He Said She Said: Our Favorite Lady Country Singers, Part 2
As much as He Said bows at the altars of guys like Johnny Cash, Billy Joe Shaver, George Strait, and Ernest Tubb, we have always had an affinity for female country songs. Their songs have as much grit and gristle as anything a man can dish out, and in the early days it wasn't such an easy task for a woman to be as forward artistically or lyrically. The pioneering country ladies were fighting oppression through their music little by little. They wrote songs about personal freedom, self-respect, and dignity in the face of the outright goon behavior of the men in their stories. Things like the riot grrl scene in the '90s had a great deal of debt to the Loretta and Tammy. Even the new gals on the block like Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood, who can still both be loosely defined as country (we guess), show a great deal more self-reliance in their voices than most girls their same age in other genres. The Dixie Chicks exhibited more testicular fortitude in two songs than most fey indie bands do over two albums. Another reason He Said thinks he enjoys female country singers is the fact that it allows him into a foreign world he isn't privy to. When we were younger, we always remember hearing our mother blaring her favorite girls like Reba McEntire, Trisha Yearwood and Lorrie Morgan to get her frustration out when she and He Said Sr. would have a fight.Early on, we equated female country singers with strength and perseverance. It's still hard for us to hear McEntire's "Is There Life Out There" without thinking of my mom working two jobs to help out the family. That's probably informed much of the female interaction we have had over the past 20 years as well. And why we say "yes ma'am" and "no ma'am." Most female country songs are way more gut-wrenching and indicting than the work of the men. The men may sulk in their beer, but the women get even and get on with their lives. That's why girls eat up Swift's "Fifteen" and "Should've Said No," because they connect on a different level than say, "Party In the USA." Swift's songs may be sweetened by Nashville and L.A. tunesmiths, but her words and lyrics ring true as any journal entry from any girl in any hemisphere on the planet. Loretta Lynn, "Fist City" Chick fights are the best because when girls come to blows, they always go for the face or hair. They go for the glory first, where they know it will count. Have you ever noticed that most chicks fight the same way, like they are in a two-person football huddle?
Kitty Wells, "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" "Too many times married men think they're still single/ That has caused many a good girl to go wrong." Truer words were never uttered. Both are at fault in any of these cases. It takes a woman to figure that out, naturally. Because you are all smarter than us, at least after the age of 22.
Dolly Parton, "9 to 5" We always contend that the sexiest thing about Dolly Parton wasn't the... you know... but her voice and spunk. If you know He Said at all, you will also agree that her tall hair is also an asset. She seems like she would be fun to be married to as well, like a hotter Paula Deen. She's close to forty years older than us, but if we saw her alone at Rebels Honky Tonk nursing a beer we would try are damnedest to holler, even if it meant having to look at pictures of the grandbabies in the morning. But she would no doubt crush our psyches into oblivion with one smile.
Tammy Wynette, "Your Good Girl Is Gonna Go Bad" If there is one thing men hate, it's the idea of their women turning bad overnight and becoming someone else's baby. Wynette is basically saying, "You can screw around me, but just wait till you see what I can do, brah."
Patsy Cline, "How Can I Face Tomorrow" Patsy Cline had a certain sadness in her voice that is still hard to top. The quiver in her tone is haunting. It's hard to pick one song, so we went with "How Can I Face Tomorrow" since no doubt She Said was going to snake us and pick "Walking After Midnight" or "Crazy" for her list.
Tanya Tucker "Delta Dawn" Tanya Tucker was all of 13 when she sang "Delta Dawn" and made a hit out of it in 1972. The next year Helen Reddy would do a version too, but who cares. Tucker's was sick and beautiful because of her age and the power of her vocals.
Juice Newton, "Angel Of The Morning" The other day we found ourselves playing Juice Newton's greatest hits on repeat on a dark Saturday afternoon and it frightened us how many songs we knew by heart. It wasn't our mother's fault either. Somewhere along the way we really got into the Juice.
Reba McEntire, "Is There Life Out There" It wasn't until last year's RodeoHouston performance that it clicked with us how much we dug McEntire as an artist. All her songs remind us of the women we grew up around in our family, from the multiple divorcees to the single girls still looking for the One. It may shed a little suspicion on our orientation, but we could probably sing "Fancy" at a karaoke contest and win.
The Judds, "Mama He's Crazy" Momma-daughter team The Judds ruled the '80s with huge manes of red hair and brassy vocals. To be honest we always had a thing for the older and more experienced Naomi. We could take or leave Wynonna, who kind of scared us. But then younger daughter Ashley had to come around and be in those movies Normal Life and the soft-core Norma Jean & Marilyn and break up the party.
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