100 Greatest Women, #13: Patty Loveless

100 Greatest Women


Patty Loveless

“I’m a combination of Linda Ronstadt, Loretta Lynn and Ralph Stanley.” – Patty Loveless, 1989

Patty Loveless may be the last of the great mountain singers who will ever find mainstream country success, but there has always been a country-rock undercurrent to her material. Beloved by fans of pure country music, her work is deeply rooted in the mountain sounds of her native Kentucky, but her years singing rock music carried over into the studio, making her something of a progressive traditionalist.

She was raised in Belcher Holler, a small Kentucky town where her father was a coal miner. He was struck by black lung disease, and the family moved to Louisville seeking medical care. Her older siblings Dotty and Roger performed in a country act they dubbed The Swingin’ Rameys, and when Dotty quit the band to get married, Roger coaxed Patty into taking her place. After earning $5 for her first performance, and loving the applause, she continued performing with her brother.

Roger’s love for country music led him to Nashville, where he became a producer for The Porter Wagoner Show. He cajoled Wagoner into listening to his sister Patty sing, and the high school girl sang her composition “Sounds of Loneliness” for the superstar. Wagoner was blown away, and vowed to help her break into the industry. He encouraged her to go back and finish school, but took her out with him on the road on weekends.

She was able to perform on a Grand Ole Opry package show when Jean Shepard had to cancel. Doyle Wilburn of the Wilburn Brothers caught the performance, and he invited her to join their touring band. After she graduated high school, she toured with the Wilburn Brothers as the female singer in their band. When she fell in love with their new drummer Terry Lovelace, however, Wilburn told her to end the romance. She quit the band instead, and Terry and Patty moved to North Carolina.

Patty was reluctant to take Lovelace as her stage name due to the high-profile adult film star Linda Lovelace, so she changed it to Loveless. She spent the late seventies and early eighties playing local clubs and bars in North Carolina. She felt disconnected to country music as a whole, but she found great inspiration from the work of country-rock queen Linda Ronstadt, who was her primary musical influence during this period. But the new traditionalist sounds of Ricky Skaggs and Emmylou Harris brought her back to country, and in 1985 she contacted her brother Roger, who recorded a demo with her that he shopped around in Nashville.

He pushed for MCA Nashville to sign his sister, and A&R head Tony Brown loved her demo. Label president Jimmy Bowen was less than impressed. Bowen recounted in his autobiography that Brown burst into his office and said, “Bowen, she’s a monster, she’s gonna sell platinum.” He responded, “Bull****. She isn’t either,” but let Brown sign her anyway.

Her first album Patty Loveless earned her a small presence on country radio, but her second album, If My Heart Had Windows, provided her with her first hits. The title cut, a cover of a George Jones classic, went top ten, and “A Little Bit in Love,” a Steve Earle tune, went all the way to No. 2. But her big breakthrough was her third album, Honky Tonk Angel. The album spawned five top ten hits, including the #1 smash singles “Timber I’m Falling in Love” and “Chains.” It eventually sold platinum, and her smart choices of material from off-beat writers like Kostas and alt-country artists like Lone Justice (“Don’t Toss Us Away”).

Loveless was emboldened by her success, and followed up with the ambitious On Down the Line, another album that eventually went gold. Here, Loveless culled on rising singer-songwriters like Matraca Berg (“I’m That Kind of Girl”) and Lucinda Williams (“The Night’s Too Long.”) Her fifth album for MCA, Up Against My Heart, produced a big hit in “Hurt Me Bad (In a Real Good Way),” but Loveless was soon sidelined by vocal surgery. She was also concerned that MCA’s attention was too focused on platinum-selling Reba McEntire, Wynonna and Trisha Yearwood to give her the promotional push needed, so she switched to Epic Records, becoming their flagship female artist in 1992.

Loveless had married Emory Gordy Jr. three years earlier, and he would be her primary producer from that point on. Her first release for the label, Only What I Feel, put her back on the charts with the #1 smash “Blame it On Your Heart,” but it also established her as an album artist for the first time. Gordy emphasized her traditional roots more on record than anything that she’d done for MCA, and her powerful ballad “How Can I Help You Say Goodbye” became her first truly meaningful hit, far deeper than the typical radio filler.

“Goodbye” pushed the album to platinum, and Loveless followed with the critically acclaimed When Fallen Angels Fly. It was her most traditional album to date, but it also pushed the boundaries of mainstream country music, with a title cut penned by Billy Joe Shaver and melancholy laments like “You Don’t Even Know Who I Am” and “Here I Am,” both of which became major hits. When Alison Krauss’ album was disqualified from the 1995 CMA Album of the Year race, Loveless’ set was a last-minute replacement on the ballot, as it was the sixth-highest vote-getter in the previous round of voting. Shockingly, the album was the well-deserved winner that fall, and Loveless became only the second woman to win that trophy in the 28-year history of the CMA Awards.

As Angels became her third platinum album, Loveless returned with the grittier The Trouble With the Truth. This album further elevated Loveless’ credibility and commercial clout, featuring a pair of #1 singles in “You Can Feel Bad” and “Lonely Too Long.” During the album’s run, Loveless won three Female Vocalist trophies, two from the ACM and one from the CMA.

Loveless partnered up with George Jones on the lead single from her next set, the gold-selling Long Stretch of Lonesome, and they won the CMA for Vocal Event for the track, “You Don’t Seem to Miss Me.” Her first Epic hit set, Ciassics, featured a duet with Vince Gill, “My Kind of Woman/My Kind of Man”, that again won Loveless the Vocal Event trophy. She also earned a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Collaboration, this time for her contributions to the multi-artist single “Same Old Train.”

Loveless had moderate success with her next set, Strong Heart, which featured the hits “That’s the Kind of Mood I’m In” and “The Last Thing on My Mind.” She was feeling artistically restless, and felt the need to revisit the mountain music of her childhood. The label gave her the green light to explore those sounds on record, and the result was Mountain Soul, which is widely regarded as her masterpiece. The set featured both traditional and new material, and one of the highlights was “Sounds of Loneliness”, the song she had sung for Porter Wagoner three decades earlier.

Her rootsy sound continued with a Christmas album Bluegrass and White Snow, and on her next studio set On Your Way Home, which featured a twanged-up remake of the Rodney Crowell hit “Lovin’ All Night.” The title track, co-written by Matraca Berg, earned Loveless a Grammy nomination. By this time, Loveless was an icon for fans of traditional country music, and was determined to incorporate the mountain sound into her projects. Her swan song for Epic, the stunning 2005 album Dreamin’ My Dreams, had Loveless penning another mountain song, the good-natured romp “Big Chance”, while she kept her alt-country creds duetting with Dwight Yoakam (“Never-Ending Song of Love”) and covering Buddy & Julie Miller (“Keep Your Distance.”)

Since leaving Epic in 2006, Loveless has been fairly quiet on the musical front, though she has recorded with Bob Seger, George Strait and Kathy Mattea. She still appears at the Grand Ole Opry, where she’s been a member for twenty years, and is making select appearances on the road this year. While it remains an open question when she’ll return to the studio, there is no doubt that her return will be welcome by fans of traditional country music, as Loveless is one of the few acts in the genre’s history who not only keeps its flame burning, but makes it shine brighter.

Patty Loveless

Essential Singles

  • “Don’t Toss Us Away”, 1989
  • “Timber, I’m Falling in Love”, 1989
  • “How Can I Help You Say Goodbye”, 1994
  • “Here I Am”, 1994
  • “You Don’t Even Know Who I Am”, 1995
  • “Lonely Too Long”, 1996
  • “You Don’t Seem to Miss Me”, 1997
  • “On Your Way Home”, 2003

Essential Albums

  • Honky Tonk Angel, 1988
  • When Fallen Angels Fly, 1994
  • The Trouble With the Truth, 1996
  • Long Stretch of Lonesome, 1997
  • Mountain Soul, 2001
  • Dreamin’ My Dreams, 2005

Industry Awards

  • ACM Top Female Vocalist, 1996 & 1997
  • ACM Video (“Two Sparrows in a Hurricane”), 1993
  • CMA Vocal Event (“I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair”), 1993
  • CMA Album (When Fallen Angels Fly), 1995
  • CMA Female Vocalist, 1996
  • CMA Vocal Event (“You Don’t Seem to Miss Me”), 1998
  • CMA Vocal Event (“My Kind of Woman/My Kind of Man”), 1999
  • Grammy: Best Country Collaboration with Vocals (“Same Old Train”), 1999

==> #12. Dixie Chicks

<== #14. Barbara Mandrell

100 Greatest Women: The Complete List


  1. I love her Epic recordings, for the most part they are good traditional sounding albums. Her masterpiece though has to be Mountain Soul, It’s probably one of the best albums released in this decade. I’m one of the fans who is patiently waiting for a new recording, because when she does decide to return I know it’ll be worth the wait.

  2. Patty Loveless was the female voice of traditional country music throughout the 90’s. While all her albums are great, my personal favorites are Only What I Feel, Mountain Soul, and The Trouble With the Truth.

    Having seen her multiple times in concert I can say Patty even better live then on album. Her voice can convey such raw emotion. She is a true country music legend.

  3. I love Patty Loveless – for outright vocal ability she is two or three best of the last 25 years. I ‘d rather listen to Patty than Carrie, Shania, Faith, Gretchen, Taylor, Jo Dee or any number of Dixie Chickens anyday.

    If were rating the women on vocal prowess alone she would be # 5 (behind Connie Smith, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline and Rhonda Vincent) but I do think you have her rated too highly in terms of influence , however.

    I have all of her albums – they are all worthwhile and there are some real gems on the MCA albums

  4. Patty Loveless is amazing. I enjoyed reading your recap. One thing I felt was missing is how much she has influenced country music over the past couple of decades by lending her voice to other artist’s songs. Without Patty’s vocals on “When I Call Your Name” that song would not have been the masterpiece for Vince Gill that it was. Or his “Go Rest High” and “Pocket Full of Gold” as well. With Patty, Tim McGraw’s “Please Remember Me” would have been less worth remembering. She has collaborated with Dwight, Suzy Boggus, Chely Wright, John Berry, Possum, Dolly, Alan Jackson, Albert Lee, Solomon Burke, Delbert McClinton, John Prine, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Keith Whitley, Amy Grant, Ralph Stanley and many, many others over the past 25 years. Her mark has been left on millions and millions of albums sold by all these artists.

    Her contribution on George Strait’s new album isn’t backing vocals, it is a full-fledged masterpiece of a duet.

    Some of her best songs were never singles like “That Ain’t The Grandpa That I Know” or “What’s a Broken Heart”.

    She has won more awards than you listed, Music City News and American Music Awards come to mind. It’s hard to believe she will celebrate her 20th anniversary as an Opry member next year.

    I can’t wait for her to release new music.

  5. Patty has one of those voices that stands out. It’s a shame country radio turned their backs on her. Or I guess her label stopped spending the money on promotion.

  6. I have no secret of the fact that I am more drawn to male singers than females. Kevin’s list has really helped me to broaden my horizons in this area, however. So, for me, it’s saying something that Patty Loveless is one of my top five favorite country singers, period. Therefore, this means that she’s my absolute favorite female singer. What a voice!

  7. I can never get sick of her music. Her voice just conveys the emotion in her songs perfectly. Whenever I listen to her music, I have to keep rewinding to listen to it again.

  8. Roger,

    Thanks for the corrections. I’m editing the piece to reflect them. It’s getting harder as the list progresses to write a synopsis that covers every angle of an artist’s impact. This was one of the more difficult ones to write in that regard.

  9. It says something about the state of country radio these days, none of it good, that Patty’s progressive and traditional approach to country music seems anatheme. Her quote about her style being a combination of Linda Ronstadt, Loretta Lynn, and Ralph Stanley is a very accurate one that’s reflected in her hits and on her albums, showing that she is somebody who puts her money where her mouth is. Now if only country radio will embrace her approach one more time…

  10. Patty Loveless…… *sigh*

    Man how I can listen to her all day long. I used to put her cassettes on when I pulled the midnight watch in the wheelhouse every single night. The mate used to sit and listen for about the whole shift when he was only supposed to be bringing me coffee! Touch of home. Heh!

    What a voice! Now you’ve got me itchin’ for some Mountain Soul! :-)

  11. LOVE her. She’d be in my Top 5 of favorite country women. She has the ear for a killer song and her voice is pure country and emotion.

  12. Along with Sara Evans, Patty is my favorite female country vocalist. Masterpiece is truly the way to describe Mountain Soul…and nobody….NOBODY can sing bluegrass like Patty…not even Alison or Rhonda. If you haven’t, do yourself a favor and see her Austin City Limits set…her performance of “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” is comparable to a religious experience.

  13. Patty Loveless (and of course, her husband Emory Gordy, Jr.) fully understood the concept of the complete album. Her records were consistent and cohesive, while often exploring a deep, dark place in human nature that none of the current country women can touch. I would argue that nobody in the 1990s married commercial success with artistic sensibility as well as Patty. She may very well be one of the very last female radio stars with such emotional resonance. May she see the Hall of Fame in her lifetime.

  14. One of the few women who can consistently put a lump in my throat or goosebumps on my arms. Had a chance to do a phoner with her one time and she’s as sweet as she is classy. A true original, who I would say is to modern country music as Aretha F. is to rhythm and blues.

  15. Oh and I ditto what Rodney in SC says about that ACL episode….for a true religious experience, check out Someday I Will Lead The Parade (I think it’s on The Trouble With The Truth)

  16. I’d never seen that quote from Loveless in which she describes her style and lays bare her main influences, but is it ever spot-on. So many artists claim certain influences (a recent favorite of mine is Jessica Simpson’s citing Patsy Cline) but never actually demonstrate any real connection to their music– Ronstadt, Lynn, and Stanley, however, are all over Loveless’ music. Few, if any, other women have managed the consistent balances between the progressive and the mainstream, the traditional and the contemporary that Loveless has managed over the course of her career. She’s a treasure.

    Along with Dizzee Rascal’s Boy in Da Corner and Brian Wilson’s SMiLE, there’s an awfully strong case to be made that Mountain Soul is the finest album released in this decade in any genre. And that’s not just because of the quality of the performances (though Loveless has never sounded better on record, which is truly saying something): there’s such remarkable thematic heft to the album that it plays like an honest-to-God ethnographic study of the mining regions of eastern Kentucky. It’s an extraordinary work that speaks to the sophistication and depth that the best country music can offer and is testimony to how someone like Loveless truly earns the designation of “artist.”

    I saw Loveless perform on the Down From The Mountain tour, where she filled in for Gillian Welch in addition to performing the material from Mountain Soul. When she joined Emmylou Harris and Alison Krauss for “Nobody But the Baby,” “I’ll Fly Away,” and “Down to the River to Pray,” it was absolutely transcendent– not only are those three women amazing solo singers, but they’re arguably three of the absolute finest harmony vocalists in the history of popular music. Before the show, I’d heard several members of the NPR-demographic crowd wondering aloud why a mainstream country star like Loveless was on the bill, but she stole the show and won a legion of new converts that night.

  17. I just want to add my hearty agreement to the sentiments expressed about Mountain Soul here. I absolutely love that album!

  18. Patty Loveless is a National Treasure and should be counted amoung the top 10 greatest women Country singers of all time. Patty is a REAL artist who makes REAL music. The songs she chooses and the songs she writes indicate a profound understanding of, and appreciation for the the finest traditions of Country and Bluegrass music. I’d like to share a few quotes:

    “Loveless is the best of her generation. Not even Martina McBride with all her range and emotion can match the soul in the grain of her voice, nor does anyone posses as pure a country voice with the exception of Emmylou Harris perhaps.”- Thom Jurek, All Music Guide

    and these from the GAC website:

    “Patty’s music reflects the vital richness of an artist at the height of her powers. Gifted with an unfailing ear, she has built a 20-year career around exceptional songs…”

    “John Grady, Sony Nashville president and staunch supporter of Patty’s musical artistry, attests, “In all of the time I’ve worked in Nashville, the two people that have consistently made the best records in town are Patty Loveless and Emory Gordy Jr.”

    And Dr. Ralph Stanley ranks Patty’s vocals right up there with George Jones, because of her lonesome Mountain sound. Dr. Stanley calls Patty the”Queen of Mountain Soul”

    I agree completely with these statements, and all the positive posts here about Patty. I would add Sara Evans as one who also has one of the purest Country voices…right up there with Patty and Emmylou.

    No other artist in recent times has more successfully combined Traditional Country with commercially viable Country music. Patty has accomodated the currents of the time, but never in a way that betrayed her authentic Country roots. In a world of Pop-diluted “country” music, Patty Loveless has kept the Kentucky twang in her voice, the pedal steel and twin fiddles in her band, and her integrity as an artist. Patty sings from the depths of her Appalachian soul…The Mountain timbre in her voice is rich and resonant, and comes as naturally to her as breathing.

    Patty’s accomplishments as a Country music artist are impressive and considerable: From her early induction to the Grand Ole Opry, to her legendary duet partnerships with Vince Gill. Patty was also one of the few female artists to ever win CMA’s album of the year, She has earned critical and commercial acclaim in both the Country and Bluegrass genres. Patty has topped the charts for many years, and has the accomplishments of a Diva but none of the arrogance., Patty remains one of the most beloved and respected Country music singers on the planet.. her sweet, humble and down-to-earth personality has endeared her to her peers and to her fans alike.

    Patty’s musical style, “Traditional with an edge” is distinctive and influential. Not every major Country star HAS a style, but there IS a Patty Loveless style, and that in itself is a timeless contribution to the genre. Patty has been a major influence on Sara Evans, (especially Sara’s early work) and many others. I have seen critics compare her influence to that of her cousin Loretta Lynn, and Patsy Cline. I do believe that Patty’s Mountain style will one day be considered as unique and historically significant as Patsy Cline’s Torch style.. As accomplished as Patty Loveless is today, I still think she is underrated. But I also believe time will vindicate her.

    -Steve from Boston

  19. well-said Boston Steve….I’ve often thought PL was a big influence on Sara E. but can also hear her in Ms. Terri Clarks’ voice

  20. finding patty loveless at #13 made me listening through her albums again and i have to agree with jarheaddad that i could easily listen to her all day/night long on a long drive. her music is straight, no-frills country music that made me quite often push the repeat-button – that good it still sounds.

    in fact, the only comparison that came to my mind while listening to her was the “boss” himself – she may not be rock’n roll but if you’re looking for a real, no-nonsense sound, delivered as straight and pur as a stiff drink right from the bottle – patty loveless is the real deal.

  21. Yes, a great artist who stayed in her safe musical box and never pushed beyond what was easy. At near 70 years old, Loretta Lynn blew me away with her gutsy and powerful ‘VanLear Rose’ recordings. I quit buying George Strait anf Patty Loveless albums awhile ago because I could never get pass the ‘sameness’ of each effort.

  22. Daniel – you sound like the kind of guy that puts catsup and salt on everything and then complains that everything tastes the same. There has been huge variation in Patty’s music but some of the variation is subtle, the kind of thing you lose if you are not listening carefully

  23. What Leeann said.

    Like Paul said, some of the differences have been subtle, but much of it has been dramatic… compare Mountain Soul to Strong Heart, for example. Even within a given Patty Loveless album, there is often great artistic diversity. Strong Heart runs the gamut from sublime Country Pop (My Heart Will Never Break This Way Again) to Blues infused rockin’ Country…(You Don’t Get No More)

    And Dreamin’ My Dreams mixes electric and acoustic in a unique Mountain blend and provides intersting, eclectic variations. From the pure Bluegrass romp “Big Chance” to the Mountain Rock song “Keep Your Distance” . And from the acoustic lament “My Old Friend the Blues”, to the Gospel flavored “When I Reach the Place I’m Going”.

    There is just no one out there with more artistic integrity than Patty Loveless. And I think this may be a first, Daniel, with your charge that Patty has been “playing it safe”. It’s one thing to offer fair and valid criticism, quite another when it has no root in reality. I doubt very much your hero (and Patty’s) Loretta Lynn would agree with you on this one.

    And playing it safe? Is that why Patty’s music since 1999 gets very little airplay on country-lite radio, because she has been playing it safe? It is certainly not a quality problem, many many critics as well as her peers continually praise her for her artistry.

    And even when Patty did a classic Country covers album, she did not play it safe. She recorded music that was mostly made famous by male singers, and also included many songs that were somewhat obscure and not even singles.

    And by venturing into Bluegrass arenas, such as Merlefest and the Down From The Mountain tour, Patty did not play it safe. And although greeted with initial skepticism by some purists, she won over her critics, doubters and detractors, as Jonathan states so well here:

    “Before the show, I’d heard several members of the NPR-demographic crowd wondering aloud why a mainstream country star like Loveless was on the bill, but she stole the show and won a legion of new converts that night.” (Excellent little write up there Jonathan, by the way..)

    I’ve heard similar accounts or Patty stealing the show from other sources as well.

    But thanks Daniel, for this opportunitiy for us to sing Patty’s praises once again.;)

  24. Steve. An intelligent, thoughful post. I owned the majority of Patty’s studio album efforts. Mountain music, bluegrass, gospel, classic country? Varations of the same genere to me.

  25. The key word being “variations” whereas before you were commenting on the “sameness” of her albums. Of course they’re variations within the same genre. She’s a country singer. What would you have her sing — hip-hop? Heavy metal??

  26. I define the range of an artist by his or her ability to take bold chances. Clearly my musical palate is not as nuanced as yours. Teal, turquoise, robins egg-all blue to me. Yes, she’s a country singer(and a really great one) but peers like Emylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Lucinda Willams became visionary because of their drive to explore musical boundaries and takes the risk of offending their base. Pattys peers never awarded any of her albums a grammy while showering scores of them on Alison Krauss who clearly took risk(case in point: Robert Plant). I respect your view which has merit even in my opinion. I respectfully agree to disagree.

  27. Daniel, the accumulation of awards are not necessarily an indication of superior merit, you should know that.. There are various forces at work, political considerations, etc, and even the Grammy’s are not immune to bandwagon riding. There are new singers who have far far less talent than Patty Loveless who have won more Grammys…But I’d put Patty’s deep well of critical acclaim up against anyone, including even the folks you have cited. And she does have the unqualified respect of her peers, again, including the folks you have cited.

    And the fact that Patty refrains from novelty ventures and chooses to focus on making great, authentic music that honors America’s unique Country and Bluegrass traditons, makes her a timeless artist beloved by music scholars, critics, her peers and her fans alike. It is testament to her artistic integrity.

    There is something to be said for helping to preserve the identity of a musical genre, (Country and Bluegrass) and even this Patty does with creativity and innovation,(Kevin rightly calls her a “Progressive Traditionalist”) sorry if those subtlties are lost on you because they have already been enumerated by several of us in previous posts.

    Patty Loveless is a specialist, and how the world need it’s specialists.. Her specialty seems to be preserving and extending the rich legacy of real Country and Bluegrass music and bringing it to the masses. She does this with creative innovation, and with her endearing and entertaining personality. (not to mention her vocal virtuosity.) Steeped in the musical cultures of both Opry and Appalachia, and expressing her vision with one of the most beautiful, soulful and pure Country voices in recorded history, Patty Loveless is uniquely qualified for this mission. She is a cultural gaurdian of an important American art form. And by her fidelity to this rich musical heritage, and by virtue of her own considerable musical contributions, Patty Loveless has become a true national treasure.

    I can personally attest to her influence…my knowlege and appreciation of Traditional Country and Bluegrass music has increased immensely since I have become a Patty Loveless fan. And no doubt there are many, many others who can say this as well.

  28. Steve. I agree with most of what you have written, My only objection is that after several decades of recording she never took any meaningful exploration outside of her craft. I love many of her recordings but she never rocked the boat in my view and over a dozen of her studio efforts is quite enough for me.

  29. Patty’s craft is the very finest Mountain flavored Country and Bluegrass music, and she is one of it’s most proficient, innovative and inspired practitioners. For many of us, that is more than enough. Patty Loveless is secure in her musical identity and commited to her timeless vision, and her fans are with her because we share that vision.

    And as far as any supposed desire to “play it safe in order to avoid “rocking the boat” I trust this excellent review by Thom Jurek will put those false notions to rest.

    “Who says country music is dead? Patty Loveless and her producer, husband Emory Gordy Jr. obviously don’t give a damn about what’s popular in the morally reprehensible and artistically bankrupt world of Nash Vegas (anti)culture this week. On Your Way Home picks up where the rootsy heart of Loveless’ awesome Mountain Soul left off — with a solid, emotionally moving, honestly delivered set of honest-to-God country songs written by fine contemporary songwriters. These 11 songs lend a glimmering hope that the major labels in the heart of the beast of modern country haven’t been totally swallowed by aesthetic greedy blindness. The album opens with “Draggin’ My Heart Around,” by Paul Kennerley and Marty Stuart, full of guitars — both acoustic and electric, caressed by a lonesome fiddle and pedal steel, and a honky tonk two-step rhythm. The tale is classic, about a man doing his woman wrong and the woman in near despair, but the delivery is up-tempo and defiant. The old folksy mountain groan… that opens “Nothin’ but the Lonely,” a seemingly transformed old fiddle tune, takes the listener back to a time out of space, a color out of time, a place where the song revealed someone’s truth. Not their production values. And then there’s that sheen of country boogie and rockabilly in the Al Anderson/Gary Nicholson/Jessie Alexander-penned “I Wanna Believe,” driven as much by a pair of fiddles as an electric guitar and a subtle double-time beat. As for ballads, like the title track, leave it to Matraca Berg and whomever she happens to be writing with — in this case the wonderful Ronnie Samoset — to deliver the consummate broken yet determined break-up song every time. In Loveless’ voice, this song is an issue of profound truth for the protagonist; she is the one waiting up for the lies and excuses. In fact, in each of these songs Loveless offers everyday life as episodic revelation and epiphany. Her voice is a full million miles deep, full of mystery, pathos, and a hard-won tenderness. Nowhere is this more evident than in Roger Brown’s Celtic-flavored country waltz “Born Again Fool.” Here Loveless is the storyteller, offering both empathy and plainspoken wisdom about a man who actually believes a woman can save him from himself. There is no “I told you so” doublespeak here, and both people in the tale contain elements of victimization and perpetration. The shuffling honky tonk of “Lookin’ for a Heartache” — written by Jim Lauderdale with Buddy and Julie Miller — swings with pure Texas aplomb. Likewise, Rodney Crowell’s “Lovin’ All Night” is shuffling, scuffling rootsy rock roll disguised as up-tempo honky tonk. The final song on the disc, “The Grandpa I Know,” is caressed by a dobro and mandolins and falls like a prayer from Loveless’ mouth. Turning away from the shell left by a recently departed loved one is disregarded in favor of vibrant, reverent memory. In a lesser singer’s voice, this cut might seem corny or superficial; in that loose, untamable grain in Loveless’ instrument, it is an epitaph that holds the story of an entire life. Ultimately, On Your Way Home is further proof that in her midforties, Loveless is a singer who has just reached the pinnacle of musical and artistic greatness she has worked so hard for and has become a vocalist entitled to a legacy in the rich lineage of historic country music. It’s alive and well in her care. – Thom Jurek, All Music Guide

    And there is a lot more where that came from. ;)

  30. Last fall, I had the opportunity to see this wonderful lady in concert at none other than the hallowed Ryman Auditorium. She is an amazing artist, and she put on a fantastic show. I first discovered her music less than two years ago (I’m only 18, so her heyday was mostly before my time), and she has quickly become one of my favorite singers. I wish we heard more of her on the radio. I always get very excited whenever my local country stations play “You Can Feel Bad” or “I Try to Think About Elvis.”

  31. another great singer, who I can only handle so much of…. many great singers have such a quality about this voice that works my nerves after awhile…. I’ve seen Patty perform at our local fair, and like others I’ve seen as well, YAWN… quite boring of a show… I pay for a record to hear the music and voice,,,, I pay for a concert ticket to her the music, the voice, and SEE them perform… and Patty, like so many of the early 90’s did not know how to perform, unlike the greats of the 80’s, Dolly, Barbara, Tanya etc.. and ones after such as Reba, Shania, etc….

    Patty is a beautiful woman, great vocalist, but I would have not had her in this slot,,, many greater singers/performers should have been closer to the top…

  32. just a side note of Patty’s time period… I would have loved to seen PAM TILLIS make this list somewhere… but I’ve seen her as well and like, Patty and others from that time,, not much of a performer, but still produced some great music with a distinctive voice…

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