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Originally published Monday, May 6, 2013 at 9:59 AM

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Review: Another ace up sleeves for Pistol Annies

The Pistol Annies, "Annie Up" (RCA Nashville)

Associated Press

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The Pistol Annies, "Annie Up" (RCA Nashville)

"Annie Up" is a good title for the Pistol Annies' second album. Like the gambling term it playfully puns, the title underscores that this brash trio is raising the stakes, investing more time, effort and artistic nerve into its new 12-song collection.

The gamble pays off: "Annie Up" builds on the trio's successful debut "Hell on Heels" by taking even more risks with bold material and inventive arrangements. Mixing bawdy humor with sensitive insight, the Annies entertainingly take on real-life issues, including how Southern families quell their secrets ("Hush Hush"), how alcoholics curse themselves while pouring another drink ("Dear Sobriety") and how women struggle with what it takes to prepare for an evening ("Being Pretty Ain't Pretty").

The Pistol Annies began as a side lark for country music star Miranda Lambert. Formed with songwriting buddies Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley, the trio's debut initially was available only through the Internet and without the full promotional effort given Lambert's other albums. But fan support and significant sales lifted these fully armed artists into a significant, ground-breaking act. Rather than play it safe, they roll the dice with another daring collection that should lift their profiles even higher.

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