A few years ago, between the Pistol Annies and her debut solo album, Angaleena Presley delivered a one-two punch of working class solidarity and Southern religious devotion. This is what makes her long awaited followup such a disappointment. Wrangled lacks ambition.
For one, she repeats her themes. When the stories are told here, they verge on cliché, particularly on the two songs about pregnant teenagers and the one verse about a high school addict on pain pills. She also says the same things, often in the same words — as much as I love the phrase "backslider's seat," it's memorable enough to remember its use over two albums. That these songs were written by everyone from Guy Clarke to Miranda Lambert suggests that the wandering vocals and uncommitted performances are as much Presley's fault as anyone else's.
"Country," with rapper Yelawolf, finds the two working through Southern problems together. It's narratively fascinating, and should be a home run — both know the landscape well — but they don't even have the facts straight; claiming Shooter Jennings as one of their own, when the last album he released was an Italo-disco fantasia, coked up and beautiful, just doesn't feel right.
The only true highlight here is "Only Blood," an abused wife psychodrama written with Chris Stapleton that speaks against both male violence and religious hypocrisy. It suggests that Presley has not completely lost her skills or talents.
Unfortunately, "Country" suggests that she has also bought in too much to the Americana's genre games, and the rest of the album's shambolic borrowings suggest she's a little lost — and maybe a little bored. (Thirty Tigers)