Country music by women

Any of you folks able to recommend some country music by female singers?

While love songs are kinda-sorta okay, they shouldn’t fall into any of these categories:
(1) I’m begging you not to leave me for that whorebitch who won’t appreciate you.
(2) You cheated on me and now I’ll demonstrate my spunky independence by destroying your personal property.
(3) I’m a geeky teenager with a crush on Mr Popular Jock who’ll appreciate my inner beauty by the end of this song.

For context, a friend will be using these in the classroom with 13 year olds. Neither of us is American or knows anything about the genre and the song charts just give versions of the above 3 themes. We’re stumped.

Patsy Cline should be enough.

Or Patsy Cline.

Mary-Chapin Carpenter is an amazing songwriter and while “Come On, Come On” is chock full o’ hits, check out “Stones in the Road”, “TimeSexLove*” and “Between Here and Gone”.
“The Dreaming Road”

“Stones in the Road”

“On With the Song”

She’s definitely more of a leftist on the country scene and while not necessarily indicative of the scene as a whole, is quite good. If you want some standard female country stuff, **don’t ask’s **suggestion of Patsy Cline is spot on.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of glurge that will be pretty much what you’re trying to avoid in the mainstream country world. I can give some country that’s a bit out there but it wouldn’t be exemplary of common stuff here. (The Be Good Tanyas, Mary’s Danish, or The Meat Purveyors)

“Travelin’ Soldier” and “Wide Open Spaces” by the Dixie Chicks. Sounds like you’ve already ruled out Taylor Swift; my fifth graders in Korea love her!

Linda Ronstadt and Shania Twain straddle the border between country and pop. Both are worth a listen. I love Linda’s tone and dynamics – a fantastic voice.

Reba McIntyre sounds like the epitome of the Appalachian hillbilly stereotype, but she regularly puts out insightful, thoughtful songs sensitively delivered. She’s an acquired taste, but IMO one worth acquiring.

Tricia Yearwood has a beautiful voice and an eclectic repertoire. “The Song Remembers When” is particularly poignant.

Dolly Parton (whose mammary accessories are not particularly large, by the way; it’s just that they appear so on her relatively petite figure) is a singer/songwriter with much more skill than the average individual gives her credit for. Remember Bette Midler’s “The Rose”? Dolly wrote it.

That’s off the top of my head…

Do you want the singer to also be the songwriter?
Emmylou Harris is one of the greatest female country performers. Though on her albums there are lots of cover songs.

Here are a few samples:
Light of the Stable (Christmas song) - not written by her

Raise the Dead - written by Emmylou Harris

This song might be good for kids:
her recent song about her dog
Big Black Dog - written by Emmylou Harris

See wikipedia for some album recommendations. There are way too many to list here.

P.S. for a Trifecta, look at the albums Trio and Trio 2 featuring Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt.
Sample song from Trio
Wildflowers written by Dolly Parton

Don’t neglect Dolly Parton just because she makes jokes about herself and her looks. She is a serious and talented country music singer. ETA: Like Polycarp just said.

What a lovely, lovely voice. Unfortunately, the lyrics fall into the spectrum of ‘you left me and I’m pinin’ away’ which my friend is trying to avoid.

The lyrics for ‘On With the Song’ are going to make a kickass lesson assuming the song itself is catchy. Off to Youtube I go!

‘Wide Open Spaces’ is perfect! Thank you!

As for Taylor Swift, hells yes she’s popular with these kids. My friend is trying to provide an alternative while surreptitiously teaching grammar and critical thinking. Think of it as planting a seed that probably won’t germinate for a while, if at all. Gotta bloody well plant it nonetheless!

Would you have any specific suggestions from their oeuvres? We’re really, really ignorant of the genre and wouldn’t know where to begin.

Loretta Lynn.

Genius level songwriter. She was the first to write and sing about “difficult” topics from a female perspective. And she was the real thing; genuinely a coal miner’s daughter from a shack in Kentucky.

Speaking of Loretta, show 'em the movie if you can. Great film, and a great introduction to LL and her work.

Don’t really care who writes the song. While we can’t use ‘Raise the Dead’ (too many references) or ‘Light of the Stable’ (religious), ‘Big Black Dog’ should work, thank you.

She needs only about 4 or 5 songs and we already have a quite a few great contenders in this thread!

Interesting idea, but the lessons aren’t going to be about country music per se. The songs are more a conduit for teaching vocabulary, songwriting structure and language appreciation (spot the simile, what does xyz mean when she says… etc etc). Basically, thinking about language in a musical context familiar to them (all hail Taylor Swift) but linguistically and intellectually deeper and richer. The kids are old/smart enough to grok it, so my friend is trying to stretch them.

“Heads Carolina, Tails California” by Jo Dee Messina is one of my favorites, and it would seem to fit your criteria.

Well, if you’re looking for inventive language, I suppose Joan Baez covering Bob Dylan, or Bonnie Rait singing John Prine’s "Angel From Montgomery"are going to be near the top of the list, even if they might be more ‘folk’ than strictly country. You could probably get away with Bonnie Rait as country, though.

If the lessons are about the music (chord changes, etc.) at all, then Patsy Cline singing “Crazy” (written by Willie Nelson) is a must; but the lyrics aren’t very interesting, and do fall into the ‘pining for a guy’ category.

If you really want to get away from lyrics about weak women, how about Gillian Welch’s “Caleb Meyer”, which is about successfully fighting off a sexual assault. (She’s on the bluegrass end of the country spectrum, but that’s OK, right?). And Dolly Parton’s “Wildflowers” (on the Trio album mentioned above) is about being independent and adventurous.

How about Let the Mystery Be by Iris DeMent?

For some country music history, there’s Wildwood Flower by the Carter Family, one of country music’s seminal acts.

Some of Grey DeLisle?

Or more Patsy Cline.

OK, I’m just gonna say it: much of Patsy Cline’s music wasn’t really country. It was pop. The strings, the background harmonies…it was all part of a (successful) effort by Nashville to sell records to pop audiences. There really is nothing country about her sound. She even hides her Southern accent when she sings.

A sample song from Loretta Lynn:

Don’t come home a-drinkin’

It sounds like you want songs with lyrics to analyze in class.
Aside from stpauler’s suggestions from Mary Chapin Carpenter, she also sings
The Bug (written by Mark Knopfler) which has some lyrics that kids could relate to
(you can find the lyrics by searching for “the bug” knopfler lyrics)

Wow … we got this far, and no mention yet of Kathy Mattea. I’d suggest two from her work: “Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses,” and “Where’ve You Been?” Both shouldl fit the OP’s criteria, as while they are love songs, they both deal with long-term relationships.

Another vote for Mary Chapin Carpenter. Try also her “This Shirt.”

Martina McBride, like some of the others, straddles pop and country. Recommendations would include “Independence Day,” “Concrete Angel,” “God’s Will,” and “For These Times,” but I’d also suggest that the OP look through all her YouTube offerings.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Michelle Wright. I haven’t heard much from her lately, but she had a string of great tunes back in the 90s. If you can find them, I’d suggest “Take It Like a Man,” “He Would Be Sixteen,” “Nobody’s Girl,” and for a change of pace, “Guitar Talk.”