Artist: Angaleena Presley
Album: American Middle Class
Label: Slate Creek Records
Release Date: 10/14/2014
She hails from Kentucky. Her father was a coal miner who taught her her first guitar song when she was 15. Her mother was a school teacher and direct descendant of the famous feuding McCoys. She was one-third of the Pistol Annies, whose 2011 album, Hell on Heels, went gold and was the New York Times’ record of the year. Angaleena Presley has the pedigree and now, with her first solo release, has gifted us with an absolute masterpiece.
American Middle Class is no echo of Hell On Heels. It is all Angaleena and, except for some of the work of Lucinda Williams, has no equal. Ms. Presley’s songwriting is pure folk art, bare-boned and honed to perfection. As she says, “It’s the experience of my life from birth to now.” Great poets and songwriters know that the difficult sleight of hand is to write from deeply personal experience in such a way that the reader or listener thinks that it is their own story. By this standard, Ms. Presley succeeds beyond any of her contemporaries. “Grocery Store,” inspired by the mundane, everyday experience of standing in line at a grocery store, is a perfect example of seizing an ordinary nugget of common dirt and transforming it into a diamond. “Knocked Up” is already famous and infamous. But “Drunk” is perhaps the most stunning and brilliant moment on the album. It is the story known and lived by millions of women who do all the work to keep a family together while also supporting a useless man whose only contribution is to stay permanently drunk. It is neither bitter nor filled with rage but is a stone-cold, soberly accurate and chilling portrait.
This album is the perfect way to start off 2015. I suspect that it will be remembered for years to come. Yes, she’s that good and so is the album.
– Robert Myers