Today is the second annual ‘National Album Day’ here in the UK and to celebrate, several members of the Belles and Gals team have got together and written pieces about their favourite albums by female country artists. What is your favourite album? Let us know in the comments below or via our social media channels.
Shania Twain’s ‘Up’ – Laura Klonowski (lauraklonowski.com)
Shania Twain released the Up! LP back in 2002 but it wasn’t until 2003 that I discovered the album. I was aged 9 and heard Man! I Feel Like A Woman coming from my brothers bedroom and was instantly captivated.
I went in to find them watching the Up! Live from Chicago DVD. I then watched the whole concert and was hooked on her music and Country music in general.
The Up! Album was on constant repeat on my stereo from that day forward and I got my parents to buy me all her previous music as well which I fell in love with. I just couldn’t get over the amazing talent this woman possessed and the way she brought so many musical styles together.
But it was that Up! record that launched my love of Shania Twain and allowed me to discover further artists such as Sheryl Crow and LeAnn Rimes when I was a kid all of which brought the country music genre further into my musical tastes.
There wasn’t a song on the Up! album that I didn’t love and to this day tracks such as Nah, It Only Hurts When I’m Breathing, and I’m Gonna Getcha Good remain some of my most played as does the whole record. It never fails to impress me how she managed to bring so many standout songs together on one single project.
I am so grateful this album found its way into my life as without it I would never have discovered the joys of the country genre or the amazing artists such as Ward Thomas, Sarah Darling, Twinnie, Lady Antebellum etc who now dominate my playlists as an adult.
The Up! Record will forever hold a special place in my heart as it is the very first Country Album that I consciously decided to listen to and that’s why I chose to celebrate the incredible LP on National Album Day 2019.
Brandy Clark’s ’12 Stories’ – Lesley Hastings (twitter.com/lesleyhastings)
I vividly remember hearing Brandy Clark coming at me through my radio for the first time. Bob Harris was giving “Stripes” a spin on his weekly country music show on BBC Radio 2 and that was the start of my love affair (some may say obsession, I’ll take that too!) with her music in general and her 2012 Grammy nominated album “12 Stories”, which I immediately sought out, in particular.
“Stripes” was one of the cleverest and funniest songs I’d heard (“There’s no crime of passion worth a crime of fashion” was burned in my brain straight away) its lyrics drew me in, which is the case with the writing on every track on this album, without exception.
The majority of country music fans will say it’s the genre’s storytelling that attracts them, and Brandy is a story teller par excellence (hence I guess the album’s title), and with every song on this collection you can vividly picture their well observed characters and scenarios. From the pain pill pimp with his black cadillac and old pit bull she describes so well in “Take A Little Pill” to the long, curly, raven hair, red dress and nervous smile of the ex-girlfiend in “Hold My Hand”, these are real people to Brandy and subsequently to the listener. The album’s mix of songs has me laughing out loud one minute and in tears the next, and all contain what Brandy calls “a grain of truth”, another important element in great country music.
The production by Dave Brainard puts Brandy’s writing and what I feel is her often underestimated voice to the fore. It’s an album I can (and do) listen to over and over again and never tire of.
Kacey Musgraves’ ‘Same Trailer Different Park’ – Mel Osten (twitter.com/melosten)
“Choose your favourite country music album to write about”… hmmm, for me that’s a no brainer! My introduction to country music came via the sweet tones of Kacey Musgraves whilst I was searching for a country music radio channel for the first time. From that moment, my life became a roller coaster as I fell in love with county music and became involved in the UK country music scene… and now I’m sitting writing this article in Studio A at Parr Street studios, whilst a bunch of hugely talented musicians lay down some tracks for a UK country artist!
“Same Trailer, Different Park” is the major label debut album from Kacey. Released in March 2013 through Mercury, Nashville. Co-written and co-produced by Kacey, with Luke Laird and Shane McAnally, it won the Grammy Award for Best Country Album at the 56th Annual Awards.
The first track I heard from Kacey, and actually the first country music I heard on radio, was “Follow Your Arrow”, a song that reflects on small town life and peoples small town views and that the best way to live your life is to stay true to yourself and follow your own path. This song had a major impact on me at a turning point in my life, and eventually led to me having a self-designed tattoo on my wrist to remind me to follow my own arrow “wherever it points”.
One of my most favourite tracks on Same Trailer is “Back On the Map”. The exquisite track is mixed to perfection with awesome drums, and Kacey’s vocals sit right in the centre… one that I always hit “repeat” on multiple times!
If you like your music to have lyrics which punch you in the heart and bring a tear to your eye, make you smile, laugh and feel every range of emotion, every single listen… this album is the one!
Maren Morris’ ‘Hero’ – Emily Weall (twitter.com/emilyj_weall)
For me, my favourite album has to be HERO by Maren Morris, it was released right as I finished university (just over three years ago now!) and it came into my life at the exact moment that I really needed it.
The deluxe version that was later released and features all 11 original tracks, as well as Bummin’ Cigarettes, Company You Keep and Space is constantly playing, either on my phone while I’m out and about, through my laptop when I’m at home working or even through my record player, it truly is an album that sounds great on Vinyl, as the natural crackles of the record enhanced the genre cross-over.
For me, the album opening on Sugar was the correct choice, as it perfectly sets the tone for the album – it’s fun and upbeat and is also the perfect blend of pop and country to keep the majority of Maren’s fanbase happy.
The slower ballads come later on in the album and they are certainly worth the wait if that’s your favourite type of song, because they sure do pack a punch! Anyone else ever find themselves being caught off guard and end up crying because they’ve had a bit of a crap day/week and I Wish I Was comes on shuffle? No? Just me then…
I like the three additional songs that were later added on as part of the deluxe edition, Company You Keep being a song most people had heard before as it was on a previous EP, but it’s Space and Bummin’ Cigarettes that really spoke to me, they both tug on my heart strings and are without a doubt my favourite tracks on the album.
Shania Twain’s ‘The Woman in Me’ – Samantha Melrose (twitter.com/smelrose93)
Asking someone to pick their favourite album is like asking someone to pick their favourite parent or child. There are so many albums that shaped my musical taste. However, there are a few artists that stand out from my childhood. Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton and Shania Twain in particular. I remember my mum would play Twain’s ‘Come On Over’ album on repeat. Baby Sam loved singing ‘That Don’t Impress Me Much’ …If only I still had that sass. But as I’ve got older ‘The Woman In Me’ has actually become a favourite album of mine. It’s full of ballads, and sits on the verge of Country, Rock and Pop.
I was 2 when this album came out so I can’t claim that (at the time) it got me through some tough times and made me feel like my best self, but now, it’s a killer album and one that I love to listen to when I need some reassurance. Tracks like ‘Any Man Of Mine’ will have everyone singing. And who can deny a line like ‘If you want to win it, there’s no speed limit’ – seriously!
It’s an exquisitely formed album and one that has stood the test of time. This album was (in my opinion) the catalyst for the country pop tide that swept through the 90’s. So thank you Shania for gifting the world with this album. If you need a pick me up, you need to put this album on, grab yourself a glass of wine and put the volume up as loud as it will go. Trust me, you won’t regret it!
Liv Austen’s ‘A Moment of Your Time’ – Craig Brooks (twitter.com/swindonforever)
For National album day I wanted to talk about an album that is not only my favourite by a country artist, but also an album which is vastly underrated. That album is ‘A Moment Of Your Time’ by Liv Austen.
Norwegian songstress Liv Austen should be a very familiar name to any fans ok U.K country artists and is a huge favourite of myself and others on the live circuit with her consistently fantastic performances and the way she connects with a live crowd. As we all know country music has evolved greatly over the years and started to incorporate other genres of music within it. Liv has managed to blend country with pop and rock on the album and shown us the incredible versatility she has an artist. Perhaps one of the most impressive facts about this album is that Liv was either the writer or co-writer one 11 out of the 12 tracks, I mentioned the versatility she has an artist and I’m so impressed with how she seems to be just as at ease writing a catchy pop number as she is writing a deep meaningful ballad.
I feel it was an excellent choice picking ‘Miss Nobody’ as the opening track on the album. Right from the off we have a feisty girl power anthem that will grab your attention immediately with its energy. Liv is a great role model for other women both inside and outside of the music industry and the girl boss don’t take any crap from people vibe from this track is something she very much embodies. The following track ‘Next Time’ carries a not too dissimilar vein and is further evidence of Liv’s fantastic lyrical ability that is clear throughout the album. ‘Don’t Regret A Single One’ is a really interesting track, instead of trashing men that have come and gone in her past she’s singing a tale of being grateful for the interactions she had them with them and the lessons learned. The most popular track on the album and probably at live shows as well is ‘Window Shopping’ which will forever be stuck in your head and you’ll be just fine with that. This one came about after a chat between Liv and the co-writer Kaity Rae over the importance placed on looks in relationships when people should perhaps prioritise the person’s character and the connection with them, it’s an infectiously catchy number that you won’t be able to help but sing along to and you know when Kaity Rae is involved with a tune it’s going to be faultless. My personal favourite on the album is ‘Part Time Sweetheart’, right from the guitar intro at the start it’s bursting with energy and is a track that I will listen to many times on repeat, very much the definition of a banger for me. If any track on the album is going to make you teary eyed it would have to be the final one on the album ‘But I Know I Love Him’, a beautifully nostalgic track from Liv about her partner and how she’ll never meet the boy he used to be.
I haven’t mentioned every track on the album individually but make no mistake about it; this is as flawless an album as you will come across in any genre of music. Lyrically phenomenal, fantastic production, heartfelt and emotional tracks and all round just mind-blowing from an artist at any stage of their career let alone for a debut album. If you have any friends that are refusing to give country artists a chance because they think they know exactly what they sound like, then give them ‘A Moment Of Your Time’ by Liv Austen, if they don’t fall in love with this there is no hope for them.
Hannah Rose Platt’s ‘Portraits’ – Nick Cantwell (twitter.com/nickbelles_gals)
Three years ago, Belles and Gals was in its infancy, literally just me writing and featuring my own favourite music. At the time I was virtually clueless about the UK scene, so I set myself a task of exploring as many artists as I could – I literally had a list that I worked my way through. It was working through this list that I came across ‘Portraits’.
I can remember the exact moment I first ever listened to ‘Portraits’ by Hannah Rose Platt. I was walking to pick up my daughter from school and from the first few notes I was entranced by both the lyrics and melody that I was hearing. Three songs in and the incredible ‘1954’ plays and I literally stopped in the middle of the street – a heartbreaking song with a killer line just under a minute in, which tells you the ‘real’ story of the track. In many songs you’ll feel great emotion towards a single character – this song has you in tears for two.
The album features a series of stories and characters, all delightfully introduced – and you feel you know each of them and live their emotions such are the intricacies of each track. Within the album there are tales of heartache, domestic abuse, illness and pride. Tracks such as ‘Dancer’, ‘Crumbs’, ‘Daughter’ and ‘Yellow Roses’ draw you in completely, each painting an amazing picture (hence the title of the album). Hannah is an incredible songwriter, with a sublime lyrical skill where a delicacy in delivery of a word or two can create a sledgehammer of emotion.
‘Portraits’ was the first album I ever reviewed on Belles and Gals, and it will always have a very special place in my heart.