­clude the dis­en­fran­chise­ment of fe­male artists on the dial, to remember how ful­fill­ing it is to write a song about how life sucks and you still don’t die. “In­ter­state Gospel,” the third al­bum from coun­try’s all-fe­male su­per­group — Mi­randa Lam­bert, Ash­ley Mon­roe and An­galenna Pres­ley — is pretty mis­er­able, and pretty great; it’s spirit-lift­ing, see­ing how low they can go.

The trio in­cludes one le­git su­per­star, Lam­bert, who seems even more lib­er­ated by the lack of pres­sure to pro­duce a ra­dio hit (although that def­i­nitely wasn’t the driv­ing force of her last solo record, “The Weight of These Wings,” ei­ther). Her part­ners in crime have fewer com­mer­cial ex­pec­ta­tions to dodge but also thrive in this com­mu­nal en­vi­ron­ment. You can tell “In­ter­state Gospel” is un­con­cerned with airplay not just be­cause of its down-is-up ap­proach to dawdling in dark ter­ri­tory, but be­cause about half of the 15 tracks are waltzes. Now, that’s un­com­mer­cial.

Some­times these three play de­pres­sion for laughs, and some­times they play it for de­pres­sion. It’s a good mix: Just when you think they’re fetishiz­ing pain for fun (a glo­ri­fi­ca­tion that worked out well enough in the hey­day of O.G. mis­er­abilist Porter Wag­oner), they hit you with some­thing that feels lived-in enough to wipe the know­ing-hep­ster smile off your face. It’s not al­ways easy to tell from the first line which way a song will go: Does “I’ve picked a good day for a recre­ational Per­co­cet” por­tend com­edy or tragedy? (In this case, on “The Best Years of My Life,” it’s more the lat­ter.)

The gal­lows hu­mor peaks with a 6/8 bal­lad that has each woman take turns spout­ing coun­try plat­i­tudes about their man — “He’s funny as hell, hot as July / He’s strong when I’m weak and strong when I cry” — fol­lowed by the kicker, “I said that, too, when I was his wife.” Or maybe the light­est-hearted high­light is “Got My Name Changed Back,” a le­gal-pa­pers- cel­e­brat­ing rave-up with a back­story: “Well, I got me an ex that I adored / But he got along good with a cou­ple road whores.” Lam­bert takes sole lead vo­cals here, as the tune skips cho­ruses for scream­ing gui­tar and Do­bro so­los that an­swer her verses. There are one or two pure-swag­ger songs on every

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