There are plenty of ladies making bank in the fake country biz these days, thanks to auto-tuning and pitch correction, and while people line up and pay big bucks to hear them pretend to sing, there's a bunch of crazy-good women in the Americana music genre making real music for real people.
A semi-comprehensive list of some of my favorites:
Sarah Jarosz is at the top of the Americana charts with her new album, "Build Me Up From Bones" and she's all of 22 years old. Then there's Carrie Rodriguez . This girl can flat-out sing. is a young country singer from Australia, of all places, who's proving that there's some good singers down south.
I assume you're all familiar with Alison and Allison, Krauss and Moorer, respectively. Alison Krauss might be the best country singer in the world. Allison Moorer is right up there too, and gets extra cool points for putting a sticker on one of her albums stating that the voice on the record was hers, and unaltered. She's also married to Steve Earle , so more bonus points for her.
If you like your lady singers truly Southern-fried, you'll want to check out Elizabeth Cook . She's as country as country gets, and writes great songs to boot. Her "Welder" album is on my all-time top 10 list.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the lady with the best voice in the music biz -- and I mean all of it -- Emmylou Harris . She sings like an angel, and I've been in love with her since I was a youngster. I honestly feel bad for anyone who is unfamiliar with her work.
A couple of my other current favorites are parts of groups or duos. Perhaps the most under-the-radar singer out there is a lady named Cary Ann Hearst , who is half of the excellent North Carolina duo Shovels & Rope . She's sung with tons of cool bands, and she should be a superstar. Another lady singing her heart out in a duo is Joy Williams from The Civil Wars , another fantastic band. Speaking of ladies in bands, one of my long-time favorites, Susan Tedeschi , just seems to keep getting better. She's teamed up with her genius guitar-player hubby, Derek Trucks , and their new record, "Made Up Mind," is awfully good. Then there's Carol Young from The Greencards -- another Aussie in a great country band.
There's also some really talented ladies in bands with other really talented ladies, like the Secret Sisters , one of T-Bone Burnett 's pet projects, featuring Laura and Lydia Rogers , sisters from music hotbed Muscle Shoals, Ala. Not only can they sing, they have a healthy respect for traditional country music, which is why you'll never hear them on today's country radio. If you're ever in the neighborhood of Austin, Texas, you'll want to seek out The Trishas , a truly excellent all-girl band with four excellent singer-musicians. I heard them live at Gruene Hall a couple of years ago, and I'm still amazed at how good they are. Another red-hot Texan is Ruthie Foster , who sings like a young Aretha Franklin, but focused on country and blues. That girl is one break away from stardom.
Then there are the veterans, like the aforementioned Harris and Krauss. Singers like Patty Griffin , Rosanne Cash, Terri Hendrix , Bonnie Raitt and Norah Jones , and her band The Little Willies . These are ladies who've been at it awhile, making great music and touring relentlessly. Iris Dement, Rosie Flores, Lucinda Williams and Gillian Welch -- all amazing singers who have built up followings around the country without ever topping the country charts.
There's a lot here for serious music fans to discover, and it's just the tip of the iceberg. So the next time you're feeling burned out by today's cookie-cutter pop country, just remember that if you're willing to look for it, there's plenty of the real thing out there just waiting for you.
Now start looking.