5 essential female country albums to listen to this summer


Every summer playlist could use a few more Southern accents, preferably from one of these incredible female country albums.

This is not exactly your grandmother’s country music, but that doesn’t mean the old guard won’t embrace these five fantastic albums by female artists that will keep that deep South twang echoing throughout the summer. The new crop of alt-country stars are still proud daughters of Reba McEntire, Faith Hill, and Shania Twain’s legacy. Maybe that’s why they are not afraid to push the definition of the genre as their predecessors did.

Today that translates into unexpected collaborations like those featuring Ludacris and Zedd, or a pop glaze on banjo hooks that sound like1989-era Taylor Swift is being lured back to Nashville.

If you’re already a fan of country music, these five female artists are probably old friends. If not, maybe they should be.

LAS VEGAS, NV – APRIL 15: Carrie Underwood performs onstage during the 53rd Academy of Country Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 15, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Carrie Underwood – Cry Pretty

Former American Idol winner Carrie Underwood stole the show at the American Country Music Awards with her glitter-filled performance of “Cry Pretty.” The lead single from her upcoming sixth studio album of the same name is a powerhouse ballad of honest vulnerability and subtle feminism made all the more poignant by Underwood’s struggles after serious facial injury.

Although the record doesn’t come out into Sept. 14, expect a summer of inescapable (and likely hit) singles.

NASHVILLE, TN – NOVEMBER 05: Ashley Monroe speaks in the press room during the 48th annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on November 5, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

Ashley Monroe – Sparrow

With Sparrow, Ashley Monroe is pushing the limits of country music into a whole new place that is simultaneously occupied by Elton John and Glen Campbell. On first listen, you’d be forgiven for thinking the album currently resting at no. 21 on the country charts isn’t country at all.

Music writers have called it “Southern Gothic” and “country-soul,” but what truly sets it apart is its throwback sound to ’70s singer-songwriters. If ever there was an artist who time-traveled from the acoustic tent at Woodstock and somehow landed in Nashville, it’s almost certainly Monroe.

INDIO, CA – APRIL 28: Kacey Musgraves performs onstage during 2018 Stagecoach California’s Country Music Festival at the Empire Polo Field on April 28, 2018 in Indio, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Stagecoach)

Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

Golden Hour simultaneously debuted at number one on the Billboard Top Country Albums and Billboard 200 charts. Since then, the pop-folk record has racked up enough accolades to fill a resume thanks to beautifully warm and ethereal songs made for sad summer days.

Always heartfelt and slightly heartbroken, Musgrave’s album can feel like Lana Del Rey-meets-teenage Taylor Swift, but with twice the sincerity. There’s a song that Spin dubbed “the most wholesome track ever written on LSD,” and closing track “Rainbow” is directed at LGBTQ youth. Despite comparisons, but the truth is that there isn’t anyone like Musgraves in the game right now, which paradoxically makes Golden Hour the most accessible album for fans of all music, not just country.

NASHVILLE, TN – MARCH 20: Country artist Ashley McBryde performs at 3rd and Lindsley on March 20, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Essential Broadcast Media)

Ashley McBryde – Girl Going Nowhere

The lead single from her debut album, “A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega” dropped over a year ago to massive mainstream acclaim, included in both in the New York Times’ best songs of the year and Rolling Stone’s top country songs for 2017. Girl Going Nowhere debuted to similar fanfare.

McBryde’s country-meets-classic rock record takes on breaking up without breaking down in and small-town sex scandals with the same ease as a song on realities of living in an opioid epidemic. In fact, she’s such an awesome songwriter that Garth Brooks nearly stole her first single right out from under her. Luckily, some unnamed hero made sure it stayed with its rightful owner.

LAS VEGAS, NV – APRIL 15: Kristian Bush (L) and Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland pose in the press room during the 53rd Academy of Country Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 15, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for ACM)

Sugarland – Bigger

Performing a modern day music miracle, Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush of Sugarland resurrected Country Taylor Swift — or at least brought her backing vocals back to life for their first single “Babe” from their upcoming album Bigger, out June 8. It’s a big name to tack onto the comeback track of an incredibly successful duo after an eight-year hiatus, and a perfect fit for a song that dabbles in synths.

Next: 5 essential female pop albums to listen to this summer

Did you know there are only about nine albums by women on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart, and three of them are from Taylor Swift? For as great as her early work may be, there are many female artists coming out with brilliant country music right now that belong on that chart — and your summer playlist.