The “Annie Up” album cover, by the “Pistol Annies.” Credit:

Sony Music Entertainment (2013)

When you think about it, it would be difficult to lose with a combination like Pistol Annies. Three beautiful country girls loaded with sass and attitude, and voices to match—including the better half of country’s reigning power couple, Miranda Lambert—singing songs that are equal parts naughty and nice. It’s a recipe for success all around, at least in the country market. After the backdoor success of their debut Hell On Heels, right now these ladies could pretty much just show up and stand there, and people would like ‘em.

Thankfully, Pistol Annies’ sophomore effort Annie Up doesn’t take this popularity for granted; instead, it wisely spends the political capital the trio earned in Hell On Heels with a 12-track collection that is anything but a phone-in. The record drips with the flirty, fun, bad-but-not-THAT-bad-girl attitude, particularly in tunes like “I Feel a Sin Comin’ On,” “Damn Thing” and “Girls Like Us”; but at the same time it ventures into some pretty insightful, reflective and sometimes painful territory. “Dear Sobriety,” for example, is an unflinching picture of the pain of alcoholism, while “Hush Hush” shines a light on the skeletons in the family closet. And while “Being Pretty Ain’t Pretty” (essentially a song about makeup) might seem a bit superficial at first, it is actually an honest look at the pressure females feel—and the lengths they go to—to put on the appearance of beauty.

In that regard, while Annie Up has enough sex appeal to keep the men interested, a deeper look reveals that it is really an album by women, for women. It plays like a group of ladies who have gotten together for a night on the town, and the more they drink, the more honest they get. I really have to hand it to Pistol Annies for not wasting the opportunity they were given. They could have simply put out a record to sell records, but instead they used this moment to actually say something. It’s obvious that they aren’t taking their newfound fans for granted; they’ve taken care to make sure Annie Up is well worth the dollars that will be spent on it.

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