We’re kicking off our new blog with a celebration of the country music books that we’ve co-published over the past two decades with the Country Music Foundation Press. In honor of our country music titles, and coinciding with the premiere of Ken Burns’s new Country Music documentary, we’ve put together playlists that draw from a selection of our country music books.
Today’s playlist takes its inspiration from Finding Her Voice: Women in Country Music, 1800–2000 by Mary A. Bufwack and Robert K. Oermann.
Finding Her Voice tells the stories of the female artists who have shaped country music for over two hundred years, from country’s earliest pioneers to its greatest legends. Through interviews, photos, and primary texts, the authors weave a vast and complex tapestry of personalities and talent. As Bufwack and Oermann discuss in their Introduction to Finding Her Voice, the story of women in country music is a very dynamic one:
The position of women in country music has been the subject of ongoing discussion in American popular culture in recent years. An especially conspicuous example came in 2015 with the “Tomato-gate” controversy, when radio consultant Keith Hill, in an interview with the trade publication Country Aircheck, advised country radio stations to limit their airplay of songs by female artists:
Female country music artists such as Martina McBride, Miranda Lambert, and Jennifer Nettles spoke out against Hill’s comments, and groups like Change the Conversation and Song Suffragettes amped up their efforts to fight gender inequality in the country music industry. But the cultural conversation about disparities continues—as the Tennessean reported in 2018, three years after Tomato-gate, there were even fewer women on country radio than in 2015.
The release earlier this month of the debut album of the Highwomen—a supergroup made up of Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires, Maren Morris, and Natalie Hemby—is the latest example of a creative and commercial effort to address gender disparities in country music. A recent New York Times interview with the Highwomen discusses the genesis of the group: