Anyone who knows me well knows I love country music, but I have a special fondness for old country, not necessarily the kind you hear on the Top 40 charts. While I don’t dislike the contemporary sound country singers have adopted today, there’s a certain kind of poetry, softness, and rawness that I feel is sometimes forgotten in contemporary country. My love for country, rockabilly, bluegrass, and general folk music probably started with my parents playing Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Patsy Cline, and Roy Orbison on long road trips when I was younger. It grew as I developed my own music tastes, watched “Walk the Line”, and managed to get my hands on every Johnny Cash song and album I could. Pretty soon my iTunes was filled with all of the “greats” of country music and my car was a Petit Ole Opry, which is kind of strange for a girl from the suburbs of DC, but what can you do? Honestly, it makes sense because country music is the perfect amount of angsty for an equally angsty four like me. I particularly love women country singers. Any woman who can break into a male-dominated industry and become incredibly successful through their talent and hard work is a favorite in my book. Here are some of my favorite lady country singers:
1. Patsy Cline
You gotta start with the legend. Patsy Cline was THE country singer of the ‘50s and ‘60s. Her beautiful, velvety smooth, contralto voice is breathtaking. You don’t even have to look at the track name to know that Patsy Cline is singing the song. She is simply that renowned. Not only was she famous for her voice, but she was also famous for her firecracker, no nonsense personality and her infamous and passionate relationship with her husband, Charlie Dick. Also, Patsy was DEFINITELY a 4 on the enneagram, no doubt. If you haven’t seen “Sweet Dreams” starring Jessica Lange and a very young and handsome Ed Harris, depicting Patsy’s life and career, then you pretty much haven’t lived. It’s an amazing film that shows just how amazing and human Patsy really was. Seriously, check it out.
2. Loretta Lynn
I might as well continue with Patsy’s confidante and fellow country singer, Loretta Lynn. Born desperately poor in rural, coal-mining Kentucky, Loretta Lynn married at the age of 13 and had 4 babies by the time she was 21. How insane is that? Yet, despite all of this, Loretta managed to become one of the most famous and respected singers in country music by teaching herself how to play the guitar while raising her children. She got her start by traveling around the country and pushing her singles in radio host’s hands herself. Like Patsy, she was not meant to be messed with. She was also an accidental feminist, penning a song called “The Pill”, which promoted the use of birth control and “Rated-X”, which pointed out about the double standards for men and women. Also like Patsy, she has a film which depicts her life. “Coal Miner’s Daughter” with Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones is one of my favorite movies. You might as well rent that and “Sweet Dreams” at the same time.
3. Dolly Parton
Dolly, I will always love you. I know she has big fake boobs, big fake hair, and a completely made-up face, but there is nothing fake about Dolly’s talent, voice, and genuine kindness. I know I make it sound like I’ve met Dolly, but anyone who has listened to her music can tell she has a heart of gold. Also, I follow her on Twitter, and isn’t that kind of like knowing her? She grew up poor in the mountains of Tennessee but rich in love and happiness, as told in her song “Coat of Many Colors.” Even though she has her own theme park, multiple platinum records, and countless awards to speak of, she is still humbly rooted in her background. There is no denying Dolly’s immense success and respect in the country business and she will always be one of my favorite artists.
My sister and I in front of Dolly’s tour bus in Dollywood, which was an amazing day.
4. Alison Krauss
Even though Alison is technically a contemporary country singer, this gal is all bluegrass, and I love it. She started recording for the first time at 14 years old and has been met with immense success. Her soft, lyrical voice is instantly recognizable. She is probably best known for her duet with Brad Paisley in “Whiskey Lullaby”, but her album “Every Time You Say Goodbye” is one of my favorites. An immensely diverse artist, she has worked with Yo-Yo Ma, Phish, and Sting. She was also featured prominently in the “O Brother Where Are Thou?” soundtrack and has won a record 27 Grammy Awards. At just 41 year old, Alison Krauss has already had a long and reputable career, and I can only hope it continues that way.
5. Emmylou Harris
Emmylou is without a doubt my favorite singer. I cannot even put her voice into words. As cheesy and melodramatic as it sounds, her voice just speaks to soul. Not only does she do some amazing covers (listen to her version of “The Boxer”, it will change your life) but she is an amazing song writer. She is pure folk and simplicity. I literally could just listen to Emmylou for days and when I drive from Missouri to Virginia and back again, I do. If you ever listen to just one song of Emmylou’s, listen to “Boulder to Birmingham”, it makes me cry every time. Her recent two albums are my favorite, as they feature most of her own songwriting. If you are a 4, like me, Emmylou is your woman.
Happy country music listening!