Category Archives: Countdowns

Top Ten Greatest Women of the Nineties – Bubbling Under

I recently wrapped up my countdown of the top ten greatest country women of the nineties, and boy did I have fun writing about every one of them.  But just how many women made great country music during the nineties?  Way more than ten, so it was inevitable that a few would get crowded out of the final list.  Thus, I decided to devote a special post to the great nineties ladies who didn’t quite make the top ten, but who are deserving of honorable mention.

Sara Evans

When you think of great country women of the nineties, isn’t good ol’ Say-ra (spoken with a Southern accent) the first one who comes to mind?  She might not be, seeing as her big commercial breakthrough didn’t come until after the turn of the millennium.  But Sara first surfaced in 1997, with her debut album Three Chords and the Truth, which remains the finest and strongest album of her career, and could have sparked a neotraditionalist revival movement if only Country Radio had gotten on board.  But radio gave Sara a cold shoulder, and refused to spin any of her early singles into the Top 40 (Though she later some traction at radio with the chart-topping title track to her second album No Place That Far)

The title track to Sara’s debut album was a testament to the power of country music in dredging up emotions – In some cases, emotions that were there all along, but that we might try to ignore.  “Three Chords and the Truth” peaked at #44 on the Billboard country singles chart, falling short of becoming a major hit, but becoming the highest-charting single from the album.  With strikingly well-crafted lyrics and tender emotional vocal, “Three Chords” represents one of Sara’s finest musical moments on record.

Suzy Bogguss

The lovely Suzy Bogguss is remembered for having a voice that, as Chet Atkins rightfully described it, “sparkles like crystal water.”  Her hitmaking streak only lasted through the first three years of the nineties, but she made some of the best country music the decade had to offer.  Even after Country Radio had forgotten about her, Suzy continued recording music, experimenting with different musical styles, and performing to a loyal following.

One of her best known hits was the touching ballad, “Letting Go,” which examined the perspectives and feelings of both a mother and daughter as the daughter prepared to leave home for college.


She entered the decade still performing as part of country music’s favorite duo, The Judds.  But when Mama Judd was sidelined by a bout with Hepatitis C, Wynonna set out on a solo career of her own, making her mark on country music with a distinctive voice that radiated soul and spunk.  Though she already had a long list of Judd classics on her resume, Wynonna scored another four number one hits as a solo artist.  Her 5x-platinum solo debut, simply titled Wynonna, showcased stronger and more nuanced vocals than ever before.

The biggest hit of Wynonna’s career was the 1992 four-week number one hit “No One Else On Earth” which has remained a radio recurrent for nearly two decades.  A funky genre-collision of an arrangement and a gritty growling vocal make this single simply unforgettable.

Tanya Tucker

Tanya first broke through in the country music mainstream as a teenager in the seventies with classic hits like “Delta Dawn” and “What’s Your Mama’s Name.”  After enduring a career slump in the early eighties, she made an extraordinary comeback, and was still riding high in the early nineties.  In 1991, she won her first Female Vocalist of the Year award from the CMA, and gave birth to her son on the same day.  She scored two platinum albums with What Do I Do with Me and Can’t Run from Yourself, the latter of which produced one of her signature songs, “Two Sparrows In a Hurricane.”

“Two Sparrows” was a tender love ballad that followed a couple through all the difficulties of life, from their young puppy-love romance to decades of happy married life that followed.  The song became one of the most-awarded hit songs of her career, and the accompanying music video won an ACM award.

Jo Dee Messina

After Shania Twain’s breakthrough, the road had been paved for another spunky and confident girl singer with an ear for a great pop-country hook.  Jo Dee Messina filled the role perfectly.  In 1996, Jo Dee scored two Top Ten hits right out of the gate with “Heads Carolina, Tails California” and “You’re Not In Kansas Anymore.”

She faltered at radio with her next two singles, but her second album I’m Alright saw her sitting comfortable at the top of the charts, producing three back-to-back number-one hits (“Bye Bye,” “I’m Alright,” and “Stand Beside Me”), and one number-two hit (her cover of Dottie West’s “Lesson In Leavin'”).  In 1999, she won the CMA Horizon Award and the ACM Top New Female Vocalist award.

LeAnn Rimes

More than a decade before the whole LeAnn Rimes/ Eddie Cibrian/ Brandi Glanville fiasco erupted, LeAnn was known for her Patsy Cline-esque vocal style and the novelty of being only thirteen years old at the time of her emergence in country music.

In 1996, this girl who wasn’t even old enough to drive had her first Top Ten hit with her debut single “Blue,” which is well remembered for its infectious yodel hook.  The single won a slew of industry awards, including a Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance, and a CMA award for Single of the Year.  It also helped propel LeAnn’s debut album of the same title to sales of six million copies.  Songwriter Bill Mack, who had originally written “Blue” for Patsy Cline (Patsy died before having the chance to record it), won the CMA award for Song of the Year.  In addition, LeAnn won a Grammy for Best New Artist and a CMA Horizon Award.

Lee Ann Womack

Besides LeAnn, there was also Lee Ann.  When Lee Ann Womack emerged in 1997 as a traditional-leaning country artist in a pop-oriented Country market, she was eagerly embraced by country fans who hungered for some classic country.  When fans first heard her debut single, “Never Again, Again,” it was clear that this woman was country to the core.  Her self-titled debut album quickly reached Top 10 selling status, and eventually radio jumped on board as well.  Lee Ann scored her first major hits with her next two singles “The Fool” and “You’ve Got to Talk to Me.”  The album went platinum, and Lee Ann was named the ACM Top New Female Vocalist in 1998.
Radio and fans continued to embrace the new voice of traditional country music when she released the follow-up album Some Things I Know.  Two of the album’s singles, “A Little Past Little Rock” and “I’ll Think of a Reason Later,” became some of Lee Ann’s best-known nineties hits, the former of which earned a Grammy nomination.

Terri Clark
Terri Clark was introduced to country music through records made by her grandparents, who were stars in the Canadian country music market.  After graduating high school, she moved to Nashville from her native Alberta, Canada, and began pursuing a music career of her own.  She cut her teeth performing in the famed Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, and eventually secured a recording contract with Mercury Records.
Her self-titled 1995 debut album went platinum, and produced three bit hit singles (“Better Things to Do,” “When Boy Meets Girl,” and “If I Were You”), all of which Terri co-wrote.  Her second album Just the Same was certified gold.  Throughout the decade, Terri was able to remain commercially viable by adapting to current trends, but at the same time never sacrificing her own identity as an artist.
Terri’s biggest hit of the nineties, “You’re Easy On the Eyes” was a fine example of the smart lyrics and knockout performance that made her such a well-loved and memorable nineties country star.


Posted by on December 12, 2010 in Countdowns


Top Ten Greatest Women of the Nineties, #1 – Reba McEntire

Though she’s been active in country music for three decades now, country’s favorite redhead was at the top of her game during the nineties.  It was an era when the women ruled country music, and Reba ruled the women.

She was born and raised in Oklahoma.  Growing up, she performed with her brother and sister as The Singing McEntires, and also competed in rodeo barrel-racing events.  She continued to sing while attending Southeastern Oklahoma University with plans of becoming an elementary school teacher.

She was discovered by Red Steagall when she sang the national anthem at an Oklahoma City rodeo, and with his assistance, she secured a recording contract with Mercury Records.  Her first few singles, starting with 1976’s “I Don’t Want to Be a One-Night Stand” turned out to be commercial flops, but she began achieving modest success in the early eighties.  She had her breakthrough with the traditional country-oriented album My Kind of Country, which produced the now-classic hits “How Blue” and “Somebody Should Leave.”  After a slow rise to superstardom, Reba became one of Nashville’s top hitmakers, and was showered with industry awards.  She won four straight CMA Female Vocalist Trophies between 1984 and 1987, and even snagged the coveted Entertainer of the Year award in 1986.

Reba continued to thrive well into the nineties with a more contemporary pop-friendly sound.  By that time, she had hopped labels, and was recording for MCA.  At the beginning of the decade, she released her fifteenth studio album, Rumor Has It.  She gave a stellar vocal performance of the song “You Lie,” the album’s chart-topping first single.

Though it didn’t top the charts, the single “Fancy” became one of the best-known Reba anthems.  The song’s narrator recalls being pushed into prostitution by her own mother as a way of escaping poverty, shakes her finger at those who judge her mother’s course, and expresses her determination to rise above such a lifestyle, and to one day become a lady.

Tragedy struck on March 16, 1991, when a plane carrying seven of Reba’s band members and her tour manager crashed into the side of a mountain, killing all on board.  Reba cites this event as the “darkest hour” of her life, having been devastated by the loss.  After the funeral, Reba shocked many be performing at the Academy Awards only nine days after the crash.  She performed the song “I’m Checking Out,” from the Meryl Streep film Postcards from the Edge.  Reba was harshly criticized for returning to work so soon after the disaster, but she believed that her band would have wanted her to go ahead with the performances, and she was determined to do it for them.

Reba poured all of her grief into her 1991 album For My Broken Heart, which she dedicated to her deceased road band.  The album included many songs of sorrow, which Reba intended it as “a form of healing for all our broken hearts.”  The album sold two million copies in nine months, and the first single and title track became another number one hit.

But it wasn’t all heartbreak.  Reba showed some optimism on the song “Is There Life Out There,” which was about a happily married wife and mother who wonders if she’s missing out on something in life.  The story was fleshed out in the song’s music video, in which Reba’s character eventually earns a college diploma, viewing it as a chance to make her good life even better.  The video, which co-starred Huey Lewis as the character’s husband, was one of the first country music videos to feature extensive amounts of character dialogue in order to further the storyline – a characteristic that raised some complaints from CMT, who nearly banned it for putting “message ahead of music.”  But as it turned out, ingenuity was rewarded with a 1992 ACM Award for Video of the Year.  Reba also starred in a CBS-TV movie based on the video.

After selling platinum once again with her 1992 album It’s Your Call, Reba had earned the right to release a second greatest hits compilation, which included a few new recordings.  One of those songs was the two-woman duet “Does He Love You,” which portrayed the perspectives of both a married woman and her husband’s mistress as they both pondered over the same question:  “Does he love you like he’s been loving me?”

Originally, Reba’s label was hesitant to release a two-woman duet to country radio, considering it a risky commercial maneuver that could alienate both radio and fans.  It was also risky to release it as a duet with a largely unknown background singer such as Linda Davis.  But when Reba’s labelmates Trisha Yearwood and Wynonna Judd both turned out invitations to record the song with Reba, Linda ultimately filled the role of the other woman.  The risk paid off, as the song became a number one hit and one of Reba’s most-awarded hits, netting a CMA Award as well as a Grammy.  It also provided Linda Davis with her first and only number one single.

Reba’s success continued with her 1994 album Read My Mind, but she lost some traction on country radio with the follow-up Staring Over – a pop-flavored covers album.  But Reba rebounded in 1996 with What If It’s You, an album that produced some of the finest singles of her career.  One of them what “The Fear of Being Alone,” which featured a compelling storyline that was grounded in the realities of everyday life.

Reba toured with Brooks & Dunn in 1997, and that lead to them recording a duet.  “If You See Him/ If You See Her” was included on both of their studio albums, and became another number one hit.

Reba’s momentum slowed down slightly with the turn of the millennium, and she became more involved in acting.  In 2001, she made her debut as Annie Oakley in the Broadway production of Annie Get Your Gun.  Later that year, she premiered her WB sitcom Reba, beginning a successful six-season run on television.  She released a handful of new music during this period, including her 2003 album Room to Breathe, which produced her first number one single since 1998 (“Somebody”).  She returned again in 2007 with the Reba Duets album, which featured collaborations with a who’s-who of superstars and legends of both country and pop music – Kelly Clarkson, Justin Timberlake, LeAnn Rimes, and Carole King, just to name a few.

After a few quiet years at radio, Reba made a strong comeback with her 2009 album Keep On Loving You, which yielded the four-week number one smash “Consider Me Gone” – Reba’s first chart-topper since 2003, and the longest running number one single of her career.

There were many talented ladies of the nineties who were deserving of a spot on this countdown, but it was Reba who led the pack.  In addition to being one of the most commercially successful female artists of the decade, she also delivered many of the era’s best-remembered classics.  She also received ample recognition from the award industry during the nineties, receiving five Entertainer of the Year nominations and three ACM Top Female Vocalist Awards.  Thus, in determining country music’s greatest woman of the nineties, Reba was the clear choice.

Top Ten Greatest Women of the Nineties
1. Reba McEntire
2. Trisha Yearwood
3. Patty Loveless
4. Shania Twain
5. Faith Hill
6. Pam Tillis
7. Martina McBride
8. Mary Chapin Carpenter
9. Lorrie Morgan
10. Kathy Mattea


Posted by on November 28, 2010 in Countdowns


Top Ten Greatest Women of the Nineties, #2 – Trisha Yearwood

Lately her focus has been more on cookbooks than on music.  But what was it that made Trisha a star in the first place?  It was neither her stuffed pork chops, nor her breakfast sausage casserole.  Rather, it was powerful and nuanced singing voice coupled with a good ear for worthy songs.  Trisha Yearwood is easily one of the most outstandingly talented and consistently excellent vocalists contemporary country music has ever seen.  She was able to wow the critics and appease country radio while never disappointing her fans with substandard material.

This Georgia native originally moved to Nashville to get an education at Belmont University, but she soon found work as a demo singer.  She became friends with Garth Brooks as he was attempting to break through in country music, and she became his backup singer when he secured a deal with Capitol Records.  With the help of producer Garth Fundis, Trisha was able to score a record deal with MCA – Nashville’s top label.

Trisha’s 1991 debut single, an effortlessly charming ode to young love in a small town, became an instant success.  With “She’s In Love with the Boy,” Trisha became only the second female in country music history to take her debut single to number one – 27 years after Connie Smith became the first in 1964 with “Once a Day.”

Propelled by the runaway success of her first single, along with three subsequent Top 10 hits, Trisha’s self-titled debut album reached double-platinum status, becoming the highest-selling debut album by a female country artist at that time.  Fittingly, Trisha was named the ACM Top New Female Vocalist for the year 1991.

But in her further career efforts, Trisha sought to make an artistic statement rather than re-create the success of her debut single. (Are you paying attention to this, Gretchen Wilson?)  She previewed her 1992 sophomore album with the lead single “Wrong Side of Memphis,” a bluesy and ambitious country rocker about chasing dreams of Nashville stardom.  The song was a semi-autobiographical account of writer Matraca Berg becoming homesick for Nashville while living in Louisiana.

On her second album Hearts In Armor, Trisha continued to develop a style heavy on introspective ballads.  The number-two hit “Walkaway Joe” (which featured backup vocals from Don Henley) ranks as one of her finest.

In 1995, Trisha released her third studio album The Song Remembers When.  The first single and title track became a number-two hit, and one of Trisha’s signature tunes, not to mention one of the finest singles the decade ever produced.  “The Song Remembers When” was a touching tribute to the power of music in dredging up forgotten emotions, and bringing back memories.  Trisha’s flawless vocals were the final brushstroke that made this single a masterpiece.

Trisha took a more pop-friendly direction with her further efforts.  Her 1995 album Thinkin’ About You produced a pair of chart-toppers (her first since “She’s In Love with the Boy”) in the title track and “XXXs and OOOs (An American Girl).”

“XXXs and OOOs,” a single replete with catchy fiddle hooks, was a tale of an American girl growing up and learning to face real life “in her daddy’s world.” It was a song that Trisha discovered entirely by accident, having been written for a TV pilot, and originally meant to be recorded by Wynonna (who had to bow out due to illness).  When the TV pilot failed to take off, the song became the centerpiece of Trisha’s fourth studio album.  No music video was produced for “XXXs and OOOs.”  Listen to the song here.

Trisha’s 1996 album Everybody Knows produced two more major hits – the chart-topping “Believe Me Baby (I Lied)” and the Top 5 title track.  Trisha showed a quirky and lighthearted side on the song “Everybody Knows” – a song about a woman bombarded with unsolicited advice on mending a broken heart.  Hey, if it has the words “jerk” and “chocolate” in it, you know it has to be good.

In 1997 Trisha was invited to sing the song “How Do I Live” for the Touchstone film Con Air, after the studio had rejected LeAnn Rimes’ pop-flavored interpretation of the song.  After Trisha’s version of the song was released to radio, LeAnn quickly released her version of the song, and the two versions began dueling for airplay.  Trisha emerged victorious in the country category, with her version becoming a number-two country hit, and being included on her compilation album Songbook: A Collection of Hits. (LeAnn’s version, however, became a major international pop hit)

It was at this time that the award industries began recognizing Trisha once again.  In 1997, she won the ACM Award for Top Female Vocalist, and the CMA Award for Female Vocalist of the Year.  She repeated the latter win the following year.

Trisha released the pop-flavored album Where Your Road Leads in 1998.  This album was produced by Tony Brown instead of Garth Fundis.  The lead single “There Goes My Baby,” became another major hit, peaking at #2.

In 1999, Trisha received two of the greatest honors of her career:  (1) Being inducted into the Grand Ole Opry by Porter Wagoner (2) Appearing on Sesame Street.

She released the album Real Live Woman in 2000, which was less successful at radio, but was praised by critics.  Her 2001 album Inside Out produced her final Top 10 single with the power ballad “I Would’ve Loved You Anyway.”

Trisha then took a four-year break from recording before releasing Jasper County – her swan song album for MCA.  She later hopped over to the independent Big Machine label, and released the stunning set Heaven, Heartache, and the Power of Love in 2007.  Since then, she has taken time off to promote her two cookbooks (Georgia Cooking In an Oklahoma Kitchen and Home Cooking with Trisha Yearwood).  She has hinted at the possibility of releasing a new album “whenever the time is right.”

Trisha achieved notable commercial success in her country music career.  But make no mistake about it – The high quality and artistic significance of her music itself is primarily what puts her so high on this list.  With a unique and powerful voice like hers, she could have coasted along on fluffy radio-friendly fare saved only by her performance.  Instead, she chose to deliver introspective material that made ambitious artistic statements.  Her music catalog that boasts artistic significance and consistency that few of her contemporaries could match.  She didn’t just build a career; she built a legacy.


Posted by on November 18, 2010 in Countdowns


Top Ten Greatest Women of the Nineties, #3 – Patty Loveless

Like her distant cousin Loretta, she was born a coal miner’s daughter.  She grew up in hills of Kentucky.  She first emerged on the country music scene as part of the neotraditionalist movement of the late 80s.  She brought to country music a sound grounded in tradition, while incorpating elements of pop, as well as often paying homage to her Kentucky bluegrass roots.  The result?  She racked up twenty Top 10 hits on the Billboard country chart, won CMA and ACM awards, and is rightly regarded as one of the greatest country singers of her time.
Patty first surfaced in country music in 1986.  By the dawn of the nineties, she had already been established as a bona fide star in country music.  She had become a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1988, and she had her first number one hit in 1989 with “Timber I’m Falling In Love.”
She entered the decade on a high note, scoring her second number one hit from her 1989 album Honky Tonk Angels.  “Chains” was built around a very simple hook, but Patty’s performance could hardly have made the song more infectious.

Matraca Berg

While selecting material for her 1990 album On Down the Line, Patty chose to embrace the work of one of Nashville’s left-of-center songwriters – Matraca Berg.  Patty recorded Matraca’s upbeat and sassy pop-country composition, “I’m That Kind of Girl,” and released it as the third single from the album.  “I’m That Kind of Girl” went on to become a Top 5 hit, and helped launch Matraca’s successful songwriting career.  Matraca Berg went on to become one of the most celebrated country songwriters of all time.

Though Patty was quickly acquiring a sizable number of radio hits, she was not pleased with her record sales.  A belief arose that her label, MCA, was not giving her albums a sufficient level of promotion.  She replaced her brother Roger Ramey as her manager, and hired Larry Fitzgerald, but the change in management did not improve matters.  Eventually, Fitzgerald felt that it was time for Patty to change record labels.  He met with Patty’s then-producer Tony Brown, and asked for Patty to be released from her contract with MCA.  An agreement was reached so that Patty could leave the label, but would still have an option to record with other MCA artists.  Patty released her last album for MCA, Up Against My Heart, in 1991.  She then signed with Epic Sony the next year.

But as Patty headed into the studio to begin recording a new album for Epic, she was faced with a new problem – a problem that nearly brought her burgeoning career to a permanent halt.  She and her husband/producer Emory Gordy, Jr. began to notice that her voice was lacking the strenght it once possessed, and Patty was feeling pain in her throat when singing.

Despite these problems, Patty embarked on a fall 1992 tour, and agreed to appear on the CBS-TV special Women of Country.  But not long after leaving on the tour, a visit to the doctor revealed that her vocal cords had developed an enlarged blood vessel.  Surgery was the only hope for correcting the problem, but there was no guarantee of her voice being fully restored.

Patty went ahead and sang in the television special, but she canceled the rest of her tour dates for that year.  She then underwent throat surgery on October 21, 1992, which left unable to speak for the next nine weeks, let along sing.

After a period of recovery, Patty re-entered the studio and attempted to sing for the first time in months.  “It was the greatest thing,” she recalls.  Patty was elated to discover that her voice now had a deeper and fuller quality than ever before.  She even went back and re-recorded several songs that she had cut prior to her surgery, because, she says “I thought I could do them better.”  On January 4, 1993 (Her 36th birthday) Patty made a triumphant return to the spotlight, performing on the stage of the Grandy Ole Opry – her first public performance since her surgery.

With the released of her new Epic album Only What I Feel – considered by many critics to be her personal best – Patty re-emerged stronger than ever, scoring her third number one hit with the album’s lead single “Blame It On Your Hear.”  The album was certified platinum.

Only What I Feel also produced one of Patty’s best-remembered and most meaningful hits with “How Can I Help You Say Goodbye,” which followed a woman through several life experiences in which she had to learn to say goodbye.  “How Can I Help You Say Goodbye” became a number two hit, and received CMA nominations for Single of the Year and Video of the Year.

Patty’s hot streak continued with her platinum-certified 1994 release When Fallen Angels Fly, which spawned four Top Ten hits.  The album’s first single was the comic rocker “I Try to Think About Elvis,” in which a brokenhearted woman rattles off a list of things she thinks about to keep her mind off her departed ex-lover.  What’s at the top of her list?  Elvis – of course.

Patty displayed her strong balladry skills on “You Don’t Even Know Who I Am,” one of the finest singles of her career.  The Gretchen Peters-penned song took a look at a failed marriage in a way that examines each spouse’s point of view.  “You Don’t Even Know Who I Am” was nominated for Song of the Year at both the ACM Awards and the Grammy Awards.

Patty’s fine performances and strong material selection was rewarded in 1995 when she won the CMA Award for Album of the Year for When Fallen Angels Fly.  She was only the second female artist in history to receive the honor.

Patty’s 1996 album The Trouble with the Truth produced five Top 20 hits, including the number one hits “You Can Feel Bad” (another hit single drawn from the Matraca Berg catalog) and “Lonely Too Long.”  That year, Patty won Female Vocalist awards from both the ACM and CMA.

One of the album highlights was the single “A Thousand Times a Day” in which Patty compared the endeavor of forgetting a former lover to that of giving up an addiction, declaring that “Forgetting you is not that hard to do/ I’ve done it a thousand times a day.”

Patty’s 1997 album Long Stretch of Lonesomes saw her commercial success beginning to slow down.  The album produced no Top 10 hits, but three of its singles did enter the Top 20.  Lead single “You Don’t Seem to Miss Me” (Click here to hear the studio recording) included vocals from Patty’s musical hero George Jones.  Some radio stations, lacking respect for the legendary Jones, requested a version of the song in which his vocals were edited out, but Patty staunchly refused.  As a result, some stations would not play the song.  Nevertheless, the song still managed to reach hit status, peaking at a respectable #14, and winning a 1998 CMA Award for Vocal Event of the Year.

Patty’s radio hits eventually dried up, as pop and rock once again took over country radio airwaves.  Her 2000 album Strong Heart produced two minor Top 20 hits, but Patty soon turned away from hitmaking to explore the traditional bluegrass music of her native Kentucky.  In 2001, she released her masterpiece of a bluegrass album – Mountain Soul, which sold decently, and was lauded by music critics.

Patty released two more mainstream country albums – On Your Way Home (2003) and Dreamin’ My Dreams (2005).  The former yielded her final Top 20 hit (“Lovin’ All Night,” #18) and her final Top 40 hit (“On Your Way Home,” #29).

After a two-year break from recording and touring, Patty hopped over to the Saguaro Road label.  She paid tribute to her traditional country influences with her stunning covers album Sleepless Nights, which received a Grammy nomination for Best Country Album.  Last year she released a new bluegrass album – Mountain Soul II.

Though Patty no longer has the support of mainstream country radio, her albums have continued to sell respectably, and she has continued to tour.  One of her most recent projects was her participation in the DRIVE4COPD charity, in which she sough to raise awareness about Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, the ailment which claimed the life of her sister Dotty Ramey.  Patty contributed a charity track, “Drive” to the cause (Read my review).

Patty continues to be a popular concert attraction for all who appreciate some good old-fashioned country music with a little mountain soul.  Next year, she will be inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame.


Posted by on November 2, 2010 in Countdowns


Top Ten Greatest Women of the Nineties, #4 – Shania Twain

(Come on, you had to know she was coming up sooner or later)

Born Eileen Regina Edwards in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, Shania Twain famously overcame a troubled and impoverished childhood to become one of the best-selling female artists of any music genre, dominating country and pop music on an international scale that was without precedent.  She displayed a remarkable ability to connect fully with the emotions expressed in her ballads, but she also delivered a plethora of catchy up-tempo hits as well.  In addition to her revolutionary songwriting, Shania’s alluring image and unique music videos made her a cultural icon.

Shania released her self-titled debut album in 1993.  The album received positive reviews, but was initially a commercial flop, fizzling out at #67 on the U.S. Country Albums chart.  However, Shania’s later success prompted renewed interest in her little-known debut album, which eventually led to the album reaching platinum selling status.

Shania’s charming debut single, “What Made You Say That,” was largely ignored by country radio, peaking at only #55 on the charts.  But the song did gain some attention for its accompanying music video.  The video was controversial at the time, due to the fact that Shania’s midriff was exposed in some shots.  Previously, it was unheard of for so much skin to be shown in a country music video.  The video was originally banned from CMT, but was later re-added after the controversy died down.

Shania’s debut album met with greater success in the European country music market, which let to her receiving CMT Europe’s Rising Star of the Year Award.

Shania’s early musical output also served to attract the attention of rock music producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange, who met Shania at the 1993 Fan Fair, and offered her his services as producer.  Mutt and Shania quickly became very close, eventually marrying.  The two wrote or co-wrote all of the songs that formed Shania’s second album The Woman In Me, which would provide her commercial breakthrough, as well as win a Grammy Award for Best Country Album.

The album’s first single, “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under,” was Shania’s first major career hit, reaching #1 in Canada, and just barely missing the Top Ten in the U.S.  Her performance of the clever and quirky lyrics was full of spunk and personality, making “Whose Bed” one of her most memorable singles.

The follow-up single, “Any Man of Mine” was a groundbreaking moment for country music.  In that song, Shania displayed a unique female point of view in her declaration that men should accept their women the way they are, while constantly striving to deserve their affections.  Many female artists (Jo Dee Messina, Dixie Chicks, Carrie Underwood, etc.) followed in Shania’s footsteps in exploring similar lyrical themes, demanding respect from men, and refusing to play the part of the victim.  With the arrival of Shania Twain with songs like “Any Man of Mine,” the era of the self-pitying country heartbreak queens had officially come to an end. 

Shania’s point was driven home by a heavy, danceable, boot-stomping beat backed with prominent fiddle and steel.  Both the single and video received many award nominations, taking home the Canadian Country Music Awards for Single and Video of the Year.

Shania third album Come On Over, released in 1997, would establish Shania as one of the first female country artists to achieve major crossover pop success.  It was an unprecedented runaway success that amassed worldwide sales of 39 million, and becoming the best selling country album of all time, as well as the best selling album by a female artist.

The album’s third single, “You’re Still the One,” was Shania’s first single to be released to international pop markets, ultimately becoming one of the most successful singles of her career.  “You’re Still the One” topped the country charts in the U.S. and Canada, as well as the U.S. Adult Contemporary Chart and the Australian ARIA chart.  It was also Shania’s first Top 10 single on the U.S. Hot 100 chart, and also entered many European pop charts.

In the lyrics of “You’re Still the One,” Shania proudly looked back on a relationship that overcame doubts and beat all odds to stand the test of time.  Shania’s soft emotional vocal delivery was another asset that made it one of the greatest country-pop love songs of the decade.  Shania’s fine songwriting and vocals earned her Grammy Awards for Best Country Song and Best Female Country Vocal Performance, plus a nomination for the all-genre Record of the Year category (which she lost to Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”).

Shania threw the ultimate bachelorette party with her 1999 girl power anthem “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!”  The single was a Top 5 country hit, and also achieved a measure of crossover airplay.

Throughout most of her career, Shania received very little CMA love.  But when the CMA finally recognized Shania, they did so in a big way, bestowing one of country music’s highest honors upon her.  Thus, Shania ended the nineties decade as the reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year.

Shania’s success continued into the early years of the 2000s.  In 2002, she released her fourth studio album Up!, which scored several more country and pop hits.  Her first Greatest Hits package followed in 2004.  The compilation included the Top 10 country hit “Party for Two,” a previously unreleased song that featured guest vocals from then-newcomer Billy Currington.

Shania has been on hiatus ever since 2005.  In 2007, she announced plans to record a new album, but such plans have yet to take shape.  The new album was delayed several times, with one delay factor being Shania’s split from Mutt Lange.  Shania returned to the Spotlight earlier this year when she appeared as a guest judge on the popular FOX-TV talent competition American Idol.  She later returned to Idol to mentor contestants as they prepared to perform her songs on the show.

Recent developments have suggested that plans have been set in motion for the new album.  When/If a new Shania album comes out, you can bet I’ll be the first one to go out and buy it.


Posted by on October 27, 2010 in Countdowns


Top Ten Greatest Women of the Nineties, #5 – Faith Hill

To one whose knowledge of country music history reaches back no further than 2005, Faith Hill’s primary claim to fame may seem to be her celebrated marriage to Tim McGraw.  But back in her heyday, this blond bombshell racked up eight number one country hits, three number one albums, and sold over 25 million records, thus becoming one of the best-selling female artists in country music history.

With a voice as big as Texas, this Mississippi girl could convey a spectrum of a emotions with a single note.  Each performance was perfectly polished with the most charming pop-country hook.

Faith burst onto the country scene in 1993 with her smash hit debut single, “Wild One,” which quickly shot up to the top of the charts.  With “Wild One,” Faith became only the fourth female artist in history to take her debut single to number one.  “Wild One” spent a total of four weeks at the top of the charts, making Faith the first female artist in 30 years to achieve the feat.  The runaway success of the single helped push the accompanying album Take Me As I Am to sales of 3 million.  Thus, Faith Hill quickly became a bona fide star, winning the ACM Award for Top New Female Vocalist in 1993.

[Note:  The Official Faith Hill YouTube channel does not allow embedding of her music videos, so they cannot be included in this post, but I have included links that you may click in order to view them]
The recording of Faith’s sophomore effort had to be put on hold as she underwent surgery to repair a ruptured blood vessel in her vocal cords.  But that ordeal ended up being a blessing in disguise, as it gave Faith more time to refine her song selection for the album.  In 1995, she returned just as strong as ever with her triple-platinum sophomore album It Matters to Me.  The emotional title track become her fourth number-one hit.
In the spring of 1996, Faith was engaged to marry her former producer Scott Hendricks.  But that changed when she went on the Spontaneous Combustion tour with country singer Tim McGraw, and the two stars found themselves very much attracted to each other.  Faith soon broke off her engagement, and began dating Tim McGraw.  By the time the tour ended, the couple had become engaged.  They were married on October 6, 1996.
At that point, Faith took a three-year break from touring and recording in order to start a family with Tim.  But during this period, she did add her voice to the single “It’s Your Love,” from Tim’s album Everywhere.  The song became a six-week number one smash – the longest-running number-one single since Waylon Jennings’ “Luckenbach, Texas” – and won the CMA Award for Vocal Event of the Year.  This was not to be the last time that this pair would duet together, but it was the moment when the world was introduced to one of country music’s royal couples.

It was with Faith’s third album, simply titled Faith, that she began courting crossover pop success.  She made a triumphant return to the top of the charts in 1998 with “This Kiss,” an ultra-catchy musical expression of just-fell-in-love ecstasy and energy.  In addition to topping the country charts, “This Kiss” became Faith’s first-ever Top 10 pop hit. 

The song’s music video was highly advanced for the time, featuring extensive use of computer-generated imagery.  “This Kiss” remains one of Faith’s best-remembered music videos, having won several awards for its creativity.  On the 1998 CMA Awards show, Faith performed the song while dancing in a giant flower, in keeping with the video’s garden theme.  That year, Faith also won the first of her three ACM trophies for Top Female Vocalist, and “This Kiss” won ACM Awards for Single of the Year and Song of the Year.


The Faith album produced another number-one hit with its third single “Let Me Let Go,” which featured harmony vocals from Vince Gill, and appeared on the soundtrack to the film Message In a Bottle


Faith’s fourth album was hurriedly released in 1999 in order to capitalize on her newfound success as a pop star.  Faith closed out the nineties decade on a high note with the most commercially successful album of her career, the 8x platinum-selling Breathe.

Faith won three Grammy Awards for the album Breathe – Best Country Album, Best Country Collaboration with Vocals (“Let’s Make Love,” with Tim McGraw), and Best Female Country Vocal Performance (“Breathe”).

Faith delivered the quintessential pop-country power ballad with the album’s title track, which topped the country charts for four weeks, and became a massive international pop hit.  Even today, “Breathe” is regarded as Faith Hill’s signature song.

The song’s music video was controversial due to shots of Faith in a bed, but that didn’t stop it from winning the 1999 CMA Award for Music Video of the Year.


After the turn of the millennium, Faith scored several more hits from her Breathe album.  She released her first full-fledged pop album in 2002 with Cry.  Though country radio was cool toward the project, its singled did receive some airplay on pop radio.  Faith returned to country music with her 2005 set Fireflies – possibly her strongest and most distinctly country album to date.

Faith has lately been on hiatus from recording, though she has announced her intentions to record a new album in the near future.  Until then, we shall eagerly wait to see what kind of music this exceptionally talented lady will give us next.


Posted by on October 17, 2010 in Countdowns


Top Ten Greatest Women of the Nineties, #6 – Pam Tillis

As the daughter of a country music legend, Pam Tillis grew up around country music from an early age.  As a youth, she dismissed country music in favor of pop and rock music such as that of the Beatles.  In the early eighties, she attempted to pursue a career as a pop star, but her pop career quickly fizzled.  Eventually, her songwriting began to take on a country quality, and shifted her focus toward the country genre.  Her two-decade career in country music produced some of the greatest country music of the nineties.
After an unsuccessful stint on the country division of the Warner Bros. label, Pam signed with Arista Nashville in 1989.  She developed a style that was built on traditional country, but that incorporated outside influences of folk, pop, and rock.  In 1990, she released her debut single, the cleverly-written “Don’t Tell Me What to Do,” in which the female narrator upholds her right to stay hopelessly in love with her ex.  The single soon raced into the Top 5, and her debut album Put Yourself In My Place hit the Top 10, giving Pam the breakthrough she had been waiting for.  In addition, “Don’t Tell Me What to Do” received a CMA nomination for Single of the Year.

Pam epitomized the sound of nineties country music with her 1992 classic “Maybe It Was Memphis” – a song that sees its narrator looking back longingly on a past relationship with a boy she met in Memphis, Tennessee.  The nostalgic Southern-flavored tune went to #3 on the charts, and went on to become one of the songs that Pam would be most remembered for.  “Maybe It Was Memphis” earned Pam another Single of the Year nomination, as well as her first-ever Grammy nomination.

In 1992, Pam released the lead-off single to her second album Homeward Looking Angel, which would become another career-defining hit.  Pam had first discovered the song after she had already spent all of her recording budget for the album, but since she was determined to include it, her voice was added to the demo track.  She deftly handled the song’s cheeky subject matter, and was rewarded with another Top 5 hit.

Pam co-produced her third album, 1994’s critically-acclaimed Sweetheart’s Dance.  The album became the highest-charting release of her career (#6) and produced her one and only number-one hit, the fun and lighthearted Tex-Mex flavored ditty “Mi Vida Loca (My Crazy Life).”  Later in 1994, Pam took home the coveted CMA Award for Female Vocalist of the Year.

Pam took full producer’s credit on her 1995 effort All of This Love.  She delivered another one of the finest singles of her career with her Top 10 hit, “The River and the Highway,” which used rich poetic language to tell the story of two people who were not meant to share a life together, but who were still there for each other.

By 1997, Pam had earned the right to release her first Greatest Hits package, which included two new songs.  She received several CMA, ACM, and Grammy nominations for the first single, “All the Good Ones Are Gone.”  In addition to going Top 5, the single helped push the album to platinum status.  The album’s second single, “Land of the Living,” became her final Top 10 hit.

Pam’s commercial momentum slowed down in the later years of the nineties, thanks in part to record label changes.  Her 1998 album Every Time was less successful, though it did produce a near-Top 10 hit in “I Said a Prayer,” and the title track scraped the bottom of the Top 40.  In 2000, Pam’s contributions to country music were rewarded with an invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry.  Her last album for Arista, Thunder & Roses, was released in 2001, producing her final charting single, “Please.”

Pam later switched record labels, and began recording on the Epic label.  In 2002, she embraced her father’s legacy as never before with the album It’s All Relative – Tillis Sings Tillis, which saw her covering many of her father’s classic hits.  She returned again in 2007 with the album RhineStoned, released on her own Stellar Cat record label, which featured an eclectic mix of modern and traditional country sounds.  The album received wide critical acclaim.

Pam continues to tour and to perform on the Grand Ole Opry, and is currently working on a new album.  Next year she will also star in the film The Goree Girls alongside Jennifer Aniston and Jennifer Landon.

Though she is no longer in the country music mainstream, Pam’s voice remains one of the finest instruments found in Nashville.  She built a career on recording high-quality material that was fully worthy of her outstanding talent.  Thus, despite being the daughter of Mel Tillis, Pam was able to establish herself as country music royalty in her own right.


Posted by on October 8, 2010 in Countdowns


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