Angaleena Presley And The Country Song As Documentary On her solo debut, the Kentucky-born songwriter and member of the country trio Pistol Annies relishes storytelling. Not all the stories are true, but every one comes from real life.

Angaleena Presley And The Country Song As Documentary

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Angaleena Presley really is a coal miner's daughter. She's from Kentucky, and she draws from her life to produce an autobiographical album in which she says each song is a chapter of her life.


ANGALEENA PRESLEY: (Singing) One traffic light in front of the high school, kids in the park lot, fixing to lie to an old worn out deputy who don't even carry a gun.

SIMON: Angaleena Presley is known to her fans as Holler Annie, from the trio the Pistol Annies. This is her first solo effort. The album is called "American Middle Class." And Angaleena Presley joins us from New York. Thanks very much for being with us.

PRESLEY: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: There's some tough stuff on this.

PRESLEY: There is some tough stuff on this.

SIMON: Drug addiction, alcohol, money problems, dead high school football star - how do you put this into music that people want to hear?

PRESLEY: You know, I don't know.

SIMON: (Laughter).

PRESLEY: It just - I'm just able to do it. I always, you know, I've been creating melodies since I was little girl. I don't know. I think oral history is a big part of my culture, being from the mountains, and I got picked to be the storyteller.

SIMON: Let me ask you about one of these tough and beautiful songs. This one - let's hear about the football hero falling low. This is "Pain Pills."


PRESLEY: (Singing) When Davey dropped dead, the paper said he was a football hero. Kids all cried and their boomers died. And before he was in the ground, Jimmy was up on the strip job sucking another one down. When Cookie got out and took a bow and went to catch the fever, went across town to Dr. Brown, begging for some pain pills, pain pills.

It took me probably about two or three years to finish this song, and the seed was planted when I went home to Kentucky to a funeral, a friend of mine from high school. And when I was at the funeral the, you know, people were saying, you know, he had a heart condition and this and that. And just, you know, nobody was talking about what really happened. He OD'd on prescription pain medication. And so I started the song then, and then over the years, I went to another funeral and another funeral and another funeral. You know, all of these characters in the song are inspired by things that really happened to people that I love.


PRESLEY: (Singing) The girl next door is on the bathroom floor thinking about taken her a little bit more. Ain't never been this bad before.

SIMON: I want to hear your title cut album "American Middle Class." And this is your father, right? Here we go.


PRESLEY: That's my daddy. He is the hardest working, teddy bear of a man I've ever met in my life. Hearing him talk about his life sort of inspired me to talk about what my experience was being his daughter. So that's where "American Middle Class" came from.

SIMON: And you're very proud of him.

PRESLEY: I am very proud of him.

SIMON: I got ask you about "All I Ever Wanted." It has a spoken word section here. This is a woman who's one of your neighbors?

PRESLEY: She was one of my neighbors, and she was actually a drug addict. And she would come over and ask for money. And then eventually we kind of got to be friends, and she had grown up in this very wealthy family. You know, she was like the white-gloves-debutante-pony-riding princess, and now here she was, no teeth, close to death, asking me for 67 cents to get to the food stamp office. And she needed to be documented, too. So she came over one day, and I was like, can you come in here and just say this Bible verse for me?


PRESLEY: And she passed away probably a month or so after that.

SIMON: God bless. You have to dig deep for your music, don't you?

PRESLEY: (Laughter) Well, I would say yes, but to me it's like breathing. I can't take credit for a lot of my music. You know, I've called myself a song-catcher rather than a songwriter because I feel like this is just something that I know how to do, and I feel really blessed that I do it but it's just second nature to me.

SIMON: Let's try and squeeze in another one if we can, OK?


SIMON: Let's listen to "Ain't No Man," particularly a line I really admire, she's hot as the fire at the end of the cigarette, rich as a church's Wednesday night basket.


PRESLEY: (Singing) She's smooth as the gravel on a roadside creek, being sweet at a flower on knotty pine cascade. She's hot as a fire on the end of a cigarette, rich as a church's Wednesday night basket.

You know when I made this record, my intention was when you listen to it, it's like a book. It's like all of the songs go together. and once you're finished listening to the record, hopefully it was an experience rather than a bunch of songs that you've listened to in a row. And "Ain't No Man," I mean, she is the character. She is the American, middle-class woman. You know, if you listen to the words of "Ain't No Man," she's crazy; she is smart; she's sexy; she's ugly sometimes. But the common thread is ain't nothing going to keep her down. She is the main character in the novel that is my record.

SIMON: Angaleena Presley. The new CD is "American Middle Class." Thanks so much for speaking with us.

PRESLEY: Thank you so much for having me.


PRESLEY: (Singing) And there ain't no man ever going to win that lady. She's pure as the water in a golf course pond, safe as a tiger with a $50 bond. Deep as the sole of a worn-out shoe, ain't nobody ever...

SIMON: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

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