(NASHVILLE SKYLINE is a column by CMT/CMT.com Editorial Director Chet Flippo.)
For many years, music fans, myself included, have wished for a Dixie Chicks renewal and rebirth. That was obviously a false hope, as has been proven by solo projects, most notably Natalie Maines’ new solo album Mother. It is not even remotely a country album, and Maines’ recent statements only underline and reinforce her obvious distaste for country music and for country music audiences.
Although the Chicks are performing a handful of shows together through July, a bigger reunion with a new album and an extensive tour would likely have resembled an unhappy shotgun marriage. It would make good reality TV but lousy music. So be it.
The immediacy and the surprise and the genuine originality of the Chicks’ early and great music have faded away, sadly. But songs like “Cowboy Take Me Away” and “Long Time Gone” and “Sin Wagon” will last.
I’m glad we have a present-day trio of women with a large amount of attitude to sort of fill that job slot of chicks who are pissed off about things and who aim to do something about it.
The Pistol Annies came along with their first album Hell on Heels in 2011 and were unafraid to roll out their agenda of visceral music. They were working the same vein of naked and angry music as Miranda Lambert (who, unsurprisingly, is one of the three Annies). Building on the framework and the general sentiment of such fiery Lambert songs as “Gunpowder & Lead,” the first Annies project tackled such subjects as drugs with “Takin’ Pills” and a broken marriage with “Trailer for Rent.”
There was no doubt that these women were packing genuine heat, of one sort or another, and they could well have been dubbed the Sex Pistol Annies. Lambert and fellow Annies Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe are extremely attractive lead singers in their own right. Turn them into a trio, and they’re a dangerous triple threat.
The fact that three such free spirits can create something that is both artistically and commercially successful is about as heartening a development as country music has seen in many years.
Their first album Hell on Heels debuted at No. 1 on the iTunes all-genre chart and then did the same on the Billboard country chart. Songs such as the title track made a large impact.
But make no mistake about it, they are not a novelty act just looking for yucks. With their second album Annie Up, they show real song depth. They can be dead serious in a song such as “Dear Sobriety,” which is an earnest plea:
Please come back to me
I left you high and dry
I’m doomed for good this time
I swore I wouldn’t be
Oh but I’m making a fool of me
I need you desperately
The Annies celebrate their exclusive girls’ club with the song “Girls Like Us,” singing, “Girls like us/We don’t mess around/We don’t tie you up/Just to let you down/Don’t girls like us make the world go round and round?”
Successful female trios in country music have been few and far between. Besides the Dixie Chicks, the only ones that come to mind have been SHeDAISY, the Mandrell Sisters, and Trio, featuring Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton. Add the Pistol Annies to that field, and you have some mighty fine music.