For March 2020’s virtual mixtape, I considered switching up to a playlist more relevant to current events, but I realized that we have had plenty on that topic. I also wanted to take the opportunity to recognize Women’s History Month and, through it, these gifted artists. This playlist is in no way comprehensive, leaving out plenty of greats and even many of my own favorites. This is simply a sampling of the music from talented women in my library, curated while attempting to balance interesting histories, personal favorites, and a bit of variety. The full playlist can be heard on Spotify and Apple Music (Note: due to the weird & complicated world of digital licensing, not all tracks may appear on Apple Music).
Tracks: Gimme a Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer, Backwater Blues
Bessie Smith was counted as the most popular female blues artist through the 1920s and 1930s, when she was referred to as the Empress of Blues. To this day, she remains an influencer of jazz singers and is considered one of the greats of her era. Smith made 160 recordings for Columbia Records, performing with the top artists of the day, including Louis Armstrong. Her lyrics focused on the African-American working class and challenged the norms of the culture of the day. She sang about personal expression, her sexuality, self-empowerment, and the right to let loose in order cope with the stresses of life.
blame me cuz i’m full of gin
i can't move no more, there ain't no place for a poor old girl to go
Tracks: Touch Your Woman, My Tennessee Mountain Home, I Will Always Love You
I imagine we all recognize the national treasure that is Dolly Parton, but I still highly recommend the podcast, Dolly Parton’s America, to everyone. The show is a deep dive into the human being who built an empire on prolific songwriting, charismatic performance, and charming & honest individuality. I have been fortunate enough to sit with many of my favorite artists, but chatting with Dolly remains my dream interview.
i hope life treats you kind
Tracks: Talking Old Soldier, Before The Money Came (The Battle of Bettye LaVette), Time Will Do The Talking, Down To Zero
The tale of Bettye LaVette is one of unrecognized talent, often ignored in the era of soul due to her lack of willingness to conform to the wishes of record industry decision makers. The story has a wonderful third act, though, beginning in 2005 when the founder of Anti- Records signed her to a record contract after witnessing a live performance. The first release was I've Got My Own Hell to Raise, an album of songs written exclusively by women. In 2007, she collaborated with the Drive-By Truckers to produce her album, The Scene of the Crime, followed by a widely-regarded performance at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2008, and an appearance on stage at the 2009 Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial. The accolades and awards have continued from there.
so damn proud i was built this way
Tracks: The Long Way Around, Gaslighter, Not Ready To Make Nice
Dixie Chicks were musical giants before their 2003 controversy, compiling a solid streak of releases from the end of the 90s into the 00s. Their response to coming under attack for the crime of having an opinion brought us one of my favorite albums in country music, Taking The Long Way, and turned them into heroes as well.
it can get pretty lonely when you show yourself
i made my bed and i sleep like a baby
Tracks: Victrola, Shutterbug, Empty Bottle
I cannot leave this list without mentioning Veruca Salt, forever my favorite and the source of my best stories in living the rock and roll lifestyle. Whether it was the high school days on couches with friends blasting Eight Arms To Hold You, hanging out with the band in an alley on their tour bus, or the excellent delivery on their revival in 2015, they remain, in my heart, the best.
you're so audio
she's a fool for the last living rock king
time flies and i can't keep up, all the years i have to sweep up
Tracks: Comfort Zone, Good Place To Hide (At The Time), Fun For Everyone (Minions), Everybody Knows
We finish the list with a more recent artist, the Canadian duo, Partner. They impressed me first with their power punk pop album, In Search of Lost Time and its leading track, “Comfort Zone”. They continue to floor me with their genre-bending follow-up releases, dipping into dance, country, and even channeling their inner Rush. Always playing with sounds while maintaining their frivolous, fun-loving humor, they remain an artist to follow closely.
i’m talking frozen pizza, sweatpants on
Tracks: Good As Hell, Like A Girl, Soulmate
dust your shoulders off, keep it moving
look up in a mirror like, damn, she the one
Tracks: Nina, Cleo, Hatshepsut
trying and dying to breathe poetry to rise the light of day
what ain't given, i had to take my turn
i learned how to rule from my mother and my aunties
Tracks: Grown Up, Dear You, Puppy Dog Eyes, Lightning
it's scary how much i love my dog
we were born to wonder, be brave, don't be afraid
Tracks: Crowded Table
i want a house with a crowded table and a place by the fire for everyone
Tracks: The Joke, Hold Out Your Hand
let 'em laugh while they can, let 'em spin, let 'em scatter in the wind
Tracks: Ukulele Anthem
remember we're all going to die, so play your ukulele