Today is Mary Gauthier’s Birthday, and because she is one of my favorite female artists I thought I’d post this list. I have been kicking this idea around for a little while and I came up with the criteria last night and quickly began breaking the rules. This list is my favorite ten records released in the last 25 years by female artists. I kicked the idea back and forth with Mark Hayes from Looking for Lewis and Clark (his top 15 will be at the end of this article) and then came up with my final 10. The list is in no particular order and I kept the list to one record from each artist.
Mary Gauthier : Drag Queens In Limousines (1999)
Since it’s her birthday I thought we’d start with Mary Gauthier. “I Drink” may be my favorite song ever written by a female artist, every time I hear it I am in that living room with the narrator drinking our lives away. That is the power of a great song and Gauthier taps into that on every track on this release. This is one of a couple on this list that really could have been any album by the artist, but I think this my favorite of her releases.
Elizabeth Cook :Welder (2010)
Elizabeth Cook found the perfect blend of country, folk and some rock n roll on this record. “Heroin Addict Sister” is one of the most moving songs I’ve ever heard. “El Camino” shows that Cook doesn’t take her self too seriously and “Rock n Roll Man” is a great ode to her guitar playing husband, Tim Carroll.
Lucinda Williams :Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (1998)
Lucinda is the queen of Americana music in my mind and this is her finest record. Grammy or no this album is phenomenal from start to finish. Her song to Texas legend Blaze Foley “Drunken Angel” is my favorite song of hers and this album has a laundry list of guests that represent the who’s who of Americana music.
Gillian Welch : Time (The Revelator) (2001)
When this record came out a friend of mine played it for me with the caveat, “you are probably going to hate this, but I saw her and David Rawlings live and they were amazing”. Within a minute of the first track I was hooked and have been since. Although she seems to rarely find time to enter a studio every time she does the results are amazing. This record is still the one that stands out to me, but probably because it was the first one I fell in love with.
Ruth Brown : Good Day for the Blues (1999)
Blues legend Ruth Brown had to make an appearance on this list. I challenge anyone to listen to the title track on this one and not immediately be sold. Honestly I could listen to the great Miss Brown sing anything and be happy.
Susan Tedeschi : Just Won’t Burn (1998)
Here’s another record that had me halfway through the first track. The raw energy that Tedeschi delivered on her first few releases is virtually unmatched. I feel like that has been missing from her last few but this record still makes it way into my rotation on a regular basis.
Norah Jones : Feels Like Home (2004)
This could easily be any Norah Jones album, as I think most of them blend together. Having said that I love her voice and the sound of her music, I chose this one because of her versions of Tom Waits’s “Long Way Home” and Townes Van Zandt’s “Be Here To Love Me” both of which are amazing.
Gretchen Peters : Hello Cruel World (2012)
This is the first Peters record that I had ever heard. I kept reading how good it was when it was released that I bought it out of curiosity and I am really glad I did. The song “Five Minutes” is worth the price of the album all by itself and there are a bunch of other great ones on here including a duet with Rodney Crowell.
Terri Hendrix : Cry Till You Laugh (2010)
Texas songsmith, Hendrix blew me away with this record. She seamlessly hops back and forth between jazzy songstress and country folk singer. From start to finish this album is a great listen.
Betty Soo : Heat Sin Water Skin (2009)
Another Texan rounds out my list. After a few years of hearing her name, she made an appearance on Graham Weber’s latest album and her vocals intrigued me. I bought this record shortly thereafter and it quickly became a favorite of mine. Highlights include “Get Clean”, “Just Another Lover” and a haunting cover of Hank Williams’s “Lonesome Whistle”.
That’s it for my list, go check out some of these ladies if you haven’t already and feel free to leave some of your favorites in the comments.
As I mentioned earlier here is Mark Hayes’s list, he was unable to narrow it down to 10, but here are his top 15 :
Bonnie Raitt – “Luck of the Draw”
Cowboy Junkies – The Trinity Session
Freakwater – “Feels like the Third Time”
Gillian Welch – “Soul Journey”
Iris DeMent – “Infamous Angel”
K.D. Lang – “Absolute Torch and Twang”
Kasey Chambers – “Barricades & Brickwalls”
Loretta Lynn – “Van Lear Rose”
Lucinda Williams – “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road”
Maria McKee (solo debut)
Michelle Shocked – “Arkansas Traveler”
Neko Case – “Blacklisted”
Norah Jones – “Come Away with Me”
Rachel Brooke – “A Killer’s Dream”
Sarah Borges & The Broken Singles – “The Stars are Out”