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Hell on Heels ()

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Relieving the pressure of delivering her eagerly awaited fourth album, Miranda Lambert formed the Pistol Annies with Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley, two similarly minded singer/songwriters whose profile doesn't come close to matching hers. Lambert may be the star, but she's not the leader in Pistol Annies, who are a remarkably democratic supergroup, sharing leads and writing songs where the spotlight shifts from one singer to another. Often, the group's spare, simple arrangements, acoustic underpinning, and wry wit recall the Dixie Chicks, but the Pistol Annies' sensibilities are more straightforward than the Chicks; they don't bend genres or delve into bluegrass, and the focus remains on the song. And Hell on Heels, their quickly recorded and released 2011 debut appearing just months before Lambert's Four the Record, is filled with excellent songs, tunes that aren't flashy but are deceptive, built on strong bones, and delivered with a clever flair. There's a lightness to Hell on Heels that wasn't apparent on Revolution - it's clear that collaboration has liberated Lambert, she's not having to deal with the expectations of a major artist, but rather gets to cut loose and have fun, something that winds up reaffirming her status as a major artist. She tosses off songs with casual confidence while introducing the larger world to two fine singer/songwriters in Monroe and Presley. Miranda's career will certainly thrive, and Ashley and Angaleena may go on to their own success, but with any luck, Pistol Annies is not a one-off for the trio, but rather a regular gig: this is too much pure fun to not repeat. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi Hide synopsis

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