The third and last of the Pistol Annies to deliver her own solo record, Angaleena Presley operates on a more intimate scale than either Miranda Lambert or Ashley Monroe. Lambert trades on her bravado, Monroe on her savviness, but Presley relies on subtlety on American Middle Class, her long-awaited 2014 solo debut. Attitude isn’t of paramount importance here, nor is the kind of flashy production that would send her into the country charts. With its measured arrangements and deliberate, detailed narratives, what American Middle Class most resembles is Brandy Clark‘s acclaimed 2013 album 12 Stories (“Drunk” sounds like an unofficial prelude to Clark‘s “Hungover”) but Presley is a distinctive songwriter in her own right, possessing a knack for conveying the fraying dreams of a middle America with empathy and sly humor. Sometimes, the jokes are front and center, as they are on the shambling “Knocked Up,” but the nifty thing about American Middle Class is how Presley often blurs the line between sobriety and satire on her sketches of lives lived on the fringe of America. Perhaps Presley isn’t a powerhouse of a singer but her lazy gait means her barbed sensibility goes down smooth, so it’s only after the record has concluded that the depth and variety of American Middle Class sink in. This is a rich, deceptively relaxed portrait of working-class life in America in 2014 and it will linger for some time to come.
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