The term “singer-songwriter” often calls to mind a rather dull, plainly-dressed individual contemplating why they can’t find true love. Most of the time, it’s because they’re so damn boring! Not so with these women, who do not wallow in misery, nor do they dilute their insightful lyrics for the sake of appearing cuter. They each have a true musical vision and, for the adventurous country fan, it’s very much worth a listen. Here, in alphabetical order by artist, are 10 albums released this year by women with something to say.
Kasey Chambers, Wayward Angel (Warner Bros.): This Australian topped the Americana chart with her country, rock and bluegrass blend. Many songs here are about stardom, but she’s still unafraid to sing about gettin’ it on.
Favorite Lyric: These are just things that I’ve been given/For a plastic way of living/And I’m not sure if that really is my style.
Julia Fordham, That’s Life (Vanguard): If you consider a sense of humor to be sexy, then meet Ms. Fordham. Her wicked, sharp insights are never betrayed by her deep, sensuous vocals. A very comfortable listen.
Favorite lyric: Welcome to my movie/I have cast myself as fabulous and lonely.
Patty Griffin, Impossible Dream (ATO): Just when she takes you to the edge of despair, she throws a line, and you feel like there’s hope. It also astounds me with every listen how she can say so much in so few words.
Favorite lyric: Isn’t it hard sometimes?/Isn’t it lonely?/How I still hang around here/And there’s nothing to hold me.
Lori McKenna, Bittertown (Signature Sounds): She is one of the few who can write about her hometown and her husband without sounding like a cheeseball. An old-fashioned approach rarely sounds so fresh.
Favorite lyric: They’re building up big houses/Back behind the school where we used to/Drink our beer on Friday nights/And pretend that we were lovers in your car.
Angela McCluskey, The Things We Do (Manhattan): With her distinct, Macy Gray-like vocals, McCluskey has crafted (with producer Nathan Larson) a fearless, candid album about navigating through her rotten relationships.
Favorite lyric: I’ve been digging at a ditch, my dear/But I hit concrete late last year/The spade and the shovel/And all kinds of trouble/Came and stripped me of my natural cheer.
Tift Merritt, Tambourine (Lost Highway): This time, she found inspiration in her R&B records, but when she turns to her lost hometown in “Laid a Highway,” her regret is palpable. And the melodies are killer.
Favorite lyric: I told him that he better go/’Cause I was crazy and impossible.
Allison Moorer, The Duel (Sugar Hill): For her first indie release, Moorer faces the big issues, from bandwagon politics to watching love not only die but also be buried. Powerful singing, as always.
Favorite lyric: Sign up and get a flag/Wear it proudly, you can brag/To the fools who didn’t volunteer.
Mindy Smith, One Moment More (Vanguard): One of my first favorite local singers, she long ago won me over with her endearing stage presence and naked lyrics. Years later, the heartfelt title track has lost none of its impact.
Favorite lyric: You can try to keep me down/You can try to keep me under/But you’ll never get my will/You’ll never take my will to fight.
Holly Williams, The Ones We Never Knew (Universal South): Knowing her lineage (she’s Hank Jr.’s daughter) enhances some of the lyrics, but her emotions are universal. Her hearty voice indicates that she lives and breathes music.
Favorite lyric: I read pain from a young boy whose father left too early/Whose mother tried to mold him into what she’d love to be.
Kate York, Kate York (Self-released): A rising star in the Nashville club scene, York makes melodies seem effortless. Made with guys accustomed to playing live, this EP is an enchanting (if addictive) calling card.
Favorite lyric: But I’m always on the outside/On the outside of forever/Looking in/But there’s never room for me.