Decades from now, we might reflect on these sweltering few months as the Summer of Dolly—a time when everyone’s favorite rhinestone-studded, sky-high heel wearing, bleach blonde beehive-sporting songbird showed that she can still cause a ruckus even at 68 years old.
Hurray for the Riff Raff performing (in a van) for a live show at SXSW last year.
Alynda Lee Segarra plays for an audience of misfits. “My songs are about people who feel down and out and feel like outcasts in society,” explains the singer and guitarist best known for her band Hurray For The Riff Raff. “And that’s who I want to come to the shows, too. Maybe because they hate the music on the radio now or they feel like music doesn’t have a soul anymore or they feel like their gender isn’t represented there.”
"Pray to Jesus" is a good song to kick off Brandy Clark's debut solo album, 12 Stories. Like the tracks that follow, it's from distinctly female point of view with touches of levity underlying real issues of family and livelihood. “Don’t want to be buried in debt or in sin/ So we pray to Jesus and we play the lotto/ Cause there ain’t but two ways we can change tomorrow.”
Sometimes, I love a song so much that all I want to do is listen to that song over and over and over, until it has become a permanent part of my brain. This is my relationship to Dolly Parton's master work "Jolene." Some days, all I want is "Jolene," all the time.
And thus, my perfect mixtape: 15 versions of "Jolene," back-to-back-to-back. Enjoy!
Funny side-note: After I put together this mixtape, I discovered that Autostraddle did the exact same thing a year ago! Clearly, this is a thing. Also, there are so many "Jolene" covers in the world that our "Jolene"-only tapes actually don't include many of the same versions. The two tapes are best listened to one right after another, in my opinion.
Track list is below the cut—though reading through it kind of ruins the fun.
There's a script for women in commercial country music that doesn't necessarily coincide with more mainstream stereotypes and assumptions about women. If you've ever heard Carrie Underwood's ubiquitous 2007 single, "Before He Cheats" (lyrics), you'll recognize the tropes.
Of course there are exceptions, but the ideal country woman is often blond (and white), feisty, world-wise, and hot. She is deeply possessive of her man, and aims to squelch competitors for his affection. She gives the appearance of working-class roots even if she didn't grow up working class, and she's equally comfortable talking about guns (Miranda Lambert's "Gunpowder and Lead"), Jesus (Underwood's "Jesus Take the Wheel"), and heterosexual romantic relationships (Dixie Chicks' "Cowboy Take Me Away").
One of the newer variations on these themes is the girl group Pistol Annies (Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, and Angaleena Presley). Check out the first single of their August LP, Hell on Heels (lyrics):
In that way that some people (read: me) obsessively decide which three wishes they'd choose if they had three wishes, I have considered carefully whose voice I would want if some fairy godmother appeared and granted me the power to actually not sound like a squawking turkey when I sing. The choice gets tougher, though, between the top two.
A few months ago, I read a lovely post on country music by Garland Grey over at Tiger Beatdown, and I was quite enjoying myself until he included Johnny Cash as a "toxic model for masculinity" and I hit the roof internally*.
Because Johnny Cash may be the only model for masculinity I turn to. (Well, aside from Springsteen, about whom more later!)
And now again, as the U.S. writhes under the weight of its own myths, I go back to Cash as well.
By the end (I'm hoping not for good, but for now, anyway) of Sleater-Kinney Corin Tucker's voice was a finely honed weapon, full of deep, slow, sexy soul and capable of an earsplitting wail, a bonechilling snarl, a rock'n'roll howl that didn't so much as defy gender as rip the guts straight out of it.
Her new record, 1,000 Years puts that voice front and center, without the thrash that made The Woods so threatening at the time.
My Bitch Tapes mix this week is a celebration of the punkest women out there: the women of country music. While other genres largely excluded female musicians, women country singers back in the day were a dime a dozen (thank god!) Not even poverty, abusive husbands and managers, substance abuse issues, or a male-run music industry could keep these ladies away from the mic. It was hard to whittle my list down to eight of my favorite songs, but here it is.