Welcome to my overview of women in country music, with reviews ranging from folk and bluegrass to honkytonk, rockabilly and Nashville pop. This is the first page covering the letter "N."
Nathan "Jimson Weed" (Nettwerk, 2004)
A very nice, very pretty record, with an enchantingly twee mix of melodic country-folk and soft indiepop... Fans of Hem, Jolie Holland or the Be Good Tanyas should love this album as well... I have no idea what any of the songs are about, but I sure like listening to them. If you're looking, perhaps, for a rootsy album that you can put on when folks who "don't like country" are around, this is a mighty fine option. Recommended!
Nathan "Key Principles" (Nettwerk, 2006)
Teresa Neal "Teresa Neal" (Playboy, 1977) (LP)
A wispy-voiced countrypolitan also-ran who wrote most of her own material, but who failed to light a spark under any of these songs. Partly it's due to milky, strings-heavy countrypolitan stylings of the time, but also she was kinda charisma-deficient, if the truth be told. Russ Hicks throws in some nice pedal steel and songwriter Dave Kirby was moonlighting as a session picker on here as well. Nothin' amazing, though.
Bonnie Nelson "Meet Bonnie Nelson" (Door Knob, 1987) (LP)
Paula Nelson "Coming Home" (Luck Records, 1998)
I hate to say it, but this set by Austin local Paula Nelson, daughter of Willie Nelson, is pretty underwhelming. Maybe most of my reaction is due to my disinterest in bluesy, white-girl soul, but the meandering musicianship and rambling songwriting also take their toll. All songs were written by Nelson herself, but the only one that stood out as having a memorable chorus is "No Uncertain Terms"; otherwise there just wasn't much for me to focus on. Willie plays acoustic on a few tunes, but his contributions don't really stand out, either. If you like bluesy gals like Sue Foley, Angela Strehli and Rory Block -- or even Tanya Tucker -- then this might be of interest... But I really wouldn't go out of my way to track it down. (Sorry!)
Paula Nelson "Fireflies"
Tracy Nelson - see artist discography
Tara Nevins "Mule To Ride" (Sugar Hill, 1999)
Can't say as I've been much of a fan of fiddler Tara Nevin's Dead-ish stoner-billy band, Donna The Buffalo, but this solo album is rock solid from beginning to end. It's heavy on traditional bluegrass for the first half, and then she starts sneaking in some great country tunes, most of which she wrote herself. Guest include Ralph Stanley (of course), Mike Seeger, Don Rigsby, and some soulful vocals by Jim Miller, her bandmate from Donna The Buffalo. Nice record! Recommended.
Tara Nevins "Wood And Stone" (Sugar Hill, 2011)
(Produced by Larry Campbell)
An exceptionally bouncy, really fun Americana set featuring singer Tara Nevins of the jam-band, Donna The Buffalo. These songs are more focussed and solidly twangy than the more loose-limbed music of the Buffalo band... and man, are they catchy! The album opens strong with the rollicking title track, "Wood And Stone," and gets more intricate and mysterious as it goes along... But consistently, this disc is a real earbender, the kind of record that stays in rotation at my place for a long time. Recommended!
The New Coon Creek Girls "So I'll Ride" (Turquoise)
The New Coon Creek Girls "Playing Our Respect" (Turquoise) (LP)
The New Coon Creek Girls "Pictures" (Turquoise) (LP)
The New Coon Creek Girls "The L&N Don't Stop Here Anymore" (Pinecastle, 1994)
The New Coon Creek Girls "Ain't Love A Good Thing" (Pinecastle, 1995)
(Produced by Sonny Osborne)
One of their most solid albums, with singer Dale Ann Bradley taking the lead vocals... Nice picking, and a very firm sense of the sound they wanted -- a pleasant, cohesive, modern melodic bluegrass set. Recommended!
The New Coon Creek Girls "Everything You Do" (Pinecastle)
(Produced by Sonny Osborne)
A sweet all-gospel album, gets a little gooey in places, but mostly it's pretty solid. The repertoire includes several distinctive songs as well as standards... If you enjoyed Dolly Parton's classic country gospel recordings, this album has a very similar feel.
The New Coon Creek Girls "In Concert At Renfro Valley" (Pinecastle)
The New Coon Creek Girls "Our Point Of View" (Pinecastle, 1998)
(Produced by Sonny Osborne)
Dale Ann Bradley is the lead vocalist here, although Ramona Church Taylor sings lead on one of her own original compositions, "Heaven's The Way To Go," one of several gospel songs that are standouts on this album. Actually, most of the secular songs are a bit syrupy for me, hinting at the Alison Krauss-ization of Bradley's sound as a solo artist. It's all okay, reasonably traditional sounding but a little slick overall. Worth checking out... and as ever, the all-gal vocal harmonies are mighty, mighty sweet.
Heidi Newfield "What Am I Waiting For " (Curb, 2008)
Twangier-than-average modern Nashville stuff from the former lead singer of Trick Pony. She still goes over the top pop, but she makes some nice nods to tradition along the way... I like that she opens the album with a Lucinda Williams cover ("Can't Let Go") and while she may be a little more Tammy Wynette-meets-Shania Twain that truly twangy, it's still better than a lot of the other stuff you'll hear on the radio these days.
Juice Newton - see artist discography
Mark Newton/Various Artists "Follow Me Back To The Fold" (Rebel, 2000)
Bluegrasser Mark Newton has been carving out a reputation as a champion of straightforward, country-tinged bluegrass singing -- the melodic mid-'70s style that derived from Jimmy Martin and Larry Sparks, then eventually -- sadly -- gave way to the overly ornate, saccharine, "adult-oriented" pop-fusion of Alison Krauss and her ilk. This new album is a picturebook sampler of all that's best in bluegrass balladry; and, as a tribute to women in bluegrass, includes stellar contributions from some of the best wimmin singers and pickers in the business today. Lynn Morris, Claire Lynch, Rhonda Vincent and a slew of other gals all chip in, and the results are lovely. With no-nonsense arrangements that emphasize the melody and sidestep the pseudo-countrypolitan ornateness which plagues bluegrass today, this record is a delight from start to finish. Highly recommended!
Lynn Nilles - see: Lane Brody
Michelle Nixon & Drive "It's My Turn" (Pinecastle, 2003)
Her turn, indeed. Hope it comes again soon. This is a fine, unpretentious truegrass album, with a few nice cover tunes, a couple of good gospel tunes, and some mighty fine vocals by Virginia native Michelle Nixon. She also shares the mic with bass player Jim Green, who, while he doesn't consistently match her vibrancy on his own solo numbers, still has a pleasantly sincere delivery, and sounds great when they sing harmony. Nice album -- recommended!
Michelle Nixon & Drive "What More Should I Say?" (Pinecastle, 2005)
Aw, shucks... you don't have to say anything... just keep singing and pickin' and making such great records. Another winner from Ms. Nixon and her crew... Modern, traditionally-oriented bluegrass performed with great energy and heart. Recommended!
Michelle Nixon & Drive "By Request" (Pinecastle, 2005)
Inger Nordstrom & Rhinestone Band "Hey Conductor" (Rhinestone, 1997)
Alecia Nugent "Alecia Nugent" (Rounder, 2004)
(Produced by Carl Jackson)
Carl Jackson produced this fine album by talented newcomer Alecia Nugent, who is pretty much the only bluegrass artist I can think of offhand who doesn't play an instrument on her album (!) but just lets her voice do the talking for her. And hey, when you've got Larry Cordle, Carl Jackson, Ronny McCoury and Ben Isaacs backing you up, then "just" singing seems a whole lot easier! The album kicks off with a sweet, hot fiddle riff from Aubrey Haynie, establishing some solid truegrass cred, and while Nugent moves between 'grassy numbers and country-ish heartsongs, she does so with a sense of absolute calm and authenticity... This is a for-real, rural country singer, a roots singer on par with Patty Loveless or Lee Ann Womack, and while you can imagine her easily cracking into the Nashville network, it's pretty darn nice hearing her go the traditional route for now. There are a ton of fine, fine performances on here, with songs by Cordle and Jackson, and several well-chosen oldies. One highlight is Cordle's "You Don't Have To Go Home," a gentle gospel tune featuring a gorgeous three-way harmony between Nugent and guest vocalists Sonya Isaacs and Rhonda Vincent, who have both skirted along the boundaries of the bluegrass and commercial country worlds. With a debut like this, Alecia Nugent is definitely a talent to keep an eye on... Highly recommended!
Alecia Nugent "A Little Girl... A Big Four Lane" (Rounder, 2006)
(Produced by Carl Jackson)
Ever think to yourself, "gosh, bluegrass music's going nowhere"? Well, don't worry too much -- not with talented young'uns like this coming along! On her second album, bluegrass vocalist Alecia Nugent commits herself more fully to a modernist, crossover approach, but unlike Alison Krauss (who she's inevitably compared to), Nugent crosses over towards country, rather than adult pop. You could easily see her making the leap into the Nashville mainstream, but for now, let's enjoy the contributions she's making to the bluegrass world. There's a bit less bounce and twang this time around, and most of the songs don't have choruses or hooks that really leap out at you, but this is an album that'll grown on you and has multiple layers of texture and tone to offer attentive listeners. Plus, she's got one heckuva nice voice. Add producer/banjo plunker Carl Jackson into the mix, and a stable of ususal-suspect superpickers (notably, Rob Ickes and Jim Van Cleve...) and guest vocals from Rebecca Lynn Howard, Doyle Lawson, Bradley Walker and Alison Krauss herself, and you've got one heckuva nice record. Keep you eye on this gal, and your ears on this album... they're both gonna be around for a long, long while.
Alecia Nugent "Hillbilly Goddess" (Rounder, 2009)
(Produced by Carl Jackson)
A powerful performer, Alecia Nugent has perfected her blend of traditional bluegrass and Top Forty country... This album tilts further towards the poppier end of the spectrum, with a bunch of well-crafted, high-concept ballads, that are just the sort of stuff that Nashville loves. Gushy romantic weepers like "Don't Tell Me (To Stop Loving You)" and "Dyin' To Hold Her Again" are pretty powerful, as are the more overtly chick-oriented self-discovery songs, "The Last Greyhound" and "Just Another Alice." Honestly, I don't know why Nugent isn't a huge Top Forty star by now; she's certainly got the formula down right... But I guess if you're a Top 40 fan who also likes to have an insider edge, you could consider Nugent a hidden secret, an artist whose albums you could give to your friends and have them go, "holy cow!" and wonder why they hadn't heard of her before. There's stuff for more twang-oriented listeners to enjoy, too, including "The Nugent Family Band," a sweet, nostalgic look back at Alecia's days on the traditional bluegrass circuit. There's also the album's gleeful title track, a celebration of low-rent, blue collar life that's sort of like an extended remix of George & Tammy's "We're Not The Jet Set," as well as "The Writing's On The Wall," a stellar hard-country duet with Bradley Walker. It should also be mentioned that the album's producer, Carl Jackson, sings harmony throughout, adding an extra layer of sweetness and authenticity... Whether you're a country fan or a bluegrasser, this disc has a lot to offer. Recommended!
Hillbilly Fillies - Letter "O"
Hick Music Index
Sisters Who Swung: Women In Jazz & Blues