Pistol Annies, "Interstate Gospel" (RCA)
There is power in numbers. And the Pistol Annies — Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley — prove it on their new album. Working as a trio allows them to address topics and make comments that would draw more scrutiny on one of their solo albums. Even when they're joking about divorce and enjoying being single again, as they do in the honky-tonk "Got My Name Changed Back," the Annies are in the clear.
They make the most of that freedom, singing about "recreational Percoset" in the achingly beautiful ballad "Best Years of My Life" and comparing being famous to being a painting in the classic country "Masterpiece." In the title track, they celebrate religion with humor, declaring, "Jesus is the bread of life, without him you're toast."
The Pistol Annies can sing the intensely personal, Lucinda Williams-ish "Leavers Lullaby" without worrying about it becoming gossip fodder. It can simply be one of many great songs they create.
GLENN GAMBOA, Newsday
Rosanne Cash, "She Remembers Everything" (Blue Note)
The passage of time, tenacious love, a life on the road and inevitable mortality suffuse Cash's new album. "From this point on there's nothing certain/except there's not many miles to go," she sings on the upbeat "Not Many Miles to Go." At 63, Cash is neither pretending otherwise nor regretting where she stands right now.
On her album, Cash contemplates the present as the outcome of a lifetime of choices, balancing memories and prospects, loyalties and second thoughts, repentance and acceptance. Her voice finds equipoise in those mixed emotions.
"Crossing to Jerusalem," written with her husband, John Leventhal, presents a marriage as a pilgrimage toward home. Another of their collaborations, "The Undiscovered Country," considers past and future generations.
On this album, Cash adds a new variable after collaborating with Leventhal since 1993 as a producer and songwriting partner. Half of the album was produced by Tucker Martine, who has worked with the Decemberists and Sufjan Stevens. His tracks move Cash from Leventhal's pristinely rootsy Americana into moodier, noirish realms.
That's the tone of the album's ambiguous and gripping title song, co-written with Sam Phillips. Its mysterious central character is a traumatized woman who might be the narrator's younger self or one of her victims.
While these songs face sorrows, they don't capitulate to them. They place sadness alongside love and perseverance, the experiences of a long adult life; they savor consolations.
JON PARELES, New York Times
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• Mark Knopfler, "Down the Road Wherever"
• Charles Bradley, "Black Velvet"
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