Album Reviews | Angaleena Presley – American Middle Class (2014)

Annie UpI may not have the greatest ear for country music, but I have a pretty good ear for accents and regional dialects. One of my complaints about the Pistol Annies‘ excellent 2013 album Annie Up was that at times even I couldn’t tell which one of the three singers — superstar Miranda Lambert, emerging star Ashley Monroe, and then-still-unknown Angaleena Presley — was singing, since they tended to sound alike. Lambert‘s voice is actually the most recognizable of the three (she is a megastar, after all), but since Presley hadn’t released any material on her own, it was tough to isolate her voice. Now that I have spent some time with Presley‘s debut American Middle Class, I’m really surprised by how Appalachian the flavor is; there’s definitely a more Americana feel to this.

Lambert is from Texas, a state where everything is bigger, or so the motto goes (I’ve never been there). Not surprisingly, Lambert‘s music tends to favor theatricality and even bombast at times, and sounds the least Nashville of the three. (Her albums also tend to be much longer than most country efforts.) Monroe is from Knoxville, Tennessee, and her debut is more typical Nashville — clocking in at just a half hour, Like a Rose more or less embodies the traditional Nashville sound. On American Middle Class, Presley‘s Kentucky roots are on display, especially lyrically, where she touches on hillbilly America subjects such as having a baby out of wedlock (“Knocked Up”) and the working poor who have no means of lifting themselves out of their plight (“American Middle Class”). The music moves at a measured, languid pace, eschewing the flashiness of pop country for careful arrangements designed to allow the details of the record’s portrait to sink in. Overall, it’s a strong debut that’s totally immersive and authentic.

8.5
Great

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