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 "W."
Cindy Walker "The Swingin' Cowgirl From Texas" (Bronco Buster, 1998)
Walker has gone down in country history as one of the great songwriters of yesteryear, yet even with several hits in the 1940s, her efforts as a recording artist have long been forgotten. This disc should go a long ways to correct that imbalance -- 26 tracks worth fabulous mid-to-late '40s pop/country with modest backing and consistently fine, bluesy vocals. There is a strong rural edge to her voice, with rough edges left in that clearly show Walker's country roots, even when she was firmly ensconced in the Hollywood showbiz scene. This was back in the days when the trumpet was an acceptable lead instrument in country music and, like Merle Travis, she used it well -- there's also some great pickin' and steel playing, along with the occasional sleepy arrangement. What makes this especially great, though, is the material, mostly Walker originals, including several outstanding bitter, blame-filled breakup songs. This is a precious historic resource for country music lovers -- not to be missed!
Cindy Walker "Words And Music" (Collector's Choice, 2001)
Gillian Welch - see artist discography
Kitty Wells - see artist discography
Dottie West "RCA Country Legends" (Buddah, 2001)
Folks nowadays barely remember Dottie West's days as a "girl" singer back in the '60s, but for a while there, she was a real groundbreaker. Her material was seldom as swinging or lively as RCA labelmates Skeeter Davis and Connie Smith, but West certainly held her own as far as chart action went. A slew of her hits are on both these discs; the material on Country Legends is largely more vigorous and exciting than the RCA Essential collection, although either disc would be a good introduction to her career. Sappy early countrypolitan, but still worth checking out.
Well, the lyrics may have been pretty racy and sexually frank, but the music was really bad. Plus, Dottie helped Kenny Rogers cross over into the country mainstream... Not only is that a heavy burden of shame to bear, but you also have to suffer through a bunch of his vocals on their duet numbers (easily half the songs on this album). If you were a fan back when these songs first came out, this set is a godsend; if you're just someone who likes real country music, you can probably skip this collection.
Dottie West & Jimmy Dean "Country Boy And Country Girl" (RCA, 1970)
(Produced by Jerry Bradley)
Although the sausage king is rightfully thought of as the kiss of death on many of his watered-down releases, this collaboration with the up-and-coming Ms. West is actually a pretty fun, vigorous album. Contemporary "sunshine country" production adds a little bounce and electricity, particularly on their souped-up cover of "Jackson." Sure, maybe we don't really need their versions of old hits such as "Put It Off Until Tomorrow" and "Just Someone I Used To Know," but this is soooooo much better than most of Dean's own work that it's worth checking out, just to hear him get a creative shot in the arm. An okay album from a wimpy era. (PS -- I love the album's awkward sub-head: "...Singing Very Well And Having A Great Time Working Together." Talk about your great marketing slogans!)
Whiskeytown (with Caitlin Cary) - see artist discography
(Produced by Kyle Lehning & Joy Lynn White)
It took me a while to warm up to this record... White's tactical retreat from would-be Top 40 success has left her sounding pretty snarly and rugged... So if you still groove out on old Lone Justice albums or early solo work by Maria McKee, this album's really gonna stir and excite you. White also has a surprising amount of Patti Smith in her and after a while that's what drew my attention, getting me past the roots-rock power chords and crunchy, bluesy guitar riffs (which, frankly, don't appeal to me that much...) and into the songs themselves. There's at least one real masterpiece on here, Phil Lee's soul-searing "Just Some Girl," which explores the "no humans involved" phenomenon, where anonymous young women wind up dead and unmourned, their deaths uninvestigated because the cops figure they were "just" prostitutes or whatever, and nobody's going to care that they're dead. Well, the song has a bit lighter touch than what I just wrote, but it touches on the same subject matter, and it packs a real wallop... It's also one of the most musically subtle songs, and as such highlights White's strengths much better than the louder, brasher songs that surround it. Similarly, "Girls With Apartments In Nashville" is a softer meditation on tough times trying to make it big in Music City... White also has fun with a chunky cover of Allan Toussaint's "A Certain Boy" (delivered with gusto with vocal assist from fellow alterna-chick Amy Rigby...) Even though this album is a little too abrasive for me, I'm sure many Americana lovers will dig it. Definitely worth checking out!
Lari White "Lead Me Not" (RCA, 1993)
Lari White "Wishes" (RCA, 1994)
Lari White "Don't Fence Me In" (RCA, 1996)
Lari White "The Best Of Lari White" (RCA, 1997)
(Produced by Dann Huff)
Yeesh. I can't say I'm wild about her voice (though at least she has some rough edges, which I'm always in favor of...) but the real problem here is the glitzy, overbaked, drum-machine-y prefab production. And the crappy songwriting. Ye gods. It'd probably be a little better, too, if every photo on the album didn't highlight her being all slinky and showing off her bod... It's all just so contrived, and poppy... and bad. Even though there are a few okay moment, you can skip this one. Worth noting: Toby Keith guests on one song ("Only God Could Stop Me From Loving You") and Wynona Judd took the song "Flies On The Butter" into the charts, several years after this disc came out. This really is quite bad, though.
Buck White & The Whites -- see artist discography
Hillbilly Fillies - More Letter "W"
Hick Music Index
Sisters Who Swung: Women In Jazz & Blues