This past year was another strong year for female artists. You wouldn’t know it if you turned on award shows, country radio, or looked at the charts, but female artists who made country music this year made some quality music; some of the best. There were many good selections for our nominees; many great albums and great performances that these women stood upon in 2014. Josh and I spent a good amount of time thinking and debating with ourselves over who to choose. We felt there were four or five women who could conceivably win this award with all fairness and votes from readers were across board. With all that said, your 2014 Country Perspective Female Artist of the Year is a tie! Your co-winners are Lee Ann Womack and Karen Jonas!
Now six of our seven nominees had fantastic album releases this year. All those albums were top-tier country albums that impressed both Josh and I. However, Karen Jonas’ Oklahoma Lottery is simply a damn good debut album. As Josh said, “When it comes to Oklahoma Lottery though, I just can’t find anything wrong. I mean if you’re really nitpicking you could say it’s too raw at times, but I think the rawness adds another layer to the album. Really it enhances it and makes the more emotional songs stand out. I find it very hard for anyone who likes traditional country music to not like this album.” The thing is, Karen accomplishes this on her own. She brought the band together and got them in the studio to record. She spearheaded the production of Oklahoma Lottery. Karen Jonas didn’t have connections like Lucette with Dave Cobb or Angaleena Presley; she wasn’t already established like Tami Neilson or Sunny Sweeney. Karen Jonas put in the blood, sweat, and tears to create an album that stands up next to the best of the mainstream and established artists. For that, Karen Jonas must be recognized for the quality outcome from her hard work.
Let’s be frank here: Karen Jonas’ dark, witty vocal delivery on the album is brilliant, and her song writing is fantastic.
Lee Ann Womack also had a hell of year. The Way I’m Livin’ has captured critic’s ears across the board. This album from Womack came six years after her previous release, and Womack’s first release from an independent label. Lee Ann Womack cut some great songs from Nashville songwriters and released an album from her roots and made a grand return to country music. The biggest news for Lee Ann this year, and a big reason for us awarding her alongside Karen Jonas, is that The Way I’m Livin’ received a Grammy nomination for Best Country Album. Gaining a nomination for one of music’s most prestigious awards is fantastic and certainly well deserved for Lee Ann Womack.
However, Womack’s return to the country spotlight has brought out some great TV appearances and performances. She and Jamey Johnson sang George Strait’s “Give It Away” at the George Strait All Star Concert in honor of his retirement. And back at the CMT awards in June, Lee Ann Womack and Kacey Musgraves honored Alan Jackson by singing his hit, “Livin’ On Love,” before Jackson accepted the Impact Award. The rendition was the show’s top moment, and one of country music’s best moments this year. Jackson himself complimented the performance saying he’d never heard the song sound more beautiful.
Both Karen Jonas and Lee Ann Womack stood out the most in a year where women stood out in country music. It’s a shame that the Nashville machine and the mainstream circuit ignores these women. You could argue that these females are some of country’s most talented artists. We at Country Perspective don’t ignore these female artists, we praise them and enjoy their music. Thankfully, these women are determined to make their music in their own way, and they don’t let anything stand in the way of making it happen. Karen Jonas and Lee Ann Womack are a glimpse of what talent and drive are capable of achieving. While they certainly aren’t the only ones who do that, in 2014, these two stood out among the crowd with great albums and have both earned Country Perspective’s (co-)Female Artist of the Year award.