Looks like The Pistol Annies are still firing blanks.
The supergroup trio of Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, and Angaleena Presley lasted a short two years before going on hiatus back in 2013, but with very little going in the careers of all three women right now, they decided to get the band back together in 2018 and release a new album Interstate Gospel, with “Got My Name Changed Back” serving as the leadoff single. The song hasn’t made much of an impact on the radio since its release in late October, and while Saving Country Music has some interesting theories about what went wrong, I’d argue that a major reason it’s floundering it because it’s a confusing mess of a song and contains a ton of questionable production decisions, all of which leave the listener feeling ambivalent about the track when it’s done.
Seriously, is Lambert cursed to work with incompetent producers for the rest of her career? Let’s start with the (lack of) instruments: The song opens with a sticks-only beat that eventually grows into a full drum set, and is driven primarily by a nondescript electric guitar and a lively dobro (an acoustic guitar also pops up occasionally). It’s a decidedly old-school (but not quite traditional) arrangement, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with it…except that the song is surprisingly short and has a very repetitive structure, similar to what you hear in a lot of bluegrass songs. Whereas bluegrass songs usually have a wealth of instruments to fill in the blanks, however, this song is left with just the electric axe and dobro to carry the mail and take a second turn trading the lead, and even the dobro gets old after this kind of overexposure. Furthermore, there seems to be a moment of confusion between the two instruments during the second round of handoffs, as there are a good six-eight measures where the pair don’t seem to know who should be taking the lead (the guitar just kind of fakes it until the dobro finally steps forward). Throw in the intro that’s too long and the outro that’s uninteresting and unnecessary, and you’ve got at least thirty seconds of wasted time that should have been cut out (and this from a song that’s not even three minutes as is!). Despite all these issues, the mix manages to generate enough raw, angry energy to complement the lyrics, and the drums (despite being a bit too loud in the mix) do a nice job driving the song forward and making it as catchy as it is. Still, given all the problems she ran into on The Weight Of These Wings, I think it’s time for Lambert to step behind the mixing board and start handling her own production.
Calling this track a Pistol Annies song is like calling anything Florida Georgia Line does a two-person effort: Lambert is basically the only vocalist here, with Monroe and Presley inexplicably relegated to doing background “yeah yeahs” and a little bridge harmony. Thankfully, this is the best Lambert has sounded in quite some time, as her forceful, lively performance here is reminiscent of some of her early-career work. Her range isn’t tested, but there are some real tongue-busters stuffed into the writing (we’ll get into that later), and Lambert shows off some impressive flow by effortlessly navigating through the minefields. I don’t find her to be a terribly sympathetic character in the narrator’s shoes, but again that feels more like a issue with the writing than with Lambert herself, and she’s able to pass her energy along to the audience if not her emotion. I’d like to her more of this from Lambert (and more of anything from Monroe and Presley) in the future.
We’ve already touched on the issues with the writing, but let’s recap them here:
- It’s really short, to the point where it only feels like half of a song.
- It’s really repetitive, especially once you reach the outro.
- It tries to cram too many words into a line on occasion, especially in the first verse.
- It sends mixed messages about exactly why the narrator “got my name changed back.” They start by claiming it was a personal decision (“I wanted something new, then I wanted what I had”), but then spend the rest of the song hinting at partner infidelity (“he got along good with a couple road whores”), so…which is it? If it’s the former, then why the combative tone and the schadenfreude on the bridge? If it’s the latter, then why open with a line that makes it feel like the narrator just changed their mind? The confusion leaves the audience a little unsure of who to root for in this battle, blunting the song’s impact.
It’s an interesting take on a well-worn topic and features a little cleverness in its hook callbacks (the court and DMV lines are pretty solid), but there’s just not enough quantity or quality here to really make this track memorable.
“Got My Name Changed Back” has its merits, but overall there are more misses than hits here. The production is sloppy and poorly-planned, the vocals limit the Pistol Annies to one third of their star power, and the writing features too much brevity and not enough clarity. I’m not sure how many shots are left in that six shooter, but if the Pistol Annies are looking to make an impact on the radio, they need to find some stronger material and personnel to work with, and fast.
Rating: 5/10. Skip it.