In country music, women are gaining on the good ol' boys


This is the Year of the Woman in country music, too.

"Yep, I guess it's the girls' night out, and it's great," says Suzy Bogguss, who just won the Country Music Association's big newcomer-of-the-year award, a category that included two other women, Pam Tillis and Trisha Yearwood, among the five finalists.

All three women currently have albums among the Top 100 on the pop music charts. So do Mary-Chapin Carpenter, Wynonna Judd, Tanya Tucker, Reba McEntire and Lorrie Morgan.

Bubbling just below them are Kathy Mattea, Patty Loveless, Holly Dunn, Alison Krauss, Nanci Griffith, Lucinda Williams, Michelle Wright, Rosie Flores and Paulette Carlson.

"There were always women in country music, but I can't remember so many doing so well at the same time," says Ms. Morgan, 33, daughter of one Grand Ole Opry star (George Morgan) and widow of another (Keith Whitley).

The biggest names in country are still male -- Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Vince Gill, Travis Tritt, Billy Ray Cyrus, and a dozen other honky-tonk hunks. But women are gaining faster than anybody in Nashville's good ol' boy culture thought possible a few years ago.

There were always star "girl singers," patronized by male stars and generally singing about standing by their men, remorseful honky-tonk angels, hard times on the homestead and walking alone at midnight.

At times, Kitty Wells, Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette and especially Loretta Lynn showed flashes of independence, but invariably men called the shots in their careers.

"You know what's happening?" Ms. Bogguss asks. "Women are taking charge."

"That's right," says Ms. Tillis, 34, daughter of long-time country star Mel Tillis. "Women aren't afraid. They're smart and they're professional. Reba, Dolly [Parton], Emmylou [Harris] -- women who are sharp, women with integrity."

Ms. Tillis is hip and vulnerable, with a twist of sass. Her last album, "Put Yourself in My Place," with its hit singles "Don't Tell Me What to Do" and "Maybe It Was Memphis," went gold and moved her forever out of her famous father's shadow.

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad