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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Time for a quick trip to Nashville through the music of the Pistol Annies.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BEING PRETTY")

PISTOL ANNIES: (Singing) Being pretty ain't pretty, it takes all day long. You spend all...

CORNISH: These three women: Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley, all have solo career. This is their second collaboration, an album called "Annie Up."

Reviewer Meredith Ochs has been listening up.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I FEEL A SIN COMIN' ON")

ANNIES: (Singing) I feel a sin comin' on. I feel a right that's about to go wrong. I...

MEREDITH OCHS, BYLINE: The Pistol Annies. Their name itself implies a tough country girl persona, and they can back it up. Born in Texas, Miranda Lambert is an avid hunter. Angaleena Presley hails from three generations of Kentucky coal miners. And Ashley Monroe was raised in East Tennessee near the Smoky Mountains. But in song, they don't brag on their toughness. Instead, they utilize big, macho guitar riffs as a musical metaphor for their strength.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I FEEL A SIN COMIN' ON")

ANNIES: (Singing) And you can see it. And you can see all over my face. All over my face. Sweet temptation all over the place. Give me tall dark and handsome, mix it up with something strong. I feel a sin, I feel a sin, comin' on. . I feel a sin. Oh, I feel a sin, comin' on...

OCHS: The Pistol Annies' brand of country incorporates hefty doses of gospel, blues, bluegrass and rock, and they use them cleverly to juxtapose their vibrant narratives. On this song, they offer a strategy for dealing with a disastrous family gathering. Hide your true nature, they say, and keep quiet. But they set it to a boisterous rockabilly rave up that suggests otherwise.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HUSH-HUSH")

ANNIES: (Singing) Well, daddy's reading propaganda. And he's talking about the end of days. Well, cheers to the vodka mama's been sneaking. Let's all gather around to pray. Hush-hush. Don't you dare say a word. Hush-hush. Don't you know the truth hurts. Hush-hush. When push comes to shove it's best to keep it hush-hush.

OCHS: Country music has long been an arena where women speak plain truths about their lives in a way that strongly resonates with fans. But a few do it with a tremendous sense of humor. The Pistol Annies carry on the tradition of Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton on songs like this one, turning mundane complaints of a lengthy marriage into something so funny that you can't help but feel good about it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNHAPPILY MARRIED")

ANNIES: (Singing) You better start working some overtime. Can't buy high heels on nickels and dimes. You're going bald and I'm getting fat. I hate your mom and you hate my dad. Hey. Hey, it's alright. Everybody fusses. Everybody fights. With all of the baggage you and me carry, we'll spend forever unhappily married...

OCHS: The Pistol Annies co-write their material as a group, joining three distinct perspectives, but all clearly resonating with one another. Likewise, there's magic in their harmonies, with Lambert's audacious Texas twang playing off Monroe's melodic vulnerability and Presley's sweet trill. In a year when we've already seen a number of strong releases by female country artists, The Pistol Annies are making a good case for girl power, with three individual voices that are even more commanding together.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GIRLS LIKE US")

ANNIES: (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...

CORNISH: The Pistol Annies' new album is "Annie Up." Our reviewer is Meredith Ochs.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GIRLS LIKE US")

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