Country Soul Sisters charts the rise of female singers in country music from 1952 to 1978.
As well as country legends Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Tanya Tucker and Tammy Wynette, Country Soul Sisters also features artists such as Bobbie Gentry, Nancy Sinatra - who also made country music but existed outside the traditional Nashville framework. Also highlighted are country soul music protagonists such as Jeannie C Riley, Diana Trask and Barbara Mandrell.
Far from the traditional conservative image of country music this album features songs whose lyrics deal with female empowerment and subjects that include child prostitution, abortion, death and angels, workplace sexual exploitation, small town bigotry and more.
It was not until Kitty Wells’ groundbreaking 1952 hit It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels that women were first taken seriously as country artists. Wells’ song was written in reply to a popular country hit (Hank Thompson’s The Wild Side of Life) whose lyrics expressed the dominant view that the only women who frequented bars were those of loose moral fibre. Wells’ musical reply - that in fact it was married men who acted as if they were single that caused good women to take the wrong path – revolutionised the position of women in country music.
Forget outlaw country or alt. country, male dominance of country music meant that female country singers were the original outsiders – simply by nature of being themselves. What is so equally fascinating is how these artists managed to negotiate a space for themselves that was acceptable to the general male conservative hierarchies whilst at the same time remaining true to themselves as both artists and women for their largely female public.
The album comes with extensive sleevenotes charting the rise of female artists in country music from early stars such as Patsy Cline and Kitty Wells up to the astute-minded superstar figures who came to dominate the industry in the late-1960s and 1970s – figures such as Dolly Parton, whose businesses and enterprises include the theme park Dollywood, a film production company as well as the philanthropic ‘Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library’ which has now distributed over 40 million free books to young children in USA, Canada and the UK.