No More Ms. Nice Guy

Country Grrl is a spinoff of my alternative country webzine Twangin'!, so you'll sometimes see the Twangin'! logo on pages here. Besides being prominently linked on the Twangin'! front page, most of the Country Grrl features and reports will be cross-linked to Twangin's table of contents.

Why Country Grrl?

The idea for Country Grrl has been simmering on the ol' back burner for quite a while -- as something I might do in my "copious spare time," but it came to a boiling point recently when I discovered, to my dismay and to my chagrin for being so thick, just how bad things are for women in country music outside the mainstream. What lit a fire under my kettle began innocently enough. On Postcard2, the alternative country mailing list, that tiresome annual ritual, The Year's Top Ten Best, was in full swing. Scrolling through list after tedious list, I noticed a disquieting trend: the lists were overwhelmingly male. This led me to the investigation -- and to further dismay and chagrin -- detailed in The More Things Stay the Same. Briefly, I found that, out there beyond Top 40 Country, new CDs by men outnumber those by women by about six to one. On the alternative country charts -- the Gavin Americana charts and various alt-country radio and magazine charts, they are almost invisible.

A site focusing on women in alternative country music is in order. Now. Yesterday if possible.

Lil' Mo & the Monicats Grace Braun Gillian Welch Cordell Jackson Hazel Dickens Dee Lannon Kelly Hogan The Lynn Morris Band Freakwater The Burns Sisters Kimmie Rhodes Marcia Ball Neko Case & Her Boyfriends...

Country Grrl's aim to provide hard evidence that yes, Virginia, there are women in alt-country. Country Grrl will cover women musicians playing country music of every stripe, including mainstream country but focusing on "alternative" country , rockabilly, bluegrass, old time, and other styles which have a vigorous and spirited following outside the mainstream. It will also be a place to air out stuffy old assumptions about women, men, and country music, to ask pointed questions and get some r eal answers or else; to shine a light on discrimination and sexism, and to generally rile up things that are past due for a good riling.

Country Grrl is not a punk zine, not even a country-punk zine, and it's not a site for "women's music." Frankly, when it comes to the near invisibility of women in alt-country music, both the grrl and the older women's music movements are part of the prob lem, not the solution. While "alternative country" is elastic enough to include country-punk bands and feminist folksingers, even these hardly shows up on the radar of women-oriented music zines. That a handful of women country artists do appear in the (v irtual or paper) pages of grrl and feminist zines -- Nanci Griffith, Mary Chapin Carpenter, k.d. lang, Laurie Lewis -- gives barely a hint that there are other musicians, playing other styles, perhaps with their own brands of feminism, yet to be heard fro m.

...Tish Hinojosa Julie Miller Alison Krauss Edith Frost Red Meat Jo Carol Pierce Claire Lynch Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer Carlene Carter Adie Grey Candye Kane Holly Tashian Kathie Robertson Heather Myles Rhonda Vin cent...

Grrl style and women's music bends to include many different styles of music, but country is not one of them. Women performing in more traditional or classic country styles are ignored; out of ignorance, out of class prejudice, out of trendy notions of " cool", out of disregard for a music that has been summarily labelled "corny" and "reactionary" for too long. Their accomplishments, their innovations, even their rebellion against sexism goes unnoticed by the very people who should be their allies and cha mpions.

Too often, when women country performers are given space in grrl and women's music, it's as if they're cut from their backgrounds in other genres and pasted into grrl or women's music. This does the individual performer a disservice, but also, it c uts us off from much we could learn about women in the histories and traditions of music of all kinds. It keeps us from learning about what these women musicians are doing today and how they fare in different genres. It fails to give us a full and accurate picture of women in popular music.

...Dale Ann Bradley Barbara Lamb Libbi Bosworth Toini & the Tomcats Tammy Rogers Nanci Griffith Gretchen Peters Iris DeMent Sara Evans Kelly Willis Rosie Flores Dixie Chicks Ana Egge...

Women in country music outside the mainstream are shot by both sides. They're ignored by the alternative country scene because they're women. They're ignored by the grrl and women's music movements because they're country. A fraction of the new CDs releas ed by independent country labels are by women; a perhaps equally small fraction of those released on independent women's labels are country. The amount of press coverage women country artists get in either the alternative country scene or women's media ca n be measured in crumbs.

There are bright spots here and there, of course, and Country Grrl will jump on these like a dog on a bone. Yes, there are men who support women in music; yes, there are feminists who understand country music, and yes, there are grrls who don't run screaming at the sound of a banjo. I certainly hope to hear from you.

--Cheryl Cline

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