Angaleena Presley and Chris Stapleton have quite a bit in common – both musically and geographically. As artists, both possess an innate ability to stand apart from the crowd, with their music sounding nothing like what is the norm in the country format these days. But, it’s not just from a creative standpoint are they similar.
Presley – whose new album Wrangled released last Friday – hails from Beauty, KY – in Martin County. Her Sheldon Clark High School was a football opponent of Johnson Central in nearby Paintsville, where the high school quarterback was…you guessed it, Chris Stapleton.
All of these years later, the two are both in Nashville, and both have enjoyed successful careers as singer-songwriters. They collaborate on the Southern Gothic tale, “Only Blood,” on Presley’s new disc. She tells Sounds Like Nashville that the two had quite the time writing the song.
“He and I are both the children of coal-miners,” she said. “We grew up about thirty minutes from each other. Our high schools played each other in football. We just had that Scotch-Irish background to where our parents and grandparents sang us those old murder ballad lullabies. The songs that my mom would sing are some of the most macabre and dark things you would ever think of – unrequited love, double suicides, little girls getting eat up by snakes. When he and I get together, we just can’t help but go back to those roots. It’s the first time I ever killed anybody in a song,” she says with a sinister smile. “I think it was Chris’s idea. We can blame it on him, anyway.”
Those roots are on full display throughout the album’s twelve cuts, brimming with an honesty that might be a little hard to come by on mainstream country radio. Take, for instance, “High School,” a track that the Pistol Annies member admits one never does quite outrun the emotions of the lyrics in the song.
“I think it’s tough for kids in high school. I wrote that song with a band called Walker County. They’re sisters, and one is twenty-one, and the other is seventeen. When we sat down to write, I thought ‘What am I gonna write with these young babies?’ I had this melody, and they were the perfect people to write it with because they had just experienced all of that stuff. So, with me being older, and my perspective and tendency to lean toward the dark side, I thought it really turned out to be a great song. Even though we’ve graduated from high school, it sort of never ends, does it? In any type of work setting, or even being a mom, there’s little cliques in the mom groups, and everywhere. It is tough, and there is a lot of pressure. To be the girl who becomes pregnant, or the guy who becomes an addict or what have you, we’re all human. We’re all flawed. Whether you’re the class clown or the homecoming queen, or the stoner, there’s a place for everyone. World peace,” she quips.
Wrangled is out now.