Category Archives: Female Fridays

Female Fridays: Featuring Kasey Chambers

Well, I was introduced to Kasey Chambers when Josh at Country Perspective reviewed her latest album, Bittersweet, in August. A day later, I was
reviewing it myself and now I am here to feature Australia’s best-kept secret.

How You Might Know Kasey

Most probably won’t know her; I didn’t know her before I read a review.

Bio

From a 2014 interview on recording her album Bittersweet live:

There’s something to be said about that, particularly in this style of music. Maybe if you’re making dance tracks or something, I get that the layering is part of the process and that is probably a positive thing in that aspect. But playing this sort of music I think there’s something to be said about capturing a moment. That’s what people relate to when they hear you live and I want people to hear who I really am live. I don’t want to go in and sing the songs 30 times over to make sure I get the vocal perfectly and then put auto-tune on and do all those things, which means that you get some dodgy moments but it’s real. I want it to be real.

And just by being “real,” Kasey Chambers has been a platinum-selling, award-winning artist in Australia for fifteen years. Born June 4, 1976, from Mount Gambier, the daughter of Australian country singer Bill Chambers, Kasey grew up around music. Early in her career, she was a member of the Dead Ringer Band, along with her family. After going solo in 1999, she released her first album, The Captain, to both critical acclaim and commercial success. Mixing bluegrass, traditional country, and roots rock, Kasey has gone on to sell millions of solo albums and win numerous awards. She has released seven solo albums to date, including Storybook, an album of covers from other artists. Chambers has also produced two albums with her husband, fellow Australian singer-songwriter Shane Nicholson. After Nicholson and Chambers separated in 2013, Kasey changed direction with Bittersweet. Instead of her longtime producer, brother Nash Chambers, Kasey chose American Producer Nick Didea, partly upon Nash’s suggestion. Instead of her normally featured guitar, Kasey chose a banjo to back much of Bittersweet, and the result was her best album to date. Since my introduction to Kasey, when this album was released in the U.S., I have been catching up on her music. From country to rock to bluegrass, I have found much music to enjoy. In Australia, she’s a household name, and we shouldn’t be missing out on her music here in America.

What Kasey Brings to Country Music

I changed this section a little for Kasey because her music doesn’t get sent to radio in the States. In Australia, she’s had commercial success. So I want to focus on making Kasey Chambers fans here in the U.S. She’s known in Australia for her incredible voice. Like Ashley Monroe, when Kasey sings, you stop and listen. When I first heard “Oh Grace,” the opening track on Bittersweet, it was her voice that captured my attention. She has a raw quality when she sings. Her writing has the same raw honesty about it; often she discusses God and whether or not He is real and can indeed save us. I chose her quote above because this is the best explanation of the Kasey I know and love: she’s “real.” I don’t know a better way to explain it than this. Finally, whether you enjoy country, rock, or bluegrass, you will find a Kasey Chambers track you like–she truly has created an “evolution” of the country sound.

Tracks I Recommend

Since Kasey has so many albums, I recommend just listening and finding one you like. Instead of posting specific songs, I’ll link what I consider to be her best albums.

Bittersweet

Wreck and Ruin [with Shane Nicholson]

Wayward Angel

Female Fridays: Featuring Jamie Lin Wilson

Someone said they’d like me to do a feature on Jamie Lin Wilson, and that day has come. I am excited to feature Jamie on this Female Friday.

How You Might Know Jamie

Much like her friend Courtney Patton, whom I covered two weeks ago, you might not know Jamie Lin Wilson if you aren’t familiar with the Texas scene. If you are, she’s a member of the Texas-based group The Trishas. She can often also be found singing with Courtney.

Bio

From a 2014 article by The Daily Country, on the influences for her debut album,

The type of music she likes to make is, she says, influenced by “the greats” — Emmylou Harris, Kris Kristofferson, Guy Clark, Townes van Zandt, John Prine, Rodney Crowell and Tom T. Hall. But it’s equally inspired by those friends and contemporaries, including the Trishas and song-swap pals like [Courtney] Patton,Drew Kennedy and Owen Temple. “Their style creeps into my style and vice versa,” she says. “I love that. We’re a little team.”

From an interview with Newslang on her style of songwriting:

The song I wrote with Jason [Eady] and Adam [Hood], we started with a photo. I sent this picture of an old abandoned house in Yancey. The yard is overgrown and the windows are broken. It hasn’t been lived in for a very long time. There was a chair on the porch facing out that had been there ever since the last people moved out. They left this chair on the porch. I took a picture of that and sent it to them saying that there was a song in this picture and we needed to write it. That was one of the easiest co-writes because we all had the same image. Half of co-writing is trying to get that same image in your head. We figured out that was a great way to co-write.

Jamie Lin Wilson has gained a great reputation in the Texas scene as a singer and songwriter. However, for many years, she was simply a collaborator on other projects. Her career began fifteen years ago while she was in college; she was simply inspired by the sight of Natalie Maines, the former lead singer of the Dixie Chicks, singing and playing guitar. Shortly after this, Jamie started a band called the Sidehill Gougers (later known only as the Gougers) and began writing songs. She released a solo EP in 2010 called Dirty Blonde Hair and made a name for herself as a member of the Texas-based female group the Trishas. During a Trishas hiatus, Jamie Lin Wilson finally took time out of her life–which by this time included a marriage and three children–to record her first full-length solo record. Holidays & Wedding Rings, released on May 19th, 2015, has been met with much-deserved praise and appreciation. Finally, people everywhere are being exposed to one of Texas country’s best-kept secrets.

Why Jamie Belongs on Country Radio

Her case is similar to Courtney’s; as I said with Courtney, I am not going to spend time explaining why independent/Americana/Texas artists deserve to be treated fairly in the mainstream. This is a headache-inducing topic that can only be improved through sources such as Saving Country Music, Country Perspective, and this site that give these artists an equal playing field and hopefully more fans. This post, however, is about Jamie, and what she brings to country music in general. Well, firstly, and I don’t know why I have to keep writing this sentence on these features, she’s country! This should need no further explanation. She has relatable, real-life experience in her songs–you don’t have to have partied in every cornfield and club in the South to relate to her lyrics. Similar to Courtney’s, her songwriting tells the stories of real people in real-life situations. Like Lindi Ortega’s, Jamie Lin Wilson’s voice is unique. Blake Shelton would say, if somehow she were ever able to stand before him on The Voice, “There’s no one quite like you in country music right now.” Well, Blake, this is because mainstream Nashville doesn’t want originality, and that’s what Jamie has to offer.

Tracks I Recommend

Most Jamie Lin Wilson apologists will say I shouldn’t pick apart Holidays & Wedding Rings, and indeed it is a great album. These are just personal favorites.

1. “Just Some Things” (featuring Wade Bowen)–Holidays & Wedding Rings
2. “Whisper on my Skin”–Holidays & Wedding Rings
3. “Here Tonight”–Holidays & Wedding Rings
4. “She’ll Take Tonight”–Holidays & Wedding Rings
5. “You Left my Chair”–Holidays & Wedding Rings [this is the song written with Jason Eady and Adam Hood]

Listen to Holidays & Wedding Rings

Finally, I was told to check out Jamie’s videos with the Southern Gospel Revival, and all of you should too.

Female Fridays: Featuring Courtney Patton

For today’s Female Friday, I turn to the Texas scene to focus on a very underrated female, Courtney Patton.

How You Might Know Courtney

If you aren’t very familiar with the Texas scene, you probably won’t know her. If you are, she is the wife of better-known Texas artist Jason Eady.

Bio

From a 2014 interview with Galleywinter, on her musical influences:

Don Williams, James Taylor, old Willie Nelson. I love Carole King. She’s mellow, a killer songwriter back in the hippie days, and I grew up listening to that because that’s what my mom listened to. Joni Mitchell’s album Court and Spark, it’s real mellow too. Steve Wariner, ya know, like slow good, waltz-y country.

From a 2015 interview with Saving Country Music, when asked, “What is country music to Courtney Patton?”

Country music to me is simple stories with beautiful words with a simple melody and beautiful arrangement. And it’s cheap therapy to me (laughter).

Courtney Patton is gaining quite a reputation in the Texas music scene for those “simple stories with beautiful words with a simple melody and beautiful arrangement.” A singer-songwriter from Granbury, Texas, Courtney has independently released three albums, each with its own unique sound. Still Around (2008) is characterized by acoustic guitars and a mixture of traditional country and country-pop arrangements. Triggering a Flood (2013) brought Courtney her first real critical acclaim; this is a typical Texas country album, with a sound very similar to much of the red dirt music coming out of Oklahoma and Texas. So This is Life (2015) is, in Courtney’s own words, “a traditional country record”–Courtney raised funds for this on Kickstarter with this type of album in mind. So This is Life was
my introduction to Courtney, with its acoustic arrangements and excellent songwriting. I was immediately captured by her voice, and became a Courtney Patton fan the day I first heard her album. Since then, I have listened to her earlier albums as well, finding songs on both Triggering a Flood and Still Around that I enjoyed. Courtney Patton and Jason Eady have discussed a future duets album, which will likely be the next album to come from either of them, and that day cannot come soon enough because Jason Eady is incredible as well.

Since this column is about the promotion and discovery of talented females, it is important to share that in the SCM interview, Courtney was asked about females in the Texas music scene, as well as the Keith Hill controversy. It’s as hard, if not harder, for females to be successful in Texas as it is in Nashville. Courtney said,

It is incredibly hard for female artists. I’ve even admitted to being one of the females that prefers listening to men and I don’t even know why that is. I think there are a lot of really strong female writers out there right now that are proving me wrong. And that’s so great. I think that there’s always been more men since music has been around but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t just as many great women that aren’t being heard. I know that guy [Keith Hill] was a consultant and I know that he feels like he was misquoted a lot. Jason [Eady] and I went back and read what he wrote and he was just saying what he saw. But it’s a hurtful way to deliver a message that if radio stations play more women singers, their ratings will go down. I hate that. I’d like to say that’s radio’s problem for not figuring it out correctly. Our local radio guy, one of my favorite radio host’s named Shayne Hollinger, said, “There’s no reason for you not to play women because they’re out there and some of them are better than the men.” I believe that. I believe that there’s some really talented women out there that are better than some of the men that are being played. We just need to shut up and do our work and prove it. That problem has been there forever for women

Patton went on to say that men and women have different points of view and can tell different stories when writing songs.

Women are mothers and can be wise in those ways. They can be spouses to addicts and speak from being abused. There’s so many different ways to write a country song and it’s important to hear it from the woman’s perspective. Women can have subtleties that guys don’t. I don’t know. All I know is that I’m all for it (laughter). All my girlfriends are fantastic songwriters and singers and I know that much of what they’re doing can’t be done by a guy. And there’s things that guys can do that we can’t. It really takes both of us. I just hope that there’s as close to a level playing field as there can be because they deserve to be heard. I hope to be heard.

Why Courtney Belongs on Country Radio

Firstly, I am not going to use this to talk about why Texas and/or independent artists should get airplay and recognition by mainstream Nashville–that is its own point entirely and could cover multiple posts. This is about what Courtney brings to the table in the Texas scene and in country music as a whole. The answer is simple: her definition of country–“simple stories with beautiful words with a simple melody and beautiful arrangement.” Whenever someone asks you how you define “country”–and that happens a lot these days because apparently that definition has magically changed–refer them to this. Courtney Patton’s answer is the best possible answer, and her music is a wonderful reflection of her answer. Her songs tell about her parents’ divorce, (“So This is Life,”) one-night stands, (“Little Black Dress,” “Need for Wanting,” “Sure am Glad,”) marital problems, (“Battle These Blues,” “Her Next Move,” “Where I’ve Been,”) prison (“Killing Time,”)–and by the way, all those examples come from one album. That, my friends, is country. It’s raw and real, and there’s something relatable about that that Courtney Patton understands. Then, she takes all these songs and adds acoustic guitars, steel guitars, fiddles–and in the case of Triggering a Flood, a good Texas country blend of country and rock instrumentation–and her remarkable voice, and makes you feel something with nearly every song she sings. And by the way, someone needs to give Jason Aldean a Courtney Patton record, because I guarantee he will be able to tell her apart from the other women–if not, he is tone deaf and no one should be taking him seriously anyway.

Tracks I Recommend

1. “War of Art”–So This is Life
2. “Lamplight”–Triggering a Flood
3. “Need for Wanting”–So This is Life
4. “So This is Life”–So This is Life
5. “Little Black Dress”–So This is Life
6. “Where I’ve Been”–So This is Life [by the way, Jason Eady wrote this, which accounts for part of its awesomeness]
7. “Sure Am Glad”–So This is Life
8. “Better Man”–Triggering a Flood
9. “Light Fades”–Triggering a Flood
10. “Twelve Days”–So This is Life
11. “Ain’t Lovin’ Like This”–Triggering a Flood
12. “Still Around”–Still Around

Listen to Triggering a Flood

Listen to So This is Life

Female Fridays: Featuring Kacey Musgraves

I debated about whether or not to do a Female Friday over Kacey Musgraves because she’s probably the most known female in country music besides Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert. But being known and being appreciated are two vastly different things, and I think Kacey Musgraves is certainly underappreciated by country radio and many times by country listeners themselves. It’s one thing to know her as the controversial singer of “Follow Your Arrow” and “Biscuits” and quite another to know her as one of the writers of “Fine.” So with that in mind, I decided that Kacey deserves a Female Friday.

How You Might Know Kacey

I’m sure you all know “Follow Your Arrow,” but I’m not going to post that for the aforementioned reasons. Many of you should also know her debut single “Merry Go ‘Round” which won a Grammy for Best Country Song in 2014.

Bio

From a 2013 interview with PrideSource, on her musical influences,

I’ve always loved Dolly Parton and I used to sing her songs when I was little. She’s a great storyteller and that’s probably where I got a lot of my influence from. I love Loretta Lynn and Willie Nelson and his truth telling. I love Glen Campbell and a lot of old-school country. I’m really all over the map, but the country I seem to like is a lot older.

From a 2013 interview with The Guardian, on her controversial lyrics,

“Certain kinds of people will always have an issue with my music,” says Musgraves. “But that’s fine, it’s OK. I don’t want to be the McDonald’s of music. I don’t want to not turn anyone off. If you were everybody’s cup of tea, you’d probably be boring.

“I don’t feel that the songs I sing and the music I make are very subversive, but I can see how it would be to some people,” she goes on. “The things I sing about are just what inspires me and what I’ve been exposed to in my life. It’s not like I’ve thought, Ooh, this is a button pusher!”

Kacey Musgraves (born August 21st, 1988, from Golden, Texas), grew up singing and songwriting. She sang western swing music in the clubs around Texas and listened to the aforementioned country artists, along with The Spice Girls and Tom Petty, among others. She dreamed of leaving Golden and eventually did, after placing seventh on Nashville Star in 2007, an experience for which she is glad few remember her. Kacey had self-released three albums before her appearance on the show. In 2008, while living in Austin, she was signed to independent label Triple Pop and recorded two songs, “Apologize” and “See You Again.” She eventually moved to Nashville and was signed to Mercury in 2012.

Kacey Musgraves has released two excellent, critically acclaimed albums, Same Trailer Different Park (2013), and Pageant Material (2015), along with a single called “The Trailer Song” (2014.) Additionally, she can be found singing backing vocals on Dierks Bentley’s 2013 single “Bourbon in Kentucky,” was featured on Josh Abbot Band’s 2011 single “Oh, Tonight,” and is credited with writing many other songs, including several for ABC’s Nashville. Same Trailer Different Park won a Grammy for Best Country Album in 2014, as well as an ACM for Album of the Year. Pageant Material is nominated for this year’s CMA Album of the Year. Kacey’s debut single, “Merry Go ‘Round,” won a Grammy for Best Country Song and charted inside the top ten on Billboard Country Airplay, a remarkable achievement for a woman, a debut single, and a song of such substance. “Merry Go ‘Round” has been certified platinum and “Follow Your Arrow” has been certified gold. “Follow Your Arrow” also became the 2014 CMA Song of the Year.

But it was “Follow Your Arrow,” as well as Pageant Material‘s lead single, “Biscuits,” that typecast her as the controversial singer who supports gay rights and/or anti-religious lyrics. “Follow Your Arrow” does exactly that, with its “Kiss lots of boys, or kiss lots of girls, if that’s what you’re into,”–but that’s not all Kacey is about. She’s been classified by many as the singer who supports casual sex, (“It is What it Is,”) homosexuality, (“Follow Your Arrow,”) anti-religious lyrics and/or lyrics concerning hypocrisy, (“Biscuits”), and smoking pot (“Follow Your Arrow,” “Pageant Material,”) and that’s drawn both criticism and praise. Many praise her for her outspoken, progressive values while others typecast her as only singing about these things and don’t even bother to check out the rest of her discography. That is highly unfortunate, especially if you claim to love country–Kacey is a traditional country artist if I ever heard one, and she shouldn’t be overlooked either because of her values or because of some ill-conceived belief that “controversy” is all she sings about. In fact, her current single, “Dime Store Cowgirl,” is the most personal and least socially controversial song Kacey has ever sent to radio, so hopefully it will get a chance.

Why Kacey Belongs on Country Radio

Kacey Musgraves started out with a top ten hit, but now she has been all but blacklisted from country radio. Why? She’s too “country.” She’s too “controversial.” She supports drug use, gay rights, etc. Well, for one, they played “Merry Go ‘Round” and that was country. Secondly, so she’s controversial…at least there’s something to her lyrics besides “calling dibs” on some “boy.” Thirdly, so it’s okay for Luke Bryan to promote “Strip it Down” on Tinder, for the bros to objectify women–and sing about casual sex, I might add–and for virtually everyone in mainstream country except Carrie Underwood to glorify excessive drinking, but Kacey Musgraves can’t talk about getting high? Talk about hypocrisy. And one more thing: Kacey Musgraves is actually doing something that radio programmers want to do–she’s bringing in a younger audience with her “controversial” brand of country. And guess what? Unlike the people coming to “country” through Kelsea Ballerini, the bros, Sam Hunt, and Taylor Swift–with some exception for early Taylor Swift–these people are being introduced to actual country. We traditionalists advocate balance. We don’t want everything to sound like Hank Williams and Loretta Lynn–we just want some actual country on country radio. Kacey Musgraves is an answer; she brings in a younger demographic while keeping her completely traditional sound.

Tracks I Recommend

For this, I’ll pick the standout tracks from each album separately, in order of awesomeness. I recommend both albums equally; each had highs and lows, and I listen to each one far too much.

Same Trailer, Different Park

1. “It Is What it Is”
2. “Merry Go ‘Round”
3. “Back on the Map”
4. “Silver Lining”
5. “I Miss You”
6. “Follow Your Arrow”
7. “Blowin’ Smoke”

Listen to album

Pageant Material

1. “Pageant Material”
2. “Good Ol’ Boys’ Club”
3. “Somebody to Love”
4. “Dime Store Cowgirl”
5. “Fine”

Listen to album

This was the most country moment of last year’s CMA’s, complete with Loretta Lynn herself.

Female Fridays: Featuring Brandy Clark

Brandy Clark is known more for her songwriting, but she is also a talented singer who has received much critical acclaim. I am excited to feature her on this Female Friday.

How You Might Know Brandy

She’s known for her songwriting, often in connection with Kacey Musgraves and Shane McAnally. These three have co-written many of Kacey’s songs, but perhaps their most notable success is the Miranda Lambert hit “Mama’s Broken Heart.”

Bio

From Brandy Clark’s Web site:

“I get my inspiration from real people who are just surviving their life and getting through their day. That’s who I write songs for,” Clark explains. “I want to write songs for somebody who is working at a bank — if that person could write a song, what they would write. That’s my goal.”

Brandy Clark (born October 9, 1977, from Morton, Washington), was interested in music at an early age. She grew up with and was influenced by the music of Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, and Merle Haggard. After college, she began taking her music career more seriously. She enrolled at Belmont University in 1998 and studied commercial music. After graduation from Belmont, Brandy got a job with Leadership Music and eventually received a publishing deal.

Brandy has written many notable songs over the years. I already mentioned “Mama’s Broken Heart,” but she also co-wrote The Band Perry’s “Better Dig Two,” and Kacey Musgraves’s “Follow Your Arrow.” Brandy is cited on songs by Reba McEntire, Keith Urban, Wade Bowen, and Sunny Sweeney, just to name a few. In fact, it is worth noting that Brandy was a co-writer of Sunny Sweeney’s “Bad Girl Phase,” which I mentioned in Sunny’s
Female Friday as being the first #1 single by a female artist on the Texas Music Chart. Since this column is about promoting females, it is also worth mentioning that Brandy Clark and Kacey Musgraves became two of only fourteen women to win a CMA for Song of the Year when “Follow Your Arrow” received this distinction in 2014. in Between all the writing for others, Brandy wrote several songs that eventually turned into an EP in 2012 and later into her debut album, 12 Stories, in 2013.

“I was just writing songs. But with titles like ‘Take a Little Pill’ and ‘Day She Got Divorced,’ artists wouldn’t cut those songs. However, they are some of my favorites and, artistically, I fit them,” says Clark , who decided to record her own album after playing “Get High” for her songwriting partner Shane McAnally. “Shane said that I could write a whole record of songs from that woman’s perspective and make an album that no one has ever made. That’s kind of what we did.”

And that’s what her debut album is–an album no one else would make, full of real “stories” of real people. 12 Stories was named by many critics as 2013’s best album–in fact, there are many who would argue that Brandy Clark deserves more recognition than her friend Kacey Musgraves (I am not touching that debate.) Brandy Clark is currently working on her second album; it is due out in 2016.

Why Brandy Belongs on Country Radio

She belongs there for the same reason that Kacey Musgraves does–she’s singing and writing real, relatable songs, and she’s not afraid of the truth. Radio won’t play Kacey for all of these reasons, and also she is too “country.” Brandy is too “country” for country radio too, and the fact that I have to even write this sentence is ridiculous. Brandy Clark was partly responsible for “Mama’s Broken Heart,” “Better Dig Two,” and “Follow Your Arrow,” but country radio can’t give her own music a fair chance? I don’t even know how to explain why she belongs on country radio–because in a world where country radio played country songs, Brandy Clark would be on the radio and making #1 hits.

Tracks I Recommend

I hesitate to pick apart what many consider to be the best album of 2013, but these are my personal favorites.

1. What’ll Keep Me Out of Heaven–12 Stories
2. Hold my Hand–12 Stories
3. Pray to Jesus–12 Stories
4. Stripes–12 Stories
5. Hungover–12 Stories

Listen to 12 Stories

The song that made me a fan of Brandy Clark.