Hell on Heels is the musical combination of Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, and Angaleena Presley, three songbirds who’ve had terrific careers on their own who combine for one incredible sounding diversion. This isn’t country for everyone, and it may require a bit of an acquired taste, but, if you discover Heels’ lovely sound, you’re likely to get hooked pretty quickly. It may not rouse as many rebels as these girls do individually, but it’ll still get the blood pumping. It’s not so much country as it is alt.country, which is what makes Hell on Heels so deadly addictive, a sweet trio of angel voices making even sweeter harmony together.
Some may find their first album a bit of a mixed bag, but, lyrically, the girls deliver one song after another that are spot on with the identity they obviously want to cultivate. This is country lived with ruthless honesty, and that’s the soundtrack for most of our lives.
1. Hell on Heels (5 out of 5): “This diamond ring on my hand is the only good thing that came from that man …” It ain’t so much about love as it is about the treasures and trinkets that go hand-in-hand with it. That’s right. I’m talking about golddiggers and their sugar daddies. That’s what the girls are croonin’ about here, and it’s quite the tune, right down to the instrument-less, claps-only bridge. Watch your wallets, boys. Hell on heels is one expensive proposition.
2. Lemon Drop (4 out of 4): More bluegrass than blues, “Lemon Drop” is about living life through the good and the bad … perhaps more bad than good, after all. It’s all about acceptance. Think about making lemonade from lemons, and you get the idea. Clever and sweetly affecting, just the way a lemon drop can be. “Lord, I know there are better days ahead …”
3. Beige (2.5 out of 5): “A quick ‘I do’ and then back home again … Daddy’s pride & joy is marryin’ some boy …” Maybe the bride didn’t live her life to justify wearing white, but beige is pretty darn close. It’s a syrupy meditative reflection on where a country bad girl finds herself in life. It may not be all that marriage was intended, but it quite possibly is how it’s cracked up to be.
4. Bad Example (5 out of 5): Amazing harmonies highlight this clever li’l ditty celebrating a life lived the wrong way. “Somebody had to live a bad example to teach all the prim and propers what not to do …” These are the kinds of country girls every country boy longs for. It’s the girl who raises a little heck, the girl who lives her life by the tip jar. Nothin’ wrong with that, boys.
5. Housewife’s Prayer (4 out of 5): It’s a lyrical prayer hoping for life to come together and deliver the poor girl from the ‘evil’ of life. From pills to alcohol, from love to hate, from kids to washing, this housewife is doing everything she can to find some solace in her life. “I’ve been thinking about setting my house on fire …” If it has any real shortcoming, it’s that it’s far too brief … but maybe that’s the point after all.
6. Takin’ Pills (5 out of 5): “She’s got a Tennessee mountain point of view: if you’re gonna have one you might as well have two …” It’s an anthem for living life the hard way but with plenty of ‘substance assistance’ by way of booze, pills, and truck stop food. “Ain’t tryin’ to get rich, just tryin’ to get by …” Just what the doctor ordered, with the right amount of requisite twang.
7. Boys from the South (5 out of 5): Country girls sure do love their country boys – much the same way rockers love their “California Girls” – and “Boys from the South” is a musical valentine from her to him only true cowgirls could craft.
8. The Hunter’s Wife (4 out of 5): We’re talkin’ real backwoods livin’ here, folks. Real backwoods. Deep, deep country. Squirrel gravy? I’ll pass, but it’s a clever bluegrass tune that celebrates the girls harmony that makes it all worthwhile.
9. Trailer for Rent (4 out of 5): The best surviving country songs have always told a story, or maybe that’s just the way it always seems. “Trailer for Rent” is about the jilted woman – a love story gone bad – that no amount of elbow grease can ever repair. The best thing to do is throw him out and start all over, and that’s what the girls are singin’ about here. It’s more metaphor than metaphysics. But, again, the girls back it all up with swell harmonies.
10. Family Feud (4 out of 5): A family broken up when the head passes on has a habit of bringing out the worst in some people. Everyone scramblin’ to collect the possessions can be an ugly sight, and it doesn’t take long to bring out the vultures. “If daddy was here, he’d beat us black’n’blue … I’m glad momma ain’t around to watch this family feud …” The highlight of the song is an immensely rewarding refrain.
Here’s hoping that the girls stay together for many more albums to come. It’s a unique sound that works with their angelic voices, and the lyrics are consistently terrific. ‘Hell’ never sounded so sweet!