Angaleena Presley - Wrangled
It seems like the eternal discussion surrounding country music in Nashville these days is around the value of women in the industry. Two years on from the well documented "salad-gate" episode, the tomatoes in the salad (i.e. women) are still just that; on country radio at least. But it's not just the traditional tomatoes but male singers like Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell who are part of that salad mix. The really interesting thing is that whilst the lettuce (i.e. the mega-selling men) are creatively wilting, the women of country music are making some of the most challenging and interesting music in the whole music industry right now. Adding to that mix with her second record is Angaleena Presley. And after her fantastic debut, American Middle Class, she's taking a grand total of zero prisoners on its follow-up, Wrangled.
If opener 'Dreams Don't Come True', a sobering track suggesting that following the American dream isn't always paved with gold (written with fellow Pistol Annies Miranda Lambert and Ashley Monroe), doesn't signpost the type of record you're listening to, then by the end of its fourth track, the punk-country of 'Country', complete with blazing interlude from Alabaman rapper Yelawolf, then you know we're not in Music Row anymore. The title track's take on the stereotypical view of women ("Ironin' shirts and keeping babies quiet" and "Bible says women oughta know their place"), 'Only Blood' and its final act twist on the murder ballad, the double bass bluesy swagger of 'Good Girl Down' ("It's a man's world and I'm a lady / They'll never understand me"), and 'Bless My Heart''s take-down of two faced Southern women ("And if you bless my heart / I'll slap your face") all cut to the heart of Presley's raison d'être: to shine a light on her experiences of sexism and expectations of women to conform to a particular world view. At times those themes make this an abrasive listen, but Presley's wit and way with words alleviates the important, but heavy, messages. When all's said and done though, Wrangled is arguably the most important album of 2017.