Welcome to my overview of women in country music, with reviews ranging from folk and bluegrass to honkytonk, rockabilly and Nashville pop. This is the first page covering the letter "P."
Dolly Parton - see artist discography
Peggy Sue "Dynamite!" (Decca, 1969)
With a strong vocal likeness to her well-known older sister, Loretta Lynn, 22-year old Peggy Sue Wells had both a leg up and a mark against her when it came to making it big in Music City. Comparisons were inevitable, and Loretta sure is a hard act to follow... Nevertheless, this is a fine album, and Peggy Sue should hardly be seen as having ridden in on her sister's coattails -- she had plenty of talent on her own. She wrote many of the songs on here, including winners such as "You Can't Pull The Wool Over My Eyes," along with several others co-written with Big Sister. One way they tried to make he sound distinctive was with the liberal use of fuzzed-out electric guitar and other mildly psychedelic instrumentation... Works for me! Of course, who could have suspected that it would be their other sister, Crystal Gayle, who would be the other big star in the family? Anyway, track this disc down if you can; if you're a fan of Loretta, then this spunky set will make your toes tap as well!
Peggy Sue "All-American Husband" (Decca, 1970)
Another cool album by this now-neglected hick music heroine... This disc has a feisty feminist bent to it, and includes Peggy Sue's version of "Don't Come Home A-Drinkin'," which she co-wrote with Loretta, along with plenty of other top-notch tunes, by brand-name songsmiths such as Hank Cochran and Joe South, as well as lesser known writers like Maxine Kelton ("Apron Strings") and Julie Ann Beisbier, who wrote the catchy, sassy title tune. Recommended -- and overdue for a digital era re-release!
Colleen Peterson "Beginning To Feel Like Home" (Capitol, 1976)
This little-known album showcases Canadian-born Peterson at her best -- rootsy, funky, twangy and down-home, kind of like a more-country version of Bonnie Raitt.
Not alt.country, per se, but still such a great album it'd be a shame to pass it by. For many a month, this was one of my favorite albums, full of captivating tunes and odd, evocative lyrics. Phillips has long been something of and indie inbetweener, too rootsy for a mainstream breakthrough, and too mainstream to be fully embraced by the indie hipoisie... The production on this mainly-acoustic album -- steered, as ever, by her hubby, T-Bone Burnett -- is slick and mellow, but inviting. Orchestral pop pioneer Van Dyke Parks pitches in, as well as Tom Waits' erstwhile guitarist, Marc Ribot, who lends a recognizably Kurt Weill-ish twist to several tunes. This is Phillips' first album in five years, and while she seems to have missed the "Alice" style of femme-centric Top 40 programming, she certainly has my attention. This is an album packed with songs you could fall in love with. Mature, mysterious, enchanting rootsy modern music.
Althought these fellow traffick in the sort of white trash stereotypes that normally drive me buggy (songs about one drinkin,' druggin,' drawlin' foul-up after another...) I have to admit they have the instrumental ooompf to pull it off... mostly, that is. Singer Molly Conley has a major Lucinda Williams jones, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is a bit overplayed... She trades off and occasionally duets with the band's other singer-songwriter, Gary Roadarmel, and overall, this is pretty darn good, at least for the Bloodshot-ish "insurgent country" style. Worth checking out if you like them sassy, rockers-go-urban hick types.
(Produced by Chris Lindsey)
Her first album was a long time in coming -- a couple of poorly-performing singles were floated the year before, and then she finally struck gold with "Me And Emily," a divorced-mommy tableau that I found a little depressing, but which pulled Proctor up into the Top 20. So, the record finally came out, and the good news is that there are some pretty nice songs on here, in between the glossy would-be Martina McBride type numbers. I liked the more traditional-sounding, upbeat tunes, songs like "Shame On Me" and "I'm Gonna Get You Back," which have a Tanya Tucker-ish sassiness. The ballads, packed with tinkly pianos and smothering schmaltziness, are pretty insufferable... I mean, really, a song like "If That Chair Could Talk" is just so absurdly belabored and contrived... But y'know... no one asks me about stuff like that before they put it on their album... Anyway, this is a mixed bag -- Proctor's not a great singer, by any measure, but she does have an appealing quality that may do her in good stead over the years to come. Nice, too, that she wrote about half the songs on here... I wish her all the best!
An Alabama native who made a big splash in 1973 with the erotically-tinged #1 single, "Satin Sheets," Jeanne Pruett was a fine country singer who retained her rural edge even at the height of the countrypolitan sound. This disc collects the best material from her Decca and MCA singles... and is, sadly, long out of print...
Jeanne Pruett "Greatest Hits" (King)
I'm not totally sure what's happening with this disc... There are live versions of some of "Satin Sheets" and some of her other hits, but it's not really clear when any of this material was recorded... Hmmm. I yam skeptical.
Jeanne Pruett "Jeanne Pruett" (MCA, 1974)
(Produced by Walter Haynes)
A fine mix of slick countrypolitan (oceanic string arrangements in the background) and real country roots (the mournful pedal steel, and Pruett's voice). This is a consistently engaging record, largely due to the solidity of her performance -- she was really a flawless singer, and even when the Nashville-icious arrangements verge on getting tacky or torpid, Pruett anchors this album with soulfulness and emotional depth. There's only one song on here I'd consider a dud, "I'm Your Woman," which was -- of course -- a really big hit, one of her strongest follow-ups to "Satin Sheets."
Hillbilly Fillies - Letter "Q"
Hick Music Index
Sisters Who Swung: Women In Jazz & Blues