"Hillbilly Fillies" is part of an opinionated overview of country music, with record reviews by me, DJ Joe Sixpack... This page reviews various female-artist country compilation albums. Naturally, it's a work in progress, and quite incomplete, so your comments and suggestions are welcome.
Various Artists "COUNTRY MUSIC CLASSICS: THE WOMEN" (Time-Life Records, 1981)
An outstanding 3-LP overview of classic music by country gals from the dawn of the recording industry up through the twilight of the countrypolitan years. Disc One starts off with pioneering Depression-era artists such as Lulu Belle, The Coon Creek Girls, Zora Layman, Louise Massey, songwriter Cindy Walker and -- of course -- a couple of sweet, sweet tracks by Patsy Montana. Disc Two inches its way into the honkytonk years, moving from the old-time sentimentalism of Molly O'Day into the more rugged stylings of Rose Maddox and Jean Shepard. Chart-toppers like Patsy Cline and Kitty Wells also chime in, along with fondly-remembered second-stringers like Goldie Hill and Chickie Williams, and then comes the 1960s, with superstars like Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette parting the waters with their classic hits. This set tilts heavily towards traditional, "real" country music: it isn't until the last side of Disc Three that the really slick stuff comes into play, with a song each by Lynn Anderson, Barbara Mandrell and Jeanne Pruett, and some alt-ish neotrad material by Emmylou Harris closes things out... This collection is a fantastic resource; too bad it's not still in print and available on CD. And, obviously, it would be nice to have it updated to include the phenomenal commercial success of Top 40 divas such as Faith Hill and Shania Twain... Time-Life has kept the "country women" idea alive in various forms, but nothing as comprehensive or as satisfying as this has ever come out since the '80s... (You can check on their website to see what the current version is...) Otherwise, if you're vinyl-friendly, keep your eyes open for this little gem.
Women have always been part of the country music scene, both as stage and recording stars and as the singers of lullabies and old folk ballads, back home on the farm... Some, like Sara and Maybelle Carter, were top-tier stars who had a decisive influence on the genre, while countless others were side players, ancillary to the men who headlined the shows and chaperoned them from venue to venue. This set gathers a couple dozen fine examples of odd, early recordings from the 1920s and '30s, including a few Carter family tracks, along with the ever-delightful Girls Of The Golden West, the Dezurik Sisters, the Coon Creek Girls, Lulu Belle & Scotty, as well as a host of less well-known performers. The Aaron Sisters contribute a couple of mildly raunchy comedy songs (which are innocuous by today's standards, but pretty racy stuff for "girls" to be singing 'way back then...) and folks such as Moonshine Kate, the Leatherman Sisters, Louisiana Lou and Roba Stanley round out the set. It's mostly old-timey, bluesy stuff -- you have to tap into that Depression-era mindset to enjoy this, but once you're onboard, this disc's a doozy.
Various Artists "HISTORICAL JEWELS BY VARIOUS FEMALE COUNTRY ARTISTS" (Binge Disc, 2000)
Here's a swell set of country rarities, with vintage recordings by dimly-remembered stars such as Jenny Lou Carson, Patsy Montana, Minnie Pearl and Chickie Williams, along with a slew of less famous fillies from years gone by, such as Joan Brooks, Polly Jenkins, the Oklahoma Sweethearts and Judy Perkins... There's sentimental "western" material, yodeling, and some great novelty songs. Highlights include "The Moon Shines Still On The Moonshine Still" (by Judy Perkins) and "I'm Gonna Straddle My Saddle," by Polly Jenkins, as well as a couple of classic numbers by the Girls Of The Golden West, "I Wanna Be A Real Cowboy" and "Boots And Saddle," which feature their sweet, delicate harmony singing. There are also, it should be said, a few tunes that seems subpar, such as Joan Brooks' clunky vocals on "Headed Back To Houston," but the amateurishness actually kind of adds to the charm. (This disc is available only through the amazing German collector label, Binge Disc Records...)
For those of us interested in super-obscure hillbilly singers, and gal singers in particular, this disc is a real goldmine. The Beaver Valley Sweethearts? Betsy Gay? Jenny & Jill? Jeanie Peason? Never heard of 'em. Now, Melisa Monroe was the daughter of bluegrass patriarch Bill Monroe and Margie Collie was Floyd Tillman's wife, but I'd never heard of them before, either. Charline Arthur and Helen Carter (of the Carter Family) are the most recognizable names... This isn't an earthshaking set, but it's genuine hillbilly music and the rediscovery of a slew of long-forgotten country gals is always a welcome thing, as far as I'm concerned... Good heartsongs and a few surprisingly rough honkytonk numbers as well... Worth checking out!
Hick Music Index
Sisters Who Swung: Women In Jazz & Blues