Country Perspective’s 2016 Female Artist of the Year Nominees

Throughout 2016 we saw many talented female country and Americana artists put out great music. Determining who will win Country Perspective’s 2016 Female Artist of the Year award will be no easy feat. The main guidelines for determining who should win are the following: the quality of music (album/singles) they’ve released in 2016, the impact they have made on the genre over the course of the year and the amount of growth they made as an individual artist.

I will ultimately determine which artist will win, but I also want to hear from you the readers who is deserving of the award. Your comments will be considered for determining who wins and you could possibly sway who should be the winner. It’s going to be especially important for this one, as this is by far the most competitive awards category this year. I had a very tough time just narrowing it down to seven artists. So be sure to sound off in the comments! One thing about the comments too: Just putting the artist’s name in the comments does nothing to sway me. It turned into a giant vote off in this category last year and I don’t want that again. Give actual, objective reasons for why you think a certain artist should win, not because they’re your favorite. So without further ado the nominees for Country Perspective’s 2016 Female Artist of Year (in alphabetical order):

Dori Freeman

Dori Freeman

Without a doubt Dori Freeman turned in one of the most surprisingly great debuts in country music this year. Her self-titled album was a great listen from start to finish and for many is one of the best of the year. I’ll reiterate what I said in my review:

This debut album from Freeman blew me away upon the very first listen. In fact I had to play it several times over because only hearing it once wasn’t enough. Freeman’s vocals are crisp, pure and undeniably Appalachian. She was born to sing and very few possess her talent. The songwriting is top-notch and I couldn’t pick out a flaw in the instrumentation and production choices. This album excels and thrives in every area.

Karen Jonas

karen-jonas-country-songs

This is the second time Karen Jonas has been nominated for Female Artist of the Year, after she was nominated and won the award in 2014, splitting it with Lee Ann Womack. Her debut album Oklahoma Lottery was one of my top five country/Americana albums of 2014 and had me thrilled to hear what she would release next. Well this year we got what was next, her sophomore album Country Songs and it did not disappoint. She once again returned with compelling songwriting, pure country production and some new wrinkles that helped the album shine too. I’m shocked more people still aren’t familiar with her music, as she’s one of the best in the genre today.

Kelsey Waldon

Kelsey Waldon I've Got A Way

Just like Jonas above, Waldon impressed many with her debut album and many eagerly anticipated her sophomore album. It lived up to expectations, as I’ve Got A Way has gotten near universal praise from country critics and fans. There’s plenty of twangy steel guitar and brutally honest songwriting from start to finish on the album and once again proves Waldon is another talent every country fan should be familiar with.

It’s an amazing album that is 110% country goodness. You simply have to hear it for yourself. This album has no bells or whistles about it. It doesn’t rely on trends and clichés in its songwriting. This is three chords and the truth right here. The instrumentation and production couldn’t be more well-arranged on each song and Waldon just belts it on each track. The songwriting is forthright, honest and cutting.

Lori McKenna

lori-mckenna-bird-and-the-rifle

Lori McKenna has been around the country music industry for quite some time, but this year many who weren’t familiar with her work are now quite well aware of her. She’s spent most of her career as a songwriter, helping pen hits for some of the biggest names in the genre. Last year she helped write Little Big Town’s polarizing smash hit “Girl Crush” and this year she solely wrote Tim McGraw’s #1 song “Humble and Kind,” which went on to win CMA Song of the Year. But you shouldn’t also overlook the fact that McKenna released a pretty stunning album of her own in The Bird & The Rifle. Featuring her own rendition of “Humble and Kind,” the album has compelling songs on love, heartbreak and life. After the year McKenna has had I don’t think anyone is going to be overlooking her anymore and they shouldn’t because she’s a phenomenal talent.

Lydia Loveless

lydia-loveless-real

Out of all the nominees, Lydia Loveless definitely released the most polarizing album. That’s probably because it’s such a strong contrast to her previous material. Yet her new album Real is arguably her best work yet. Up until this point Loveless has solidly occupied a spot in the alt-country area, but in this new album it’s mixed with glam pop and rock to create a infectious sound. But don’t let this more polished and upbeat sound fool you. The songwriting from Loveless on Real is still just as hard-hitting and deep as her previous material. While it’s fair to argue she’s not really country anymore, she always belong more in the Americana area anyway. She’s unpredictably honest and that makes for some damn fine music.

Margo Price

Margo Price Midwest Farmer's Daughter

Margo Price has been one of the most critically-buzzed country artists in 2016 hands-down. I frequent many different music forums and music critic areas and her name constantly comes up when not just discussing the best country albums of the year, but best albums period. While Midwest Farmer’s Daughter was her debut album, she’s certainly isn’t new and has been around country music for a while. It’s just now people are finally starting to take notice, as she performed on Saturday Night Live earlier this year, as well as performing in other high-profile spots. The old school, honest, honky tonk style of her music is easily appealing to music fans and she’s bound to get even bigger with the release of her next album (think Sturgill Simpson/Kacey Musgraves-like breakout). Regardless her debut album is one many will remember for a while.

Miranda Lambert

miranda-lambert-the-weight-of-these-wings

When I started this blog I knew one day Miranda Lambert would find her way onto my year-end award lists. If you asked me after her last album Platinum though, I would have been pretty skeptical her next release would be the one because I was not a fan of that album. But then Lambert went through a high-profile divorce and from all accounts has seem to go through an emotional hell the last couple of years. This emotion though would fuel her new album The Weight of These Wings and it resulted in some of the best music of her entire career. She recruited some of the best songwriters in country today to help and she did some fine writing herself too. It’s the most raw and emotional she’s ever produced and finally in my eyes she’s reaching her full potential after years of flirting with it. She’s reached a creative apex and has grown a lot with this album. In addition, while her new album wasn’t quite album of the year material, she did take a big part in Country Perspective’s 2016 Album of the Year contender Southern Family, performing one of the best songs on the album “Sweet By and By.”

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10 thoughts on “Country Perspective’s 2016 Female Artist of the Year Nominees

  1. I don’t really get into the morality of artists (or athletes), I don’t know them, so I can’t speak to it, & frankly what I care about is listening to their music or watching them play (seriously, Tiger Woods is my fav golfer, Ray Lewis my fav football player, I really don’t care). Saying that:

    My absolute favorite thing about Miranda Lambert as an artist is that she isn’t afraid to treat women as people who can screw up & have vices. Her album isn’t a heartbreak album & that’s a good thing, bc frankly it doesn’t scream emotional heartbreak when you cheat on your husband and get a new boyfriend two months after the divorce. So can we please stop trying to force the victim role on Miranda? She’s not asking for it, & never has.

    That being said my answer here would be between Miranda, who will I think end up with the most influential album, or Lori, who has by far the most influential song. I think I’d give it to Lori, because I think a lot of Miranda’s stuff will really be next year.

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  2. My vote for female artist would either go to Margo Price or Miranda Lambert. Margo released a fantastic album earlier this year with Midwest Farmer’s Daughter (“About to Find Out” has got me through many a tough day at school this semester) and Margo has also received lots of well-deserved critical buzz. Miranda, on the other hand, just released an excellent album (one of my absolute favorites of 2016). Miranda was really allowed to let her creativity shine through on The Weight of These Wings. 2016 was an emotional year for Miranda, and she was able to channel her emotions in the best way and make some beautiful art from them. I applaud Miranda for her honesty on her new record. As an aspiring country singer myself (it’s my biggest dream), Miranda is a huge influence to me. I appreciate her honesty and willingness to be herself and not conform to standards set for female country stars. In the end, however, my personal pick and my vote for Country Perspective Female Artist of the Year goes to Miranda Lambert.

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  3. BTW Brandy Clark and especially Aubrie Sellers should probably be on this list. Especially Aubrie Sellers because her album was produced by Frank Liddell, and from a production standpoint it’s the roots of Miranda’s album.

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  4. Country Perspective Female Artist Of The Year: Kelsey Waldon.
    I can listen to the album for hours & hours. Margo Price & Miranda Lambert are close behind.

    My Female Artists Of The Year Nominees:
    – Loretta Lynn
    – Dolly Parton
    – Amber Lawrence
    – Seleen McAlister
    – Rebecca Lee Nye
    – Margo Price
    – Kelsey Waldon
    – Miranda Lambert
    – Brandy Clark
    – Jess Moskaluke
    – Bri Bagwell
    – Breelan Angel

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  5. As a longtime Miranda fan — since her debut single, “Me and Charlie Talking” — and given that this is her most ambitious and impressive album, I would give her the win. But a strong case could be made for Margo Price or Karen Jonas. Personally, I enjoy Karen Jonas’ album more than Margo Price’s, but I love both. I disagree with seak05’s comment above about Aubrie Sellers. It is precisely the production that annoys me about her album. I know this is a matter of personal preference, but I don’t like the intentionally messy sound. Yes, there is some of that on Miranda’s new album, but I didn’t find it nearly as distracting. Aubrie is a fine talent, but I’m hoping for a better sophomore album.

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  6. I can’t argue against any of your nominees. However, none of them moved me the way Elizabeth Cook’s “Exodus of Venus” did. In fact, that is going to come in as one of my top 3 albums of 2016, all genres. As far as a country album, maybe not, but there is not a bad song on it. No filler. After finding “Exodus of Venus” I listened to Cook’s back catalog. This seems to be a departure from her previous stuff, and in a positive way. Maybe I should have put this comment in Album of the Year.

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  7. While normally I would go with Kelsey Waldon since it’s my favorite album mentioned, my vote is for Lori McKenna. Her album is just a notch below and the impact of “Humble & Kind” hitting #1 for Tim McGraw pushes my vote to her column.

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  8. My favorite of these is Dori Freeman, who I think made the best album of the year, with the possible exception of Courtney Marie Andrews, another name that I would add to this list. However, as for female artist, I would have to go with Miranda Lambert. Not only did she make an incredible, honest album, she pulled off the near impossible and made an incredible double album. Also, she brought the Americana/east Nashville sound to the mainstream, as well as showcasing songwriters from the Americana and Texas scenes on her album. I think the influence all this will have on the genre makes her deserving of the award. Also, she’s the only female here in the mainstream, and I think this matters because it’s one thing to be dori Freeman or Margo Price and release your record independently, sound however the hell you want, cut whatever songs you want; it’s quite another to be in Miranda’s position, the most influential female country singer right now, on a major label, getting radio airplay, and not succumb to the pressures that go with it. She’s done a lot with her influence that many other mainstream artists would not. Her excellent contribution to Southern Family is just another bonus.

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  9. For me, it comes down to Kelsey Waldon and Margo Price. Both released excellent, well-written albums and both are deserving of this.

    I have to give the slight edge to Kelsey Waldon.

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  10. There’s a line in a song from “Three Kids, No Husband” on Brandy Clark’s new album. It describes the character as having a “hairnet job at a diner.” Hairnet job; first time I heard that, I thought “Wow! This woman can write.” No doubt about it: Brandy Clark can write. But that image, it turns out, was from Lori McKenna, her co-writer. And wow, can she write. Everyone on this list deserves to be heard. But Lori McKenna is a mature artist who’s polished her craft until it glows. It’s country, but it goes way beyond genre. And The Bird and the Rifle is a gorgeous album.

    ————–
    (I’d add: honorable mention to Karen Jonas. A sharp writer whose songs are full of surprises. Definitely someone to watch.)

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