9 Women Who Could Immediately Make Country Better

April 29, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  63 Comments

We’ve talked about 7 Men Who Could Immediately Make Country Music Better, now let’s take a look at 9 women who could do the same. It’s been well documented that here in 2013, the women of country are outpacing the men when it comes to the quality of music–women like Kacey Musgraves who’ve seen breakout commercial success. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t more women who could still strengthen the substance of country music if only given a chance.

Valerie June

Valerie June positively slayed the audience when unannounced and unexpectedly, she appeared on the 2013 ACM Awards in a duet role with Eric Church during his song “Like Jesus Does.” But that is just the very beginning folks. That moment very well may all be trumped when her album Pushin’ Against A Stone drops August 13th, and it puts her in the elite company of country women leading the creative revolution. Don’t rest on this name. Valerie June will be a force in country music.

ashley-monroeAshley Monroe

If you’re looking for the one person, the one name of a female country artist, or an artist of any gender with a traditional sound that is poised at the brink of breaking into the big time, there’s no better candidate than Ashley Monroe. Signed to a major label, and already on the mainstream’s radar from her work with The Pistol Annies, Ashley is one of the chosen few artists that can run with the big boys on Music Row, but still do it her own way. With sad eyes the size of Cajun tires, a sincere voice inflected with so much pain, and a solidly traditional bent to her songwriting, she may be just one breakout song away from taking traditional country big time. Fingers crossed.

The Trishas

A somewhat accidental band that has become a powerhouse of the Texas music scene, The Trishas score high on every one of the major music food groups. Class, character, creativity, four-part harmonies, fully-developed songwriting, and maybe most importantly, the fun atmosphere that can develop when you toss four talented ladies into a tight knit group. They are The Dixie Chicks for the new century, and the Pistol Annies for the rest of us.

Holly Williams

It’s said all of the time. “Be yourself.” But it’s amazing how we get so sidetracked from this maxim as we chase shallow measures of success. I don’t know that anyone had a solid grasp on who Holly Williams was, maybe not even Holly Williams herself, until she decided to shirk herself of wrangling label producers and the expectations of what being the offspring of country royalty should be and just simply opened up a window to her soul and started singing. Her latest album The Highway has put her right there in the mix of strong country women attempting to lead the music in a more substantive direction, and it’s hard not to look at her last name and not consider the potential that pedigree affords.

rachel-brookeRachel Brooke

Rachel Brooke is the Emmylou Harris of our time, it’s just that the greater country music world has yet to wake up to that truth. You listen to her albums, or maybe more importantly the albums of others that she appears on, and you get that same tingly feeling on the back of your neck you did the first heard Emmylou harmonize with Gram on Grevious Angel. Rachel’s voice should be all over country albums. She should be criss crossing the continent contributing to studio sessions, while in the meantime cutting her own critically-acclaimed records. Rachel’s voice is a national resource that’s downright criminal for us not to tap.

Cary Ann Hearst (Shovels & Rope)

Don’t look now, but Shovels & Rope just recorded an episode of Austin City Limits, played Letterman a while back, and has been rocketing up the music ladder like no other band of their ragtag stature I have ever seen. In the vacuum of the The Civil Wars hiatus, Shovels & Rope and their authentic, gritty, and sweaty music has touched the mother of all nerves of music fans, and Carry Ann Hearst is the primary catalyst for it all. With a voice like Loretta and songwriting chops like Dolly, she’s threatening to take Shovels & Rope to a whole new level for dirty roots music.

lindi-ortegaLindi Ortega

With only one word to describe Lindi Ortega, I would pick “stunning.” I don’t know if she could ever atone for all the sins of her fellow female Canadian country singer Shania Twain perpetrated on the genre, but Lindi’s style is something that is both hip and classic, and cuts across traditional lines of taste to bridge fans of any good music. Lindi’s fierce independent streak is probably something that will always keep her hovering more around the independent channels of music, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a voice and songs fit for the masses that are so malnourished by their mainstream radio diet.

First Aid Kit

These absolutely spellbinding sisters from Sweden are a perfect example of how you can take a sincere passion for the traditional foundations of country music, and infuse them with a more progressive, more modern sound to make them universally relevant to the current ear. Their close harmonies and ear for composition are unparalleled in country music right now.

Kellie Pickler

kellie-picklerYes, compared to many struggling up-and-coming artists, including many of the other names on this list, Kellie Pickler has already seen her fair share of the spotlight. But she left all of that behind to pursue her passion for traditional country music, and became saddled by a label unwilling to give her music the attention it deserved; music that when listened to, baffles the mind on how it went so ignored by country radio. If simply given the opportunity, “Kellie country” could crash the pop party at the top of the country charts. Whereas for some other artists their reality show pasts have become a burden to finding acceptance from critics and true country fans, Kellie is using it like a Trojan horse. She’s one of the top leaders on this season’s Dancing With The Stars, and combined with her American Idol celebrity cred, she could inflict some serious damage on creatively-bankrupt music from her combination of celebrity and substance. Go Kellie!

Other women who could  bring more quality to country: Caitlin Rose, Elizabeth Cook, Sarah Gayle Meech, Amber Digby, The Carper Family, Zoe Muth, Kasey Chambers, Brandi Carlile, Star Anna, The Secret Sisters, Paige Anderson, Sarah Jarosz

63 Comments to “9 Women Who Could Immediately Make Country Better”

  • Awesome list. Rachel Brooke’s is my Kitty Wells. Sigh…. One person I think should be a ass kicker in country music is Sara Gayle Meech. Her song “Old White Boots” is worth her whole album. She definitely has a women’s outlaw sound. Cant wait to see her in June.I love the Trisha’s at Ray Wylie Hubbard’s music festival earlier this month. I was quite impressed. And Lindi Ortega voice and style is pure bliss. Definitely think Kasey Chambers is amazing but one person i been liking on Sirus XM lately is Carrie Rodriguez.

  • I’d add Lydia Loveless to this list. I saw her touring with Scott Biram not too log ago, and she’s simply phenomenal, especially for her age. I’d be delighted if she got some coverage from SCM.

  • You forgot the incredible Lydia Loveless

    • Look. This is the deal with Lydia Loveless. I did not “forget” her. I am perfectly aware of her and have made many valiant attempts to get into her music in both the recorded and live formats, including just 6 weeks ago at SXSW when I stood front and center for one of her sets, tried my damnedest to find the appeal in her music, and couldn’t. Don’t get me wrong, it is nothing that I am opposed to whatsoever, and I can definitely understand why others enjoy it. But I personally cannot find enough to connect with in her music to write passionately about it.

      Furthermore, I don’t see a whole lot about her music that is country. Certainly there are some country elements there, but for this list I wanted to find artists that were more country than they are not. That is why I didn’t include Caitlin Rose who is an artist I do find a lot of appeal for on the main part of this list.

      I hope this makes sense.

      • It does make sense.

        Lydia is more fast-paced alt rock than country.

        Thanks for the list.

  • How about Amber Digby and Miss Leslie and her Juke Jointers ? Both are power house singers.

  • Kasey Musgraves isn’t on here or the HMs?

    • The reason Kacey Musgraves is not on this list is because she’s already on country radio and is being nominated for big country music awards. In other words, she has made it, while the people on this list are artists that should make it if that makes sense.

  • The fact that you picked Lindi’s looks over her dulcet warbling voice speaks volumes.

    • What in the hell are you talking about man? I don’t see where I said anything about Lindi Ortega’s “looks,” and I certainly didn’t “pick” them over anything else. And excuse the hell out of me for trying to expose Lindi to a wider audience. If the way I did so doesn’t fit your lofty standards, maybe Saving Country Music isn’t the right place for you. I think the tone of your comment speaks volumes.

      What the hell is in the water today?

      • My lofty standards just want my country to be, you know, country. The sultry Ethel Merman/Mazzy Star thing wrapped up in a pair of boots ain’t doing it for me.

        • Then that’s cool man, you can’t argue taste. If Lindi or any other of the women on this list aren’t you bag, that’s cool. But please don’t paint me as someone who exclusively worries about looks when judging female artists.

        • I get ya. Seems most times when I go hear a Patsy Cline show they cast a big Ethel Merman type voice. Someone who scream belts instead of sings. I like pure music and those sisters; First Aid Kit really can harmonize and sing purely without all the bells and whistles and distractions and forcing and mangling the vocal cords into ear-splitting unmusical sounds.

          • For me, it’s the warbling vibrato. ON. EVERY. SONG.

            And she’s just not that country. There’s 2, maybe 3, songs on Cigarettes and Truckstops that have twang, but otherwise it’s alt-rock.

        • Lol, I get tired of all the vocal gymnastics too. I think we can blame Reba for some of that. I remember when I heard her sing Amazing Grace and I think it took her about an hour and a half to sing it with all the added “warbling.”

        • I don’t think when Trigger said stunning me meant in looks, but I actually think you have a point, when I heard Lindi, even on an alt country show, I did think she had more of a sort of gentle psychobilly edge. But I think Trigger is right in that Country would be improved if people listened to a broader range of country related music and Lindi is certainly an interesting artist.

  • Also, I don’t know where you would put them being a duo and all, but I really like what “fill in the blank” has done. I can’t remember their name, but the guy plays a guitar and only wears coveralls. I beileve they are married. Somebody help me.

    • Joey + Rory?

      • That’s them! I can’t pinpoint it, but I really dig their music.

  • Elizabeth Cook.

    • Good one.

    • As well as Chelle Rose

      • Yes.

  • Trigger: Anyway you could pull all the amazing lists you’ve put together in an easy to find spot? The greatest album list you put out a month or so ago is great and if someone new comes here they might not see it. I for one had not heard of Hellbound Glory or Caitlin Rose before I discovered this site. Easy for me to say, but the interest is just in sharing your work (and the comments which add a lot too).

    Oh and my addition would be Amanda Shires, definitely one to watch.

    • Yes, the long-term plan is to have some sort of revolving feature on the site where visitors can easily see these lists and hopefully be turned on to new music.

  • Look everyone, the point of this list is not to be an all-encompassing master list of every single up-and-coming female artist that can be considered in any way country. The point of it was to highlight these 9 female artists. The more names you add to a list, the less potency each name has. The reason I have been making so many lists lately is because it seems to engage people better than things like album reviews and interviews. It is a way to push more music and more names to more people. I still believe in reviews and interviews as well, and will always include them in SCM coverage.

    You have to understand the point of this is outreach. Not every name is right for every list. I love and encourage everyone to share artists they feel could help improve country that are not here. But just because one or two names that may mean something personal to you are not included on here, doesn’t make this list or any other list or anybody’s own personal list illegitimate, or that I either don’t like those artists or are unaware of them.

    If I turned one new person on to one new name with this list, then it’s done its job. It is never the point of any of my music coverage to validate people’s already-formed opinions about artists. If there’s a name that is not on this list that you already love and listen to regularly, then you are missing nothing by them not being there. Please leave a comment and share your opinion about that artist with others. But if there is an name on this list you have never heard of and it stimulates you to look into them further, then this list has done its job.

    • I’ve really been meaning to buy The Trishas’ album along with First Aid Kit’s, reading this list with them on it with some artists I absolutley love makes me even more excited to get the albums. Which should I go for first though? They’re both really expensive to get here in Quebec for some stupid reason.

    • It always amazes me that people take these things so personally. Why do some people not have the ability to say ‘Hmm. Interesting list. If it were my list I might however leave out ***** and include *****, for the reason that **********’. Or alternatively start up their own friggin sites and make up whatever lists THEY want.

  • Great List… I’d like too join those who praise Lydia Loveless. I think there’s a little more country there than you give her credit for. But great list just the same.

  • Oh, man… I’m going to have to look more into The Trishas — I always liked that “Till I’m Too Old to Die Young” (Moe Bandy) song, but their take is just fabulous.

    Valerie June has a pretty interesting sound. And I’ve been hearing that Shovels & Rope song “Birmingham” on ‘The World Cafe`’ — good stuff!

    But yeah, if even a few of the gals on this list could get on country radio (I still have high hopes for Ashley, especially), they would really liven things up. :)


  • refreshing page. Keep up the good work.

  • :::Giggling::: So I try posting this article to my Facebook page, and the only pics available to share are of George Jones. Oops. I was hoping to share Lindi’s or Kellie’s pic…love them! :-)

  • Solid list man. I would add Sarah Gayle Meech to the mix. And probably Mean Mary.

  • Paige Anderson?

    • Paige Anderson, Sarah Gayle Meech, Elizabeth Cook, and many others I included at the bottom of this list. I wanted to keep this list somewhat exclusive and so I had to cap it somewhere. These names are all great female artists. I wanted to cap the list at 7, but kept going. I could have stretched it to 20 and still someone would have been left out.

      • Thanks for including Kasey Chambers at the end of the list

  • Nice list but what’s a Cajun tire?

  • The Trisha’s really intrique me with their unique sound and are amazing live. Amber Digby is truly Honky Tonk music at it’s finest. Elizabeth Cook frankly i’m suprised has not had more success at breaking into a more mainstream mix of airplay and opening slots she is the total package.

  • Nice List including a few I hadn’t heard of before. I would have thought that Kasey Chambers and Brandi Carlile would have been considered very successful already, albeit as crossovers possibly. As far as new up and coming female artists I think you could definitely consider looking at Carrie Rodriguez and Coles Whalen as well.

  • Where’s Luke Bryan on this list?????!?!?!?!

    • See now, this is a good, appropriate place for that line of humor. ;) .

      • I was waiting for that…

  • First time long time. I love list like this. It gives me a list of new artist to look into. I caught Maggie Roses’ set at Stagecoach’s festival (on TV) was Impressed. Love the site. Keep up the good work.

  • What about Gwen Sebastian?
    She’s been grinding away for years.

  • It’s not the “be all end all” of a list, folks. But Trig’, ya did a fine job on the list. I know I can look to Saving Country Music for artists I haven’t heard of. It’s a small shelf to turn to for new country these days n’ Trigger Man’s helps keep mine full.

    Personally, I’d have picked Lydia Loveless. Though I can’t attest to her live shows, I do have a couple albums. She kinda leans more towards poppy punk, melodic songs mixed with some country. But before ya knock her out completely, there’s at least 2 songs I think she contributed to country music. That I would cover, myself.

    Lydia Loveless ~ “How Many Woman”

    Lydia Loveless ~ “Back on the Bottle”

    But then again, I’ve stood before a few stages n’ never saw “what the fuss was about” myself ;)

  • I’d like to add some other female artists for those looking for other female singers to checkout:

    Jaida Dreyer
    Tonya Watts
    Polly Punkneck
    Ashley Ray

  • I would add Julie Roberts to the list. She used to be with Mercury but lost her deal after two albums. She released an indie album called ‘Alive’ in 2011 and is currently working on new music. She is traditional country from the Patsy Cline ballad style; not the pop Nashville style.

  • As always I am thrilled to see Kellie Pickler on this list. Anyone who abandons there label and possible future fame and fortune to stick to their principles is what music is about to me. She is more of an an outlaw than any of those so-called chest thumoing self-named outlaws on radio. And listen to “Long As I Never See You Again” and you know she isn’tjust name dropping Tammy Wynette on the title track! This is a great list and gratifying to see Brandi Carlile in the “other” list. “Raise Hell” is more country than most of whats on the radio folks. Keep up the great work!

  • Hey thanks for this list. This is exactly what I was looking for today. Hadn’t ever heard of Rachel Brooke until I discovered that she’s playing in my area in two days. I’m going.

  • Sunny Sweeney needs to be on this list. She has released two really, really strong albums already. her song “Please Be San Antone” is one of my favorite country songs of the last decade.

  • Ashton Shepherds first cd was awesome, she has a great southern twang to her voice.

  • I saw the Trishas last week and was blown away! Some of the best live music I’ve ever been lucky enough to hear!

  • Since when has Valerie June been country? I’ve always seen her as a folk singer. Thanks for letting me know she has an album coming out though, hope it doesn’t go too dixie.

    • She has described herself as country before. I think she mixes elements of country, folk, bluegrass, blues, and jazz to make her unique sound. I have no problem sharing her with folk, as long as folk doesn’t have a problem sharing her with country ;) which are close cousins anyway.

      • Yeah, actually as soon as I had posted that comment I spent a whole cigarette thinking what the actual diffrences between folk and country are and how Valerie June fits into the whole thing since it’s obvious she draws a lot of inspiration from southern american music tradition as a whole.

        To be honest my perception of Country music is probably way too narrow especially from the eyes of hardcore country fans like you guys in this blog. Though I have to say that the few articles I’ve over here read have been a thoroughly pleasant experience, even though I only have a cursory understanding of the genre it’s always great to read people writing passionately about music they really understand and enjoy.

  • Ashton Shepherd needs to be on this list

  • [...] years later and today The Trishas are being hailed by SavingCountryMusic.Com as one of the 9 Women Who Could Immediately Make Country Better:¬†“The Trishas score high on every one of the major music food groups. Class, character, [...]

  • You forgot to mention Kathleen Edwards.

  • You must have Brandy Clark in the same mindset you used on Kacey M.

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