Three Trailblazing Ladies of Country Music in 2016
One of my favorite colloquial sayings is, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat.” Now that’s not exactly a pretty sight to the mind’s eye, but I don’t really think we’re supposed to contemplate it too hard. There are just many ways to solve problems. And in the case of country music, there are many ways to create the melodies and sounds that we’ve come to expect in the genre. Sometimes it’s electric, sometimes it’s acoustic. Sometimes there’s a steel guitar and sometimes there’s a banjo. But country – real country – has one thing; twang. Twang is not just an accent – it’s a way of life, an inflection deeper than the sea, and it’s a defining element. These three talented ladies of country music have twang and they have it in spades.
Suzy Oleson – Self Titled
-If you’re not sure what I meant by “twang,” fire up “Just One Night.” It’s not just about accent, but rather a spirit embodied in the delivery of the lyrics. You can hear it in Oleson’s wonderful inflections. It’s like she’s singing about a feeling that we’ve all had; it’s the feeling where you just want it to work out with someone so bad. The trashy and flashy guitars on the song feel distinctly rock n’ roll, but in the 21st century this is a subset of country music. It’s a little rockabilly, a little honky tonk, and all attitude. I am glad that the rest of the album has more of the subtle side like “Sunny Day,” although I understand those aren’t the songs that sell on pop country radio these days. For my money, though, Oleson’s airy soprano vocals are enough to sell the songs. Her writing is exceptional and the album is a joy from top to bottom.
Katie Basden – Release the Sound
-”China Doll” is about as powerful a ladies-first ballad as you’re going to hear. “Find another girl to cling to cuz I ain’t your china doll.” Oh yeah! Attitude drips from this album from start to finish. There are some glorious atmospheric tweaks courtesy of the production floor, but they’re working with some pretty amazing raw material in Basden’s natural lead vocals. “Fallin’” uses imagery from the Battle of Jericho (of ancient Hebrew and biblical fame), connecting it to a 21st century broken romance. But the album is definitely for the more commercial country crowd. Basden may not fit the typical “alt country” flavor we typical feature around here, but she’s definitely a woman of country music who packs a powerful vocal punch.
Angela Perley and the Howlin’ Moons – Homemade Vision
-From the first time I heard Angela Perley’s voice I knew she was a star. I mean she just has that exact kind of twang you want to hear in a country vocal. And although she performs with a killer band, her songs aren’t overproduced. They feel like an updated version of the classic honky tonk. There are layers of imagery in the lyrics to match the layers of sounds in each track. From electric guitars to Cyndi Lauper-esque vocals, this is not Patsy or Loretta, but it’s an updated, electrified country music. The guitars on “Green Eyes” and “Leaving” will have you thinking rock and the whole sound on “Don’t Wanna Be Your Fool” is vintage rock music to a tee. So why do we call it country? Spin “Dandelion Kisses” and you’ll hear every bit of a country spirit on each perfectly poetic line.