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Angaleena Presley Angaleena Presley
Album: Wrangled
Label: Thirty Tigers
Tracks: 12
Website: http://www.angaleenapresley.com

No reason to undertake extensive Internet research if you want an insightful and hard-nosed female perspective on the business of country music Nashville style.

Listening to this simply terrific album by Angaleena Presley will reveal a lot, possibly all you need to know. Presley describes Wrangled, her second album, as an "explicitly forthright journey" through her experiences of discrimination against female artists at the height of Bro-Country as well as the pain lurking just beneath the surface "of the road for stardom".

This is no dewy-eyed, soft focus look at Nashville, folks. Its thrust, instead, is tart sincerity and bruising passion, embracing an examination of, according to our musical guide on the album, "loss, surrender, resurrection, redemption and connection with real people who make and support honest music" along the way.

At no time is this collection ever gloomy, though. Far from it: it is glorious, an alert and vibrant album that's rammed with gutsy songs and truly, eye-wateringly ful lyrics, wrapped in barbed wire with no holds barred, no barbs missed.

The song modes are punky, some come from twangville, others prove soothing and country-like, with added venom - we are even treated to a Ronettes-style pop track, High School.

Opener, Dreams Don't Come True, is languid and accepting though the deftness of Presley's brilliantly incisive lyrics are evident right at the start: "Dreams don't come true / They'll make a mess out of you / They'll hang around the darkest corners of your mind / They'll beat your heart black and blue". Ouch.

Only Blood is a country classic, a co-write with Chris Stapleton, while the title track oozes out polished and mellow but cutting, too: "I might as well be hog tied and strangled / I'm tired of waking up feeling like I've been wrangled".

Bless My Heart gets the cheeky romp treatment with bile in full flow against spoiled, goody-two-shoes-Daddy's-girl types: "You'd burn Cinderella's dress / So you could feel like the hottest girl at the ball".

Mama, a message to a mother, has a Dave Alvin vibe, while Cheer Up Little Darling is gentle with Guy Clark (a huge support to Presley) supplying the warm spoken intro. Groundswell is plaintif with Presley's vocals never more effective with an icy pedal steel creeping along throughout. Motel Blues rounds things off with foot-stomping, hand-clapping fervour while Presley remains defiant "I can talk to Jesus any time I please / One more shot of bourbon / He'll be talking back to me".

Pistol Annie sisters, Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe as well as Wanda Jackson and Guy Clark all pitch in as co-writers, too - and they are all praised on sleeve notes that are a thoughtful and sprightly read.

Now that Presley's got all this out of her system in such a marvellous way, what will the East Kentuckian from the town of Beauty focus on next? Can't wait to find out.

Mike Ritchie
http://www.mikeritchiemedia.co.uk/