Tag Archives: Rosanne Cash

Grammy Flashback: Best Female Country Vocal Performance

Revised and Updated for 2009

While the Grammys have honored country music from the very first ceremony in 1959, they did not begin honoring by gender until 1965, when the country categories were expanded along with the other genre categories.

This is a look back at the Best Female Country Vocal Performance category. It was first awarded in 1965, an included single competing with albums until the Best Country Album category was added in 1995. When an album is nominated, it is in italics, and a single track is in quotation marks.

I’ve often made the case that female artists were making the best music in the 1990s, and the Grammys did a great job nominating songs and albums that were ignored at the CMA and ACM awards, which is not surprising, given that those shows have so few categories that are actually for songs and albums.

As usual, we start with a look at this year’s nominees and work our way back.


  • Martina McBride, “For These Times”
  • LeAnn Rimes, “What I Cannot Change”
  • Carrie Underwood, “Last Name”
  • Lee Ann Womack, “Last Call”
  • Trisha Yearwood, “This is Me You’re Talking To”

This year’s lineup includes three former winners and two women looking for their first victory in this category. Martina McBride is in the running for the eighth time in fifteen years, and with one of her more understated performances. Lee Ann Womack returns for a fifth time, having received a nomination for the lead single of her five most recent albums. Both ladies turned in good performances here, but they’ve been overlooked for records bigger and better, so they’re not likely to snap their losing streaks this time around.

As for the previous winners, LeAnn Rimes earned her third consecutive nod, bringing her total to five in this category. She hasn’t won since 1997, when she took home the award for “Blue.” If enough voters hear “What I Cannot Change,” she might have a shot, though the only version of the song that’s been a legitimate hit has been the dance remix.

Trisha Yearwood won in 1998 for “How Do I Live,” her only victory to date. But she’s earned her tenth nomination for “This is Me You’re Talking To,” which is arguably her strongest vocal performance of the ten. Like Rimes, the challenge is getting enough voters to listen to it, but she’s never been more deserving of the victory than she is this year.

Still, the favorite remains Carrie Underwood. She’s quickly become a favorite with Grammy voters, having won this category two years running, along with Best New Artist in 2007. She’s the nominee with the highest profile, and while “Last Name” is nowhere near the same league of “Jesus, Take the Wheel” and “Before He Cheats” in terms of artistry or impact, it was a big hit, something that the other four entries cannot claim.

If Underwood was nominated for “Just a Dream,” she’d have a mortal lock on this one. But the strength of the other nominees will at least keep this race competitive. If Underwood prevails, Grammy queen Alison Krauss better watch her back.


  • Alison Krauss, “Simple Love”
  • Miranda Lambert, “Famous in a Small Town”
  • LeAnn Rimes, “Nothin’ Better to Do”
  • Carrie Underwood, “Before He Cheats”
  • Trisha Yearwood, “Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love”

Looking at this lineup, you’d think that it was a golden age of female country artists, something akin to the mid-nineties. In reality, only one of these songs was a big radio hit, though three others managed to go top twenty. In terms of quality, however, this is the most consistent and thoroughly wonderful set of nominees this category has seen this century.  You’d have to go back to exactly 1999 to find a better lineup.

In a year when any winner would have been deserving, Underwood won for “Before He Cheats,” her second straight win for a signature mega-hit from her debut album.

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Discussion: Creative Song Titles

I was listening in the car today to a track from the Caitlin Cary and Thad Cockrell album Begonias.   It’s a winding, bittersweet epic that clocks in at over seven minutes.   The title?   “Conversations About a Friend (Who’s in Love with Katie).”   It captures the content and mood of the song, rather than just taking a line from the chorus and making it the title.

Though I can name countless pop and rock songs like that, I couldn’t think of too many country examples of this.   There’s Emmylou Harris’ “Prayer in Open D”, which is as evocative a title as it is a song.   Rosanne Cash’s “Blue Moon with Heartache” was actually a #1 hit despite its mysterious title, which captures the muddled, melancholy moodiness of the track.

Then there’s my ring tone for a good two years, Dixie Chicks’ “Lubbock or Leave It.”   Since it’s the only upbeat selection and you can never have enough Dixie Chicks, I’ve embedded the “Lubbock” clip below.   The title really captures the spirit of the feisty performance, which is my personal favorite from their most recent album.


What do you think are some of the most creative song titles in country music?


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CMA Flashback: Horizon Award (New Artist)

For a look back at the other major categories, visit our CMA Awards page.


  • Luke Bryan
  • Easton Corbin
  • Jerrod Neimann
  • Chris Young
  • Zac Brown Band

Usually there isn’t this much turnover in this race unless most of last year’s nominees are ineligible.  This year, only one of the four eligible nominees from last year – Zac Brown Band – earns a nomination.  With their massive success and their multiple nominations, they’ve got an excellent shot at winning. Then again, Easton Corbin is elsewhere on the ballot, too. It could be a horse race.

  • Randy Houser
  • Jamey Johnson
  • Jake Owen
  • Darius Rucker
  • Zac Brown Band

Thirteen years after winning the Best New Artist Grammy as part of Hootie & The Blowfish, Darius Rucker won the country music equivalent, adding an exclamation point to the most successful pop-to-country crossover in a generation.


  • Jason Aldean
  • Rodney Atkins
  • Lady Antebellum
  • James Otto
  • Kellie Pickler

The industry favorites Lady Antebellum became the fourth band in history to win this award, following Rascal Flatts, Dixie Chicks and Sawyer Brown.


  • Jason Aldean
  • Rodney Atkins
  • Little Big Town
  • Kellie Pickler
  • Taylor Swift

In the year since winning the Horizon Award, Swift has solidified her position as the genre’s most successful rising star.  While her debut album hasn’t reached the sales heights of the first discs by previous winners Carire Underwood and Gretchen Wilson, Swift is still one of the genre’s only significant sellers.


  • Miranda Lambert
  • Little Big Town
  • Sugarland
  • Josh Turner
  • Carrie Underwood

I had a sneaking suspicion that Josh Turner was going to take this home, but as I’ve said before, Carrie’s got the best pipes since Trisha Yearwood. That she’ was acknowledged for that at such an early stage of her career is pretty amazing. Somehow I think the thrill of winning Horizon was short-lived, as winning Female Vocalist the same night left that memory in the dust.


  • Dierks Bentley
  • Big & Rich
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Julie Roberts
  • Sugarland

Four of these five were nominees again the following year, and all in categories besides just Horizon, though Lambert got another shot at that as well. I think Big & Rich and Sugarland are making the most interesting music, and they’re moving more units than Bentley, though he’s no slouch himself. The CMA showed good judgment this year.

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Discussion: Recommend a Track

Change is in the air. Last night, Dan sparked an interesting conversation about the changes that readers would like to see in country music, inspired by the world events of this past week. Country Universe, of course, is undergoing its own series of changes. The best is (hopefully) yet to come. Some of the greatest country songs are about transition, whether they be tales of triumph or tragedy. Deaths, romantic dramas and job dissolutions (thank you, Mr. Paycheck) all fall into the category. For no particular reason, my choice at this moment is “I’ll Change for You,” from the Rosanne Cash album Rules of Travel. Recommend a track tonight, one that’s occupied with the grand notion of change.


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Discussion: Greatest CMA Injustice

As we gear up for the 42nd Annual CMA Awards and the possible surprises and disappointments that it might bring, I’m looking back to night and wondering:

What’s the greatest injustice in CMA history?

My first instinct was to note Conway Twitty, who lost all five of his bids for Male Vocalist and both of his bids for Entertainer.    But at least he has four CMA awards to his credit, all of them shared with Loretta Lynn in the Vocal Duo category.

Then I thought about Sawyer Brown.   Despite a hit run that lasted a good decade, they were never honored with Vocal Group of the Year, despite seven nominations.   But at least they won a trophy back in 1985, when they were given the Horizon Award shortly after their Star Search victory.

So I’m going with Rosanne Cash.   Despite strong record sales, critical acclaim and eleven #1 singles in the eighties, she went 0 for 11 at the CMA awards, including six failed bids for Female Vocalist of the Year.  That’s not even getting into what the CMA failed to nominate, like her classic single “Seven Year Ache” and her landmark album King’s Record Shop.   Even her 2002 collaboration with Johnny Cash, “September When it Comes”, failed to secure a Vocal Event nomination.

What do you think is the greatest injustice in CMA history?  Take a look around the CMA database and our annotated history of the major categories and share your thoughts!


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Classic Country Singles: Rosanne Cash, “Seven Year Ache”

Seven Year Ache
Rosanne Cash

Written by Rosanne Cash

In the 1980s, Rosanne Cash earned 11 #1 singles, more than any female artist other than Reba McEntire. The one that still resounds most is her take on the seven-year itch. With “Seven Year Ache”, Cash showed a skill for writing (and performing) songs in the progressive country movement, songs with smarts and the ability to appeal to diverse audiences.

Throughout her career, Cash has created music that sends a distinct message, and “Seven Year Ache” is no different. The song matches a tough-girl delivery with a biting, cynical lyric about a man and his restless ways, culminating in another night out on the town. It’s a cutting indictment that is equal parts attitude and apathy, with Cash seeming both angry with her man’s transgressions and tired of scolding his behavior.

Her antagonist is “face down in a memory, but feeling alright,” no doubt gaining the pleasure in the female attention while experiencing the pain of past memories that haunt him. Both the men and women in the bar are entranced by his every move as he flirts and finds a way to inspire both jealousy and attraction. Cash admonishes her man for being “someone he’s not” and “looking careless” as he barely bothers to consider his surroundings, but instead searches for the next cheap thrill.

Cash’s ex-husband and former producer, Rodney Crowell, is often credited for inspiring “Seven Year Ache,” but, in an interview with Bill Deyoung, Cash said, “The real inspiration came for me because Rickie Lee Jones’ first album came out, and I was so moved by it, and so inspired, I thought ‘There’s never been a country song about street life, about life on the streets.'” This inspiration led her to write more than four pages of lyrics before trimming the song into a three-minute master class of love’s longing, loneliness and lingering frustration.

“Seven Year Ache” earned Cash her first Grammy nomination, and remains her signature song, a #1 single in 1981. It was the title track of her second country disc, a four-star effort in Rolling Stone, and a staple in modern mainstream country music in the early 1980s. Country fans were re-introduced to the classic song in 2001, when Trisha Yearwood (with some assistance from Cash herself) included her own take on the track on her album Inside Out. But it is Rosanne Cash, eloquent in her words and aware in her actions that defined love’s ups and downs with this trademark tune.

“Seven Year Ache” is the latest in a series of articles showcasing Classic Country Singles. You can read previous entries at the Classic Country Singles page.


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Say What? – Rosanne Cash and John Rich

Rosanne Cash has issued a statement regarding recent use of her father’s name for political purposes:

It is appalling to me that people still want to invoke my father’s name, five years after his death, to ascribe beliefs, ideals, values and loyalties to him that cannot possibly be determined, and to try to further their own agendas by doing so. I knew my father pretty well, at least better than some of those who entitle themselves to his legacy and his supposed ideals, and even I would not presume to say publicly what I ‘know’ he thought or felt. This is especially dangerous in the case of political affiliation. It is unfair and presumptuous to use him to bolster any platform. I would ask that my father not be co-opted in this election for either side, since he is clearly not here to defend or state his own allegiance.

Her dignified response might be in regards to this statement by John Rich while performing at a John McCain rally:

Somebody’s got to walk the line in the country. They’ve got to walk it unapologetically.  And I’m sure Johnny Cash would have been a John McCain supporter if he was still around.

I think that Rosanne’s response strikes the perfect tone, since it doesn’t name names and appeals to both sides of the political aisle to refrain from speaking on her father’s behalf.   It’s dehumanizing to use him as a prop, a cheap attempt to give your point of view more credibility.

It reminds me of the old saying: “You can safely assume a man has recreated God in his own image when it turns out God hates all the same people he does.”   Cash the father and Cash the daughter are both worthy of emulating.  Rich should be trying to learn from them rather than putting his own words in Johnny Cash’s mouth.


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100 Greatest Women, #20: Rosanne Cash

100 Greatest Women


Rosanne Cash

She was one of the dominant female country voices throughout the eighties, and the incisive words and music of Rosanne Cash were leagues beyond most of her contemporaries. She was also the daughter of a country music icon and legend, but her own music was so distinctively different from her father’s that one could be excused for not realizing she called Johnny Cash “Dad.”

The eldest child from her father’s first marriage, Cash was raised in Nashville, where she was teased at school for her hillbilly lineage. When her parents split, she moved with her mom to southern California, where she spent a good deal of her late childhood and teenage years. She also began traveling with her father’s road show, soon after she graduated high school. A job on laundry duty eventually developed into backup singing and occasional turns in the spotlight. However, it was believed that her stepsister Carlene Carter was the one with the bright musical future, and Cash was unsure that music was her path. So while she developed as a singer and writer, she also took acting classes and strongly considered pursuing drama.

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Album Reviews: Rosanne Cash, Linda Ronstadt

I spend a good chunk of my salary on music, and it seems wasteful not to pass it on when I’ve made a particularly worthy purchase. Here are some recent purchases that I think are worth your money, too:

Rosanne Cash
Black Cadillac

An album written in the aftermath of the death of her father, stepmother and stepsister, followed by the death of her mother as the album neared completion? The expecations are bound to be unreasonable. Somehow, Cash exceeds them anyway. This is a strikingly intimate, insightful and ultimately uplifting record that should be necessary listening for processing grief. The inherent wisdom in a song like “God Is In The Roses”, which follows the title by adding “God is in the roses and the thorns”, is just one poetic example of Cash’s writing on this project, which features some of the best songs she’s ever written. I can’t help but wonder if her stepsister Carlene Carter will also use her brilliant talent to process these events. Johnny & June were such significant figures in American culture, especially for country music fans; it’s a beautiful thing that Rosanne has used her own grief to help us process the loss we feel with their absence from the stage.

Linda Ronstadt
The Best of Linda Ronstadt: The Capitol Years

I realize that I’ve been threatening to do a long reissues post for months now, and I will do it, but releases like this help me reveal my philosophy about these things a little at a time. Here’s the conceit behind this 2-CD set: all four of Ronstadt’s Capitol albums, two of which had fallen out of print, collected together, digitally remastered with five unreleased tracks from the same era. Boom! With two CD’s for twenty bucks, you get everything there is to have from the developing years of one of the most important female artists in the history of country music. This is what labels need to do for the artists of that era, where two albums easily fit on one CD. Capitol is wisely doing the same for Merle Haggard, releasing ten of his classic albums on five CD’s next month. Carlene Carter and Rodney Crowell found their nearly-forgotten early work suddenly back in print by a similar approach last year. I can only hope other labels start doing the same thing. It is criminal that any work by Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris or Waylon Jennings remains out-of-print. And I still can’t figure out why almost all of the Olivia Newton-John albums available on CD are the ones nobody bought in the first place, while her platinum-sellers can only be bought via import. Silliness, don’t you think?


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