My relationship with music is one of the most important in my life. It’s been consistent over my six-plus decades. Over those years, I have learned a lot about being in the wrong relationships – romantic, professional, family, and friendship. Music has been my rock-solid go-to in understanding what life throws at me. And somehow it has always been the right relationship.
Although raised in the northeast USA, I always loved southern rock. Therefore, it was a hop, skip, and a jump to country music. Country music turns a lot of people off. And yet, once I got it, it became something I craved.
One of my fondest travel memories is in Aarhus, Denmark. A great city with the world-famous rainbow top museum (The ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum). When we visited, there was a free concert in the adjacent building lobby with chairs and nibbles and wine. As travelers, my daughter and I said we can rest here.
Well, when the musicians came on and started playing bluegrass, the place lit up. So did we. If you stop reading now you will miss out on some great music that can be found everywhere. And I am not alone.
Ben Vaughn, American singer, songwriter, musician, record producer, composer for television and film, and a syndicated radio show host, reports this on his blog:
“When most people think of country music, they think of the United States. However, country music is actually quite popular all over the world. In fact, it is one of the most popular genres of music in many countries.”
From songs every grandparent should know to my now favorite genre, country. Many people get turned off when they hear country music. They forget that pop favorite Taylor Swift (who shares my birthday) started as a country artist and has written some of the most popular Country songs today, such as Better Man for Little Big Town.
Born and bred on Carly Simon, Janis Joplin, and Stevie Nicks, I need to feel my music. Those women sang songs with a raw truth that applied to me. They made me feel complex emotions and parts of myself I feared. Times change, I change, but deep down, those hurts, those resentments resurface. And, luckily, there is a new crop of women to sing my blues, strum my pain with their voices, and touch my soul, my truth.
Country music is all about telling a story and these women’s words magnetically relate to me. Each one of these women’s words sticks with me and makes me know I’m not alone.
What is better than 12 of a kind? The extra one for lucky 13! And here it is, my Bakers’ Dozen List of Women Who Sing My Blues: I hope you listen.
Taking some bragging rights here for knowing Brandi early in her career. Many got to know Brandi when she channeled Joan Baez, a brilliant move on her part, but I have been listening to her since she was a Starbucks download in 2007 with the song “Turpentine,” still one of my favorites. And her newest album, The Story, is one I relate to.
I saw Brandi live on April 28, 2016, at 4 pm on the Gentilly Stage at the New Orleans Jazz Festival. I have the video and pics! There is a backstory to me showing up to that performance. It didn’t come easy. My friend did not want to go, and I had to stand up for myself and honor what I wanted; a lesson Brandi sings about in her music.
Pre-wearing tailored pantsuits, Brandi was wearing a poncho and a headband, singing with her two best friends – the boys in her band.
From “Mama Werewolf,” “…if my good intentions go running wild. If I cause you pain my own sweet child…” All of her songs reveal more and more to me as I find new meaning in old words and rhythms that make me sway. Her words stay with me.
I am so enamored with this young singer, that when recently asked on a podcast, “Who would you like to meet if you could?” I immediately responded, “Miranda Lambert.” The podcast host was quite surprised.
I struggle to understand my relationship with my mother. I hold onto my bad feelings with ex-boyfriends and, in general, feel my personal situations are complicated and trapping. With grace, humor, clever wordplay, upbeat tempos and extreme wit, Miranda Lambert untangles what gets me tangled up. I never get tired of songs like “I’m a Keeper” and “Mama’s Broken Heart.”
With her debut single, “Villain,” Lilly burst onto the country music scene with a song that’s both haunting and powerful. Her voice is both delicate and fierce and that makes her one to watch.
I started writing this blog before Ashley won the ACA, that’s a story for another blog on procrastination or as I am learning sometimes, maturing like a fine wine or taking my time. The point is, if you think she is good now, check out her early stuff.
In an earlier Sixty and Me blog I talk about one of my all-time favorite songs, not just by her, but by anyone, “A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega.”
The line that always makes me feel better: “Making the best of the worst day kinda night.”
This 34-year-old has got wisdom beyond her years and humor to match it. In one of my favorite songs, “Mary Go ‘Round,” already a play on childhood notions of the merry-go-round, there are so many signature lines that capsulize the truths we live with and don’t want to admit. It’s summed up in the iconic line, “Same hurt in every heart; same trailer different park, on this broken Mary-go-round.” Genius. Must listen.
I listen to the Highway on Siri’s Radio – I live remotely, and it is hard to get a signal. Priscilla was a Highway find with her single “Just About Over You” which went viral on TikTok. She’s a Massachusetts native, my adopted state. She dives deep into her feelings, and the more she does, the more powerful she becomes. I want me more of that.
I love a good double entendre, a fun play on words, and Carly nails it in every song. It’s hard to pick a favorite between her ability to show both frustration and heartache and her wanting to learn from each relationship. “What he didn’t do,” “Next Girl” and “Hide the Wine.”
Not to be confused with the male singer Morgan Wallen, a male who is also popular. Just listen to Morgan Wade’s words, and you will be hooked. Along the lines of Carly Simon, “Strumming my pain with your fingers, singing my words with your song.”
Morgan’s song “Wilder Days” with its classic words shows love, regret, and hypocrisy: “You say you hate the smell of cigarette smoke, you only smoke when you drink,” reminds me that everyone comes with a past and people say one thing and do another.
Her name is so cute, I wanted to hate her, but that is an impossible task. At the tender age of 29, her blending of country sounds with modern life is profound. Kelsea has a roster of key songs, “Homecoming Queen,” “Half of My Home Town” and “Hole in the Bottle,” where she jokes that it’s a broken bottle, it just keeps disappearing. “Love Me Like You Mean It” is a classic country with modern themes and foul language; what’s not to love?
The first time I heard her song, “Narcissist,” I just kept listening to it on repeat. I find these words uber healing and her deep voice and soulful lyrics sustain me through a wide range of emotions.
“And I know you’ll get over me
But can you get over yourself?
Before you go and love somebody else
You should probably get some help.”
Let’s start with “Things a Man Ought to Know.” That title says it all; the lyrics live up to the promise. Ram Trucks has her all over their commercials with “Heart like a Truck.” In the same year, she dropped “Smell Like Smoke” about her fierce independence, upbringing, and life lessons.
“If I smell like smoke, it’s probably cause I have been through hell.”
Need I say more?
Likely, you have already listened to her song “Ex’s & Ohs.” Elle is that kind of artist, you feel like you know her. And, of course, when she teamed up with my other fav, Miranda Lambert, in “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home), I didn’t want to stop listening. Add her song “Lucky” to your playlist, and it will be a natural hop, skip, and a jump to dancing to more of her music.
The Baker’s Dozen bonus. Any list of young women telling my story in Country song format would not be complete without the foundational song by Maren Morris, “My Church.” It is a go-to for all road trips, short trips, and getting out of your own head.
Start listening, whether you are looking for a good cry or a battle cry, I promise these women do not disappoint. Get ready for the wildest ride of all, feeling those feelings and swaying your body to the music. Enjoy a fabulous by-product: your younger acquaintances, kids, and grandkids will be impressed!
Are you a country music fan? Who are your favorite artists? Which songs are closest to your heart? Do you have a song that sings your blues? If you’re not into country music – why not? Would you consider listening to the above recommendations?