With the combined musical voices of Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley — all formidable artists on their own — the Pistol Annies have been fearless about exploring complex emotional territory in their songwriting. On their first two albums, Hell on Heels and Annie Up, they envisioned women longing to break free from the expectations of polite society, whether through literal escape of untenable situations or living out fantasies of revenge and reckless abandon. That their skillfully drawn characters weren’t always able to accomplish those things kept the Annies’ recordings rooted in realism that gave even their most rowdy songs some emotional heft.
“I picked a good day for a recreational Percocet,” sings Monroe at the opening and closing of “Best Years of My Life,” a track from the trio’s upcoming album Interstate Gospel, their first in more than five years. Like the Annies’ best songs, “Best Years of My Life” manages to be simultaneously funny and crushingly sad as it offers a look at a monotonous and disappointing marriage. With a languid melody and rhythm that recall Sammi Smith’s immortal recording of “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” the Annies take turns singing about what they have to do to make it through the day — consuming painkillers, mindless television or a nerve-calming cocktail — in a relationship that long ago ceased to be fulfilling or loving. It’s hard to hear about these numbing routines, but the Annies handle the topic with such empathy that it’s impossible not to be drawn in.
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