I’m sure you all love a good country break-up song as much as I do, but Angaleena Presley has written one with a difference…..” It’s my break up song with country radio, I’m done with it and I’m just going to play songs for you” she announced after performing “ Country” at her incredible London show this week. Taken from her latest album ” Wrangled”, it’s both hilarious but also sadly right on point describing what appears to be required both sonically and lyrically to get a song airplay on country radio these days. And it wasn’t the only time during her set ( or on the album, with it’s clever cover photo too ) that her frustration with the state of the music industry was vented. “Goodnight ,Nashville” was her comment after playing the album’s title track, adding that (thankfully!) she still loves the city and continues to have faith “otherwise I wouldn’t be here playing these songs”! Never one to shy away expressing her feelings, she described “Dreams Don’t Come True” from the same album as being about “shattering any illusions you may have about the music business” telling us that she grew up listening to the likes of Patsy, Dolly and Reba on the radio whereas at the moment females are severely under represented in the country music chart ….” we’re in bad shape now”!
And although she dedicated “Mama I Tried” to “all the 35 year old gals out there who’s mother’s want grandkids.” I can’t be the only one who has interpreted this one rather differently.
But Angaleena herself definitely wasn’t in bad shape at this gig, having seen her twice on her last UK headline tour when I found her surprisingly nervous she was really at ease and confident up there on stage this time round. Dressed in her trademark retro/rockabilly style, she took to the stage greeted by a huge cheer as she re-adjusted the mic stand “ the last person was very short!” . Playing solo (“I can’t afford to bring a band over, I’m a female country artist!”) she got things underway with the title track from her debut album “American Middle Class” and the hour long set was a great mix of tracks from both of her solo albums as well a few taken from her days as a third of the Pistol Annies (Lemon Drop, Unhappily Married and Housewife’s Prayer). As down to earth as I remembered her from her last visit, she told us after the opener how she’d realised back stage that her dress was see through but that her guitar ” hides all the important stuff …..and that’s a good introduction to the next song” which was the popular “ Knocked Up”, based on the true story of how she ended up getting married. Her interaction with the audience throughout the evening made the 350 capacity venue seem much more intimate, her witty remarks matching the wit in many of her song lyrics and she was happy to hear us singing along (“I forgot you all sing here, amazing, they don’t do that in Bristol”!)
Obviously proud of her redneck roots ( she sings about them so nostalgically in “Better off Red” which closed the set.
Stories of her family and her past featured strongly during the evening. “ Pain Pills” was introduced as a “ prayer for my little brother” , inspired by her him being over-prescribed pain killers aged just 16 when he was recovering from a football injury. “ It sort of destroyed our family “ she said, and explained he’s currently preparing to leave jail after serving a sentence for felony theft but that the real crime was committed by the doctor all those years back. And apparently she has several hillbilly uncles who really would have burned their houses down if they were about to be repossessed which is the story behind the aforementioned “House Wife’s Prayer” ….. “we never should have been given a mortgage in the first place, I did consider burning it down but wrote this song instead”.
“Hell I’ll just stay here all night and play the set again”! she said during her encore, and I’m sure there were many in the audience who would have been more than happy for that to happen. Country radio’s loss is definitely live music’s gain! But sadly of course the evening had to end, I managed a brief chat with Angaleena at the merch stand and thanked her for keeping real country alive before I left to head for home, appropriately enough to the strains of Patsy Cline coming through the venue’s PA.
If you missed this tour, or even if you didn’t, you’ll be happy to know that she mentioned how she’s love to play C2C next year and that “ we’re working on it”! With the first few acts being announced next month, let’s keep our fingers crossed that this time her dreams DO come true!
Oh, and in case you wondered, the “ short person” who’d opened for Angaleena was UK country singer/songwriter Danni Nichols, who was truly impressive on every level and I’m sure gained a lot of new fans, me included. Definitely one to look out for!
American Middle Class
Dreams Don’t Come True
Mama I Tried
Good Girl Down
Bless My Heart
Better Off Red
Review written by Lesley Hastings