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 "V."
Conny Van Dyke "Conny Van Dyke Sings For You" (ABC, 1975)
(Produced by Jim Foglesong & Larry Coates)
An innocuous vanity project from B-actress Conny Van Dyke, who co-starred with Burt Reynolds in the flop film, "W.W. And The Dixie Dancekings," where these songs come from. Mostly countrypolitanized covers of early rock and rock-era vocal tunes, songs like the old Everly Brothers hit, "Walk Right Back," and "Jim Dandy," as well as a country tune or two, like "Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On." On the whole, she was not a notably good singer, and on several songs she sounds just terrible. Nashville stalwarts Harold Bradley and Bill Walker got roped into doing some of the arrangements, but I don't think anyone put too much effort into this one...
Fine picking from dobro virtuoso Sally Van Meter, and a passle of pals who include Todd Phillips, Scott Nygard, Tony Furtado and other newgrass usual suspects. Van Meter plays it both ways on here -- there are a couple of good hoedown-y truegrass tunes, and a few nice vocal numbers, but a hefty chunk of this disc is taken up by softer, somewhat easy listening-ish instrumentals. Still, she has such a great tone and expressive, soulful delivery that most fans probably won't mind. Nice performances throughout, and only a few tunes that are simply too syrupy. It'd be great to hear Van Meter sing more often: she has a really lovely voice.
April Verch "Springtime Fiddle" (Self-released, 1992)
April Verch "Fiddle Talk" (Self-released, 1995)
April Verch "Fiddelicious" (1998)
April Verch "Fiddelicious" (1998)
April Verch "Verchuousity" (Rounder, 2001)
April Verch "From Where I Stand" (Rounder, 2003)
An extraordinarily pleasant, appealing record -- one of my favorite folk/country/Americana albums of '06 -- and one that, for some reason, I just can't seem to get out of my CD player. Canadian fiddler April Verch moves masterfully from style to style, including sizzling breakdowns, funky Celtic reels and slip jigs, a bit of slinky, bluesy jazz ("Monarch") and several achingly beautiful vocal numbers, including the title track (which was written by Buddy and Julie Miller), the poppy "All In A Night," the abject yet incandescent "I Still Cry," and Verch's own unusual portrait of a gal who takes up a nun's habit, "Bride Of Jesus." From start to finish, this is a bright, compelling record, one that should open more than a few ears to this up-and-coming young player. Highly recommended!
(Produced by Gina Villalobos & Erik Colvin)
A raw, rollicking country-rock effort full of attitude and drive... There's the teeniest hint of Lucinda Williams in the mix, but in her more rockin' moments, Villalobos comes closer to the Tom Petty/Sheryl Crow school of roots-rock tunesmithing. The stylistic hallmarks of the Americana/outlaw movement are present -- fiddle, pedal steel and banjo -- but Villalobos' L.A. rocker roots are never far from the surface. She distinguishes herself with her powerful, fully captivating melodic hooks -- the sign of a noteworthy artist in any genre. If you're looking for some twang that really rocks, check this gal out!
An absolutely outstanding traditionalist bluegrass album! Soulful, restrained picking, great vocals, and a killer song selection! What more could you ask for? After several years trying to make it as a Nashville-r, Vincent has come into the acoustic fold, and the results are quite nice. Most of all, this album nails the feeling of live-wire immediacy that made the best old bluegrass so compelling. Includes an excellent version of Dolly Parton's greatest song ("Jolene"), along with material by Wayne Raney, Jimmy Martin and the Louvin Brothers. Believe me, this is a class act.
Another doozy from this bluegrass powerhouse! Vincent has really got the goods -- this disc doesn't slow down or cheese out even once; it's just one really good, really authentic song after another, with solid picking that's as heartfelt as it is flawless. Banjoist Tom Adams holds down the floor, while Vincent's mandolin work is a melodic delight. If it sounds like I'm gushing, well... I am. This album is one of the strongest I've heard in years, with great song selection, soulful vocals and picking that can't be beat. Includes a nice tribute to Bill Monroe ("Is The Grass Any Bluer?"), a breakneck cover of Ernest Tubb's "Nails In My Coffin," and an insightful gospel number called "You Don't Love God (If You Don't Love Your Neighbor"). Highly recommended.
Her mix of brisk truegrass picking and sentimental, crossover love songs still holds true, with perhaps a slight tilt towards the less rugged stuff. But Vincent fans will not be disappointed here, particularly as she's stepped up to the plate as a songwriter, composing or co-writing about half the songs on here, augmenting these with a well-selected set of cover tunes and favorites. Maybe not as dazzling or as rootsy as earlier albums, but still pretty darn fine.
Another rock-solid truegrass outing from bandleader Rhonda Vincent, who gracefully moves from the keeping-the-flame-alive proclamations of the title tune into the mournful patriotism of "Till They Came Home," which traces several generations of war veterans and their families, from WWII to Iraq, along with an equally topical "God Bless The Soldier." The real emotional core of this album is its gospel-drenched ending, which features several top-flight harmony tunes, notably "Jesus Built A Bridge To Heaven" and "Precious Jewel." The secular heartsongs suffer by comparison: they feel a bit restrained, whereas there's a powerful wellspring of feeling bubbling under the religious tunes. All in all, though, this is a top-flight album, every bit as sharp and lively as you'd expect from Ms. Vincent. Nice stuff!
Patricia Vonne "Patricia Vonne" (Bandolera, 2003)
Normally, I try to avoid reflexively comparing female artists to other female artists... But in the case of Austin-based songwriter/actress Patricia Vonne, her stylistic and vocal similarity to Lone Justice-era Maria McKee is so noticible, I feel I'd be somewhat negligent if I didn't point it out. It's the early '80s cow-rock sound all over again -- hints of Carlene Carter and Rosanne Cash are in there as well, and maybe even a wisp of Chrissie Hynde in the snarlier moments. Vonne adds a bilingual Tex-Mex twist that sets her apart, but the basic sound is much the same... It's a little too hard-edged and roots-rocky for me, but for fans of the impassioned, sometimes torturously wordy McKee ouvre, this disc may be a godsend. By the way, Vonne's also related to director Robert Rodriguez, and can be seen (and heard) in some of his films... This is her second album.
Hillbilly Fillies - Letter "W"
Hick Music Index
Sisters Who Swung: Women In Jazz & Blues