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"
Allison Paige "Send A Message"
Allison Paige "Allison Paige" (Lofton Creek, 2003)
Allison Paige "End Of The World" (Lofton Creek, 2004)
Rissi Palmer "Rissi Palmer" (Mighty Loud, 2008)
A nice set of pop-country, 2000's-style, with traces of soul and perky pop woven into prefab Nashville themes. Pretty cool for an indie release, and pretty surprising that Ms. Palmer didn't go a lot further on the strength of this record. She has a very nice voice and a feel for the style -- fits right in with stuff by other gals like Martina McBride and Sara Evans... Definitely worth checking out if you enjoy that style.
Caryl Mack (Parker) "Caryl Mack" (EP) (Parkworth, 1988)
A rock-oriented demo EP...
Caryl Mack (Parker) "Smoke And Mirrors" (Cascot/Rancho Divine, 1993)
Caryl Mack Parker "Caryl Mack Parker" (Magnatone, 1996)
Caryl Mack Parker "Rancho Divine" (Rancho Divine, 2008)
Lori Parker "Just Stepping Out" (GMV, 2007)
A nice digital-only reissue of some classic 1970s (and maybe '80s?) sunshine country. Parker was a true minor-leaguer, with a couple of singles 'way back in the back of the Back Forty, around 1977, but they were fun songs. This include all the tracks from her three singles on the short-lived Con Brio label, as well as material from other sources (anybody know where?) If you like the simpler, more innocent side of the '70s sunshine sound, this might be a real find!
Dolly Parton - see artist discography
Joyce Paul "Heartaches, Laughter & Tears" (United Artists, 1968) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Montgomery & Kelson Herston)
Looks generic, but I like it!
Peggy Sue "Dynamite!" (Decca, 1969) (LP)
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) (LP)
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!
Peggy Sue "I Just Came In Here" (Doorknob, 1977)
Peggy Sue & Sonny Wright "Gently Hold Me" (Big R, 1981) (LP)
Peggy Sue & Sonny Wright "One Side Of Peggy Sue" (Circle, 1982)
Nancy Peppers "Life's A Bitch" (Aspirion, 2008)
Laura Lee Perkins "Don't Wait Up" (Juke Box Pearls series) (Bear Family, 2012)
One of the shortest Bear Family CDs ever, this collects rare '50s singles from piano-plunkin' rockabilly siren Laura Lee Perkins, who was billed as a "female Jerry Lee Lewis." Her professional output totaled a mere two fiery 45s for the Imperial label, accompanied here by demo sessions and some live recordings -- 14 tracks in all. Of special note is the guitar playing of the great Joe Maphis on her studio sessions.
Andrea Peterman "Miles To Go" (Highway W, 2007)
(Produced by John Abella)
A self-released Americana outing, from a songwriter living in LA... I'd say her voice might be better suited to introspective folkie stuff, but the uptempo country-rock arrangements she prefers are pretty solid. I'm not familiar with the guys backing her up, but they seem like good representatives of the indie-billy pickers in LA at the time...
Gretchen Peters "The Secret Of Life" (Imprint, 1996)
Gretchen Peters "Gretchen Peters" (Scarlet Letter, 2001)
Gretchen Peters "Halcyon" (Scarlet Letter, 2004)
Gretchen Peters "Trio: Recorded Live" (Scarlet Letter, 2006)
Gretchen Peters "Burnt Toast And Offerings" (Thirty Tigers, 2007)
Gretchen Peters "Northern Lights" (Scarlet Letter, 2008)
Gretchen Peters & Tom Russell "One To The Heart, One To The Head" (Scarlet Letter, 2009)
Gretchen Peters "Circus Girl" (101 Distribution, 2009)
Colleen Peterson "Beginning To Feel Like Home" (Capitol, 1976) (LP)
This little-known solo debut showcases Canadian-born Colleen Peterson at her best -- rootsy, funky, twangy and down-home, kind of like a more-country version of Bonnie Raitt. I'd never heard of her before, either, but this soulful Canadian had a nice, bluesy style, that sort of funky crossover that folks were into back in the '70s. She wasn't the greatest singer, but this is a strong album nonetheless, with a good backing band that included Dick Feller (of all folks!) on guitar, as well as Randy Scruggs and Lloyd Green providing some solid steel work. Interesting song selection, too, with tunes by Rusty Wier, Charlie Rich, Jesse Winchester and Mississippi John Hurt (!), as well as a couple of songs written by Peterson herself. Not the most amazing record ever, but I'm still glad I found a copy...
Colleen Peterson "Colleen" (Capitol, 1976) (LP)
Colleen Peterson "Takin' My Boots Off" (Capitol, 1976) (LP)
Colleen Peterson "Basic Facts" (Book Shop, 1988)
Colleen Peterson "Let Me Down Easy" (Intersound, 1991)
Colleen Peterson "What Goes Around Comes Around" (EMI, 1995)
Colleen Peterson "Postcards From California" (EMI, 2004)
Sam Phillips "Fan Dance" (Nonesuch, 2001)
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.
Kellie Pickler "Small Town Girl" (BNA, 2006)
Kellie Pickler "Kellie Pickler" (BNA, 2008)
The second album by former American Idol contestant Kellie Pickler. The opening tracks, including the hit, "Don't You Know You're Beautiful" are pure, '90s-style pop -- calling them "country" seems kind of silly, but hey, nobody asked me. Pickler puts some twang in her voice and brings in a bit of fiddle'n'steel for the next few tunes, and projects an amiable presence. Not a lot here that I'd go wild over -- mostly prefab country-pop, with laboratory-tested melodic hooks, grandiose key changes galore and goofy, synthy filligrees that make it all seem so sterile. Still, Pickler is comfortable with the setting, much more so than on bluesy, thumpy "bad girl" anthems like "Lucky Girl," territory that's better left to folks like Gretchen Wilson or Carlene Carter. If you're a Pickler fan, you won't be disappointed; if you prefer Waylon, Loretta or Hank, you might wanna give this a pass.
Kellie Pickler "100 Proof" (BNA/19 Recordings, 2012)
Celinda Pink "Victimized" (Step One, 1993)
Celinda Pink "Unchained" (Step One, 1995)
Pistol Annies "Hell On Heels" (Columbia, 2011)
(Produced by Frank Liddell, Mike Wrucke & Glenn Worf)
A twangy, bouncy, boisterous set from country superstar Miranda Lambert and a couple of her pals, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley, two singers who have been kicking around in the Nashville studios for the past few years. The trio has a nice sound, with plenty of sweet harmonies woven into their sassy, bad-girl vibe... I imagine this side-project is a big relief for Ms. Lambert, who's always peppered her albums with rowdy songs, but must be under a lot of pressure to make her own records more salable and formula-driven: you'd never hear this much cussing on a Top 40 station, but here she can cut loose and have a little fun. We can, too, singing along to songs like "Takin' Pills," "Lemon Drop" and "Trailer For Rent." Pretty fun stuff! A nice surprise from Nashville, for sure.
Mary Kay Place "The Ahern Sessions: 1976-1977" (Raven, 2001)
A welcome twofer reissue combining two albums recorded by actress Mary Kay Place during her tenure as the TV character Loretta Haggers, on the fabled Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman soap comedy, 1976's Tonite! At the Capri Lounge Loretta Haggers and Aimin' to Please from 1977. Ms. Place -- or should I say Ms. Haggers? -- had an A-list studio crew backing her up, including members of Emmylou Harris's Hot Band and numerous Nashville heavyweights, with sonic sculpting by Emmylou's best producer, Brian Ahern. The overall sound will be pretty familiar to Emmylou's fans: spacious, round-toned harmonies, rock-friendly twang, traditional honkytonk instruments in a well-defined soundscape, and plenty of sweet picking from the likes of James Burton, Albert Lee and Rodney Crowell, and guest singers that include Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson. Some of the songs are better than others: I think they really hit their rhythm on the second album, taking things a little more seriously in some ways than on the first... Highlights include "Vitamin L" (a staple on the Mary Hartman show), a funky cover of Bobby Braddock's "Something To Brag About" and a sublime version of "You Can't Go to Heaven (If You Don't Have a Good Time)," which is probably the best and most sincere song of the set. If you like that whole Hot Band/Happy Sack production style, you'll want to check this one out!
Mary Kay Place "Tonite! At The Capri Lounge/Aimin' To Please" (Wounded Bird, 2011)
An equally welcome re-re-reissue of the same two albums... Ride 'em cowgirl!
Mary Kay Place "Almost Grown" (Wounded Bird, 2011)
There's also an unreleased third album... Haven't heard this one, but I'm eager to check it out! I'll letcha know when I track it down.
Porter Hall, Tennessee "Welcome To..." (Slewfoot, 2002)
Although these fellow traffic 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.
Porter Hall, Tennessee "All Sinners Welcome Here" (Big Bender, 2007)
Prescott-Brown "Already Restless" (Sony, 1994)
A country trio singer Tracey Brown and her brother Barry Brown (both originally from the popular Canadian family band, The Family Brown, whose popularity peaked in the 1970s and '80s) and Tracey Brown's husband Randall Prescott. Tracey Brown also recorded a couple of solo albums after this group broke up.
Maryann Price "Etched In Swing" (Watermelon, 1993)
A former vocalist with the Dan Hicks backup band, The Hot Licks, in a solo album with Hicks sitting in on one song.
Maryann Price "Hot 'N' Cole" (BAM, 1997)
A live show, recorded at the Cactus Cafe, in Austin, TX.
Maryann Price "Jazzland" (Catfish Jazz, 2000)
Rachel Proctor "Where I Belong" (BMG-BNA, 2004)
(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, sandwiched 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!
Rachel Proctor "Where I Belong" (Self-Released, 2007)
Rachel Proctor "What Didn't Kill Me" (Self-Released, 2009)
Jeanne Pruett - see artist discography
Hillbilly Fillies - Letter "Q"
Hick Music Index
Sisters Who Swung: Women In Jazz & Blues