Patty Loveless performs onstage/ Canadian Country and Pop musician Shania Twain performs onstage during a soundcheck for her appearance on the David Letterman Show, New York, New York, February 26, 1996/ Faith Hill Performs onstage in 1996
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Let's Go Girls: 43 Women Who Shaped '90s Country


The 1990s saw the rise of female country artists raised on the no-holds-barred songs of Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Kitty Wells, Patsy Cline, Jean Sheperd and more. Following in the footsteps of women who'd kicked down doors in Music City, '90s female country singers such as Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Deana Carter and The Chicks flooded the airwaves of FM radio, bringing with them songs of independence and anthems of empowerment.

In turn, these women inspired a whole new generation: Contemporary country artists such as Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, Mickey Guyton, Carly Pearce, Reyna Roberts and Lainey Wilson have cited '90s hitmakers LeAnn Rimes, Patty Loveless and Lee Ann Womack as major influences.

Without their songs about coming-of-age romance, breakups, make-ups, all-night drives, strawberry wine and wide open spaces, country music in the '90s wouldn't have been the same.

Here are 42 female country singers from the '90s who helped define the genre and made the decade's country music unforgettable.


Shelby Lynne

Shelby Lynn playing guitar

Photo by Art Zelin/Getty Images

Shelby Lynn, whose George Jones duet "If I Could Bottle This Up" introduced her powerful voice to audiences in the late '80s, has never fit into the mainstream country mold. But her undeniable talent was never meant to fit within the confines of genre, a fact made evident by her breakthrough album I Am Shelby Lynne, a bluesy, jazzy tour de force and one of the standout records of the '90s.

Best '90s Lyric: "Your lies won't leave me alone" (I Am Shelby Lynn, 1999)

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Mindy McCready

American country music singer Mindy McCready (1975-2013) attends the 24th Annual American Music Awards, held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, 27th January 1997

Photo by Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Perhaps no '90s song summed up binary gender roles better than Mindy McCready's feminist banger "Guys Do It All The Time." But McCready's contributions to country music go far beyond one tune. Check out "Ten Thousand Angels" and "Maybe He'll Notice Her Now" for further proof of the late singer's power.

Best '90s Lyric: "So I had some beers with the girls last night/ Guys do it all the time." (Ten Thousand Angels, 1996)


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 The Kinleys

Portrait of identical twin sisters, Heather (left) and Jennifer Kinley, who perform as The Kinleys, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, July 3, 1998.

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Identical twin sisters Jennifer Kinley and Heather Kinley hit the late '90s country music scene with smoky vocals and gorgeous blood harmonies as showcased on songs such as "Just Between You and Me" and "Please."

Best '90s Lyric: "Just between us, I've seen us together in all my dreams" (Just Between You and Me, 1997)

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Mila Mason

Alongside Terri Clark's "Better Things to Do" and Mindy McCready's "Guys Do It All the Time," Mila Mason delivered one of the best "I'm-over-you" empowerment anthems of the '90s with "That's Enough Of That." The song, from her 1996 album of the same name, celebrated independence and being alone and serves as a reminder that the '90s were a great time to be a female country music fan.

Best '90s Lyric: "That's enough of this all-day, everyday thinking maybe someday you're comin' back/ That's enough of that." (That's Enough of That, 1996)


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Lila McCann

Lila McCann on 5/28/98 in Chicago, Il..

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In 1997, both country and pop radio was filled with declarations of lifelong devotion and steamy songs that, while appreciated, were beyond my 10-year-old brain's full comprehension. Enter Lila McCann's bubbly "I Wanna Fall in Love," which spoke directly to my preteen soul. The song, along with McCann's impressive vocal performance, made the singer a burgeoning star at age 15. But for my money, McCann's greatest contribution was the underrated "Down Came a Blackbird," a feminist anthem disguised as a breakup song.

Best '90s Lyric: "There's got to be a better way to be a loving wife/ If she stays here she'll end up his waitress for life." (Lila, 1997)

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Mandy Barnett

Mandy Barnett performs at Farm Aid

Ebet Roberts/Getty Images/ Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns

My first introduction to Mandy Barnett was during an afternoon spent watching CMT, a bastion for discovering music that was criminally ignored by country radio. Her effortlessly cool "Now That's Alright With Me" and torchy "Planet of Love" oozed confidence, a sign of what was to come just a few years later when her 1999 album I've Got a Right to Cry brought sophisticated countrypolitan back to the genre.

Best '90s Lyric: "We're wild and we're young and we're free to love and that's alright, that's alright with me." (Mandy Barnett, 1996)

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Jessica Andrews

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - MAY 4: Jessica Andrews attends the pre-party for 34th Annual Academy Awards on May 4, 1999 at the Country Star Restaurant in Universal City, California.

Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Though her breakout album would arrive in the new millennium with the stellar Who I Am, Andrews turned heads in the '90s with her 1999 album Heart Shaped World, featuring the stirring ballad "Unbreakable Heart."


Best '90s Lyric: "From an angel's wings to a fallen star/ God makes everything but unbreakable hearts"

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Michelle Wright

Michelle Wright on 3/5/94 in Chicago, Il.

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The '90s saw female artists building on Dolly and Loretta's trailblazing careers and making bold declarations of what they wanted in a relationship. (The keyword is "wanted," as '90s country divas rarely sang of "needing" a man.) Three years before Shania laid out what it takes to be her man, Michelle Wright made it clear that she didn't suffer fools with "Take it Like a Man," a demand for honesty, reliability and tenderness. With her signature smoky voice, Wright delivered an anthem for equality and respect.

Best '90s Lyric: "Honey, if you want my heart, you better take it like a man" (Now & Then, 1992)


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Lari White

Lari White on 12/1/94 in Nashville, Tn.

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Singer-songwriter, actor and producer Lari White blazed onto the scene with her debut album Lead Me Not, produced by Rodney Crowell. Her chart breakthrough came with 1993's Wishes, which spawned the bubbly "That's My Baby" and defiant "Now I Now," both top 10 hits.
From the rockabilly flare of "Wild At Heart" to the pop-country perfection of 1998's Stepping Stone, White was a force to be reckoned with.

Best '90s Lyric: "I always wondered how I'd live without you/ Now I know" (Wishes, 1994)

Linda Davis

Linda Davis attends 29th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards on May 3, 1994 at the Universal Ampitheater in Universal City, California.

Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Linda Davis may be best known as one-half of the powerhouse Reba McEntire duet "Does He Love You," but she was already one of the most sought-after vocalists in Nashville even before the iconic musical conversation between a jilted wife and a mistress. At the time, Davis was a backup singer for McEntire and the country superstar knew Davis was the best match for the song.
Davis would go on to release her own solo songs, including the buoyant "I'm Yours."

Best '90s Lyric: "You're the one he rushes home to/ You're the one he gave his name to/ I never see his face in the early morning light/ You have his mornings, his daytime and sometimes, I have his nights"

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SheDaisy during The 35th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards - Arrivals and Press Room at Universal Amphitheater in Universal City, California, United States.

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Country trio SHeDAISY (sisters Kristyn Robyn Osborn, Kelsi Marie Osborn, Kassidy Lorraine Osborn) scored a string of hits in the late '90s with empowering anthems such as "Little Good-byes," "I Will....But" and "This Woman Needs."

Best '90s Lyric: "Took your favorite Dodgers hat/ Left the litter, but I took the cat/ My little good-byes/ Loaded up the TV in the back of my car/ Have fun watching the VCR"

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Kelly Willis

Kelly Willis on 6/22/99 in Chicago, Il.

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I didn't discover it until years after its 1990 release, but Kelly Willis' Well Travelled Love remains one of my favorite country albums. The cutting "I Don't Want to Love You (But I Do)," heartsick "Lookin' For Someone Like You" and the effervescent cover of John Hiatt's "Drive South" were perfect introductions to an artist who would go on to blend rollicking honky-tonk with heartfelt confessionals throughout her incredible career.

Best '90s Lyric: "You don't know what I've been through/ Looking for someone like you" (Well Travelled Love, 1990)


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Holly Dunn

Holly Dunn perfoms, New York, New York, May 18, 1995.

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From the tender "Daddy's Hands" to the honky tonker "You Really Had My Going," the late Holly Dunn was one of the greatest voices in the neotraditional country scene.

Best '90s Lyric: "You really had me going, and now I'm gone." (Milestones, 1991)

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Jo Dee Messina

Jo Dee Messina on 4/15/99 in Chicago, Il.

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Jo Dee Messina delivered one of country's finest kiss-offs with "Bye Bye," made a call for equality in relationships with "Stand Beside Me" and provided an eternal road trip jam with "Heads Carolina, Tails California."

Best '90s Lyric: "I want a man who stands beside me, not in front of or behind me" (I'm Alright, 1998)


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Lucinda Williams

American country and folk singer musician Lucinda Williams performs at Central Park SummerStage, New York, New York, June 27, 1992. (Photo by Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images)

Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images

Though she was already known as one of the greatest living singer-songwriters, and had penned songs recorded by Mary Chapin Carpenter ("Passionate Kisses") and Patty Loveless ("The Night's Too Long"), Lucinda Williams' commercial breakthrough didn't come along until 1998's stellar Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, an alt-country masterpiece.

Best '90s Lyric: "The way you move is right in time/ It's right in time with me" (Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, 1998)

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Carlene Carter

Carlene Carter on 11/17/90 in Chicago, Il.

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A descendent of country music royalty (her mother is June Carter and her father is Carl Smith), Carlene Carter marched to the beat of her own country drum with songs like "Every Little Thing," "I Fell in Love" and "Come On Back."

Best '90s Lyric: "And like a wild horse I want to break you/ I love you so much I hate you/ Every little thing reminds me of you/ Honey, when you leave me here all alone" (Little Love Letters, 1993)

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Sara Evans

photo of Sara Evans

Photo by Nicky J. Sims/Redferns

Missouri-born Sara Evans entered the country scene with 1997's Three Chords and the Truth and its criminally underrated title track, but she found greater commercial success with No Place That Far, featuring the title ballad (a collaboration with Vince Gill) and "Fool, I'm a Woman," which Evans co-wrote with Matraca Berg.


Best '90s Lyric: "Fool, I'm a woman and I'm bound to change my mind" (No Place That Far, 1998)

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Terri Clark

Terri Clark on 9/13/96 in Chicago,Il.

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Canadian country singer Terri Clark was introduced to the country world with the classic breakup anthem "Better Things to Do," a barnburner that turns the jilted woman trope on its head, focusing on a woman who couldn't care less about the whereabouts of her former flame. Clark's self-titled debut album, featuring "When Boy Meets Girl" and "If I Were You," and sophomore album Just the Same, featuring the Warren Zevon cover "Poor, Poor Pitiful Me," further established Clark as one of the best voices of the decade.

Best '90s Lyric: "I could wash my car in the rain/ change my new guitar strings...I don't need to waste my time crying over you/ I've got better things to do" (Terri Clark, 1995)


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Matraca Berg

Songwriter Matraca Berg performs during WCRS Live! sponsored by BMI and Country Aircheck at The Nashville Convention Center on February 23, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for BMI

Beyond the timeless mega-hits she's written for artists like Trisha Yearwood, Patty Loveless, Kenny Chesney and Deana Carter, among many, many more, Matraca Berg should be celebrated for her own solo albums. From the folk-laced country of 1990's Lying to the Moon to 1997's Sunday Morning to Saturday Night, featuring the country-rock shuffle "That Train Don't Run"and the '90s-star-studded romp "Back in the Saddle," Berg proved to be one of the most magnetic and honest artists of the '90s.

Best '90s Lyric: "Must be your memory rattling the shutters/ that train don't run by here no more" (Sunday Morning to Saturday Night, 1997)

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Alice Randall

press photo of Alice Randall

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Songwriter, author, educator and activist Alice Randall has long been one of the most important voices in country music, writing about Black artists' influence on country music and examining the genre from a feminist perspective.
Randall has co-written a string of country gems -- Moe Bandy's "Many Mansions," Judy Rodman's "Girls Ride Horses Too" and Holly Dunn's "Small Towns (Are Smaller for Girls)." Her co-write with Matraca Berg, Trisha Yearwood's "XXX's and OOO's," centered on a woman "tryin' to make it in her daddy's world" and trying to "keep the balance up
between love and money." Though written in the early '90s, the song is no less relevant nearly three decades later.

Best '90s Lyric: "She's got her God and she's got good wine, Aretha Franklin and Patsy Cline" 

Alison Krauss

VH1 Photo of Alison KRAUSS, Alison Krauss performing on stage

Photo by Patrick Ford/Redferns

Alison Krauss was already known as a bluegrass phenom before her spellbinding Keith Whitley cover "When You Say Nothing At All" hit the top 5 on the country charts. Her 1995 album Now That I Found You: A Collection, featuring the Grammy and CMA-winning "Baby, Now That I Found You," 1997's So Long So Wrong and 1999's Forget About It are proof of Krauss' title as one of the most innovative artists in any genre.

Best '90s Lyric: "Forget about it/ When forever's over I won't remember how much I loved you anymore" (Forget About It, 1999)

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Lorrie Morgan

Country singer Lorrie Morgan backstage before the CMA Award Show Backstage October 10, 1988 in Nashville, Tennessee.

photo by Beth Gwinn/Getty Images

The daughter of country singer George Morgan, Lorrie Morgan was born with country music in her blood. But the singer paved her own way with songs like "Except For Monday," "Something in Red," "Five Minutes," "I Didn't Know My Own Strength" and "Watch Me."

Best '90s Lyric: "If you think I won't go, watch me/ Oh, watch me walk away" (Watch Me, 1992)


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Suzy Bogguss 

American country singer Suzy Bogguss performs onstage during Farm Aid, Indianapolis, Indiana, April 7, 1990.

Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images

Sometimes the way a song makes you feel hits you before you ever take note of the lyrical content. I still remember the absolute joy I felt when I first heard Suzy Bogguss' cover of Nancy Griffith's "Outbound Plane." It was just one of many standout tracks on Bogguss' debut album Aces, along with the Ian Tyson-penned folk standard "Someday Soon" and the reflective title track. As a young girl completely obsessed with country radio, Bogguss' songs took me places Brooks and Dunn and Billy Ray couldn't (though I loved their songs). They were stories of women who were living big, exciting lives, experiencing romance and heartbreak in three minute increments. Thankfully, Bogguss shared a healthy does of realism with us, too.
With her single "Hey Cinderella," she rolls her eyes at the idea of a guaranteed happily-ever-after and "Give Me Some Wheels" finds her coolly telling her soon-to-be-ex "I'll never be the angel you see in your dreams."

Best '90s Lyric: "Hey Cinderella, does the shoe fit you now?" (Something Up My Sleeve, 1993)

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Chely Wright

Singer Chely Wright attends the 32nd Annual Academy of Country Music Awards on April 23, 1997 at Universal Amphitheatre in Universal City, California.

Ron Galella, Ltd/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Kansas-raised singer and activst Chely Wright released her critically acclaimed debut album Woman in the Moon in 1994, though she didn't achieve commercial success until 1997's Let Me In. Her biggest hit to date may be the delightful "Single White Female," but her top 20 tune "Shut Up and Drive" shouldn't be ignored.
In 2010, Wright publicly came out as gay, the first mainstream country artist to do so. She released her book Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer the same year.

Best '90s Lyric: "He's the one who will be missing you, and you'll only miss the man that you wanted him to be" (Let Me In, 1997)


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Deana Carter

Deana Carter during The 24th Annual American Music Awards at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, United States

Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Deana Carter's album Did I Shave My Legs For This? was inescapable in the late '90s -- and for good reason. It's one of the standout albums of the decade, filled with smart, funny, heartfelt songs. "Strawberry Wine," a timeless coming-of-age romance, is undeniable, the title track, co-written by Carter and Rhonda Hart, proved that the singer-songwriter had the whipsmart humor of Loretta and Dolly.

Best '90s Lyric: "I still remember when thirty was old and my biggest fear was September, when he had to go" (Did I Shave My Legs For This, 1996)

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LeAnn Rimes

LeAnn Rimes during 1998 MTV VMA Party at Les Deux Cafe in Los Angeles, California, United States.

Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc

LeAnn Rimes' debut single "Blue" skyrocketed her to fame when she was only 13. Between her renditions of country classics ("Cattle Call") and pop-country standouts like "One Way Ticket (Because I Can)" and "Commitment," Rimes was -- and continues to be -- one of the best voices in country music.
"I've navigated years of therapy to help me come to terms with growing up in the spotlight, but child stardom kind of has its way with you," Rimes told Wide Open Country in 2022. "No one can prepare an adult for a life in this industry, much less a child. The impact of having the whole world's eyes and opinions placed upon you takes its toll one way or another. One of the things I'm most proud of is coming out on the other side of it and thriving. Not everyone has that experience."
Rimes released her latest album god's work in 2022.

Best '90s Lyric: "I will face the world around me, knowing that I'm strong enough to let you go/ And I will fall in love again/ Because I can" (Blue, 1996)

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K.T. Oslin

K.T. Oslin on 12/1/93 in Nashville, Tn.

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 K.T. Oslin wasn't the most likely country star. She was in her 40s by the time she recorded her first record (a feat in itself in the face of music industry sexism) and she once told People magazine that she wasn't always a fan of the music, saying "When it was all middle-aged men singing about drinking whiskey and cheating on their loyal wives, I didn't like the genre." Fair enough. But that's exactly why the genre needed Oslin. Drawing on her life experiences, she set the '80s country charts on fire with "80s Ladies" and "Do Ya." She continued that streak in the next decade with the infectious "Come Next Monday" and healing "New Way Home," giving a voice to women who didn't see themselves represented in the genre.

Best '90s Lyric: "Come next Monday, I'm gonna give up you" (Love in a Small Town, 1990)

Kathy Mattea

Portrait of musician Kathy Mattea at the Grand Ol' Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, December 1, 1993.

Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images

Kathy Mattea gained fame in the '80s with her breakout album Walk the Way the Wind Blows, featuring a stirring rendition of Nanci Griffith's classic "Love at the Five & Dime." The following decade saw Mattea building on her folk-country sound with "Standing Knee Deep in a River (Dying of Thirst)," "Nobody's Gonna Rain on Our Parade" and "Walking Away a Winner."

Best '90s Lyric: "I'm walking away a winner/ I'm walking away from a losing game/ With my pride intact and my vision back" (Walking Away a Winner, 1990)

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Dolly Parton

 American singer and songwriter Dolly Parton poses for a portrait with her party hat for her birthday circa 1990's.

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An icon in any decade, Dolly Parton released some of her best songs in the '90s, including "Rockin' Years," a duet with Ricky Van Shelton, "Romeo," a collaboration with Tanya Tucker, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Kathy Mattea, Pam Tillis and Billy Ray Cyrus, and the uplifting "Eagle When She Flies."

In 2022, Parton released the book and accompanying album Run Rose Run and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Best '90s Lyric: "She's a sparrow when she's broken, but she's an eagle when she flies" (Eagle When She Flies, 1991)

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Gretchen Peters

American musician Gretchen Peters performs onstage, Columbia, South Carolina, September 24, 1995

Paul Natkin/Getty Images

Though you may not have heard her voice on country radio in the '90s, you certainly heard Gretchen Peters' lyrics. The singer-songwriter is behind some of the most iconic and beloved songs of the decade, including Martina McBride's "Independence Day" and Patty Loveless'
"You Don't Even Know Who I Am."
She also released her own incredible solo albums, including 1996's The Secret of Life. The title track, a quiet, meditative exploration on the meaning of life, was later recorded by Faith Hill.

Best '90s Lyric: "I go to work every morning and I come home to you every night/ And you don't even know who I am/ You left me a long time ago/You don't even know who I am, so what do I care if you go?"

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Mary Chapin Carpenter

Portrait of Mary Chapin Carpenter sitting on steps

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Mary Chapin Carpenter came through the FM radio like your cool older sister. Her 1992 album Come On Come On was a revelation, spawning the Lucinda Williams cover "Passionate Kisses," which I completely loved for its request for "a full house and a rock and roll band, pens that won't run out of ink and cool quiet and time to think" and the Yoakam-and-Lovett-namedropping windfall daydream "I Feel Lucky." The entire album is badass, but it's "He Thinks He'll Keep Her" that always sticks with me. Even as a kid, the story of an overworked, under-appreciated wife and mother leaving her husband struck a chord. At that age, I'm not sure I even recognized how quietly revolutionary it was. That came much later. I just knew it was real.

Best '90s Lyric: "Everything runs right on time, years of practice and design/ Spit and polish 'til it shines/ He thinks he'll keep her/ Everything is so benign, safest place you'll ever find/ God forbid you change your mind/ He thinks he'll keep her" (Come On Come On, 1992)

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Emmylou Harris

portrait of Emmylou Harris

Photo by Dave Peabody/Redferns

Like many country legends, Emmylou Harris began receiving less radio play in the '90s, though she released some of her best work. Following 1993's Cowgirl's Prayer, Harris teamed with producer Daniel Lanois for her masterful 1995 album Wrecking Ball.

In the summer of 1997, Harris joined Sarah McLachlan's touring festival Lilith Fair, alongside Sheryl Crow, Joan Osborne, Indigo Girls and more.

Best '90s Lyric: "Oh, where, oh, where will I be? Oh, where when that trumpet sounds?" (Wrecking Ball, 1995)

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Country singer Wynonna Judd performs during the half-time show at the 1994 Atlanta, Georgia, Superbowl XXVII football game at the Georgia Dome.

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Wynonna Judd entered the country world alongside her mother Naomi as the powerhouse country duo The Judds. After the duo disbanded, Wynonna launched a solo career, kickstarted by "She Is His Only Need," "I Saw the Light" and the electric country-rock smash "No One Else On Earth."
This year, following the tragic loss of her mother, Wynonna embarked on a tour honoring The Judds greatest hits with special guests including Ashley McBryde, Martina McBride, Faith Hill and more.

Best '90s Lyric: "No one else on earth was ever worth it/ No one could love me like -- no one could love me like you"

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Lee Ann Womack

American Country singer Lee Ann Womack performs onstage at Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois, May 27, 1988.

Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images

Lee Ann Womack established herself as one of the greatest new vocalists in neotraditional country music with barroom weepers "The Fool" and "Never Again, Again" and some of the greatest "ladies leavin'" anthems with "A Little Past Little Rock" and "From Montgomery to Memphis."

Best '90s Lyric: "I'm a little past Little Rock, but a long way from over you." (Some Things I Know, 1998)

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Tanya Tucker

Singer Tanya Tucker performing at the Poplar Creek Music Theater, Hoffman Estates, Illinois, September 5, 1992.

Paul Natkin/Getty Images

Tanya Tucker was already two decades into being a superstar when she released a string of top 10 hits in the '90s, including "Down to My Last Teardrop" and the gorgeous "Two Sparrows in a Hurricane."
In the past few years, Tucker has rightfully been celebrated for her incredible impact on country music. Her album While I'm Livin', produced by Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings, won the country legend her first Grammys -- a win for Best Country Song ("Bring My Flowers Now") and Best Country Album.

Best '90s Lyric: "Baby I'm down to my last teardrop this time" (What Do I Do With Me, 1991)

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Pam Tillis

Pam Tillis at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee , December 1, 1993.

Paul Natkin/Getty Images

When I read that Pam Tillis was the inspiration behind Thelma, one of the titular characters in 1991's groundbreaking film Thelma and Louise, everything made sense. Of course one of the greatest voices in '90s country had ties to one of the boldest characters in '90s cinema. A longtime friend of Thelma and Louise screenwriter and Nashville creator Callie Khouri, Tillis brought the same vulnerability and take-no-shit attitude to the country charts her Hollywood alter-ego brought to movie screens. From her brazen declarations of desire ("Maybe It Was Memphis," "Shake the Sugar Tree") to her headstrong honky-tonker "Don't Tell Me What to Do," Tillis' catalog is as multifaceted as the woman herself.  Certain radio programmers may be ignorant to the fact that women have a multitude of stories to tell, but disciples of Pam (and Thelma) know better.

Best '90s Lyric: "Read about you in a Faulkner novel/ Met you once in a William's play/ Heard about you in a country love song/ Summer night's beauty took my breath away" (Put Yourself in My Place, 1990)

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Martina McBride

Martina McBride performing at Farm Aid in Columbia, South Carolina, October 12, 1996.

Paul Natkin/Getty Images

Perhaps no artist of the '90s remained as steadfast in showcasing harsh realities as Martina McBride. He heartwrenching "A Broken Wing" dealt with emotional abuse, while "Independence Day" centered on a young girl growing up in an abusive home. Similar to Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A," "Independence Day," written by Gretchen Peters, has often been mistaken as a patriotic or politcal anthem, with listeners either misunderstanding or willingly ignoring the song's story about an abused woman. Other times, stations flat out refused to play it. ("They were like, 'I don't think this needs to be on my radio station," McBride told Rolling Stone. "I don't think people need to be hearing this'...And I'm like, 'Well, it's on your news every hour. This is topical.'")


Though she faced opposition from some radio programmers, the power of "Independence Day" couldn't be denied. McBride has devoted much of her career to speaking out on issues of  domestic violence, and, through her songs, she's given voice to countless untold stories and reminded all of us of the power of country storytelling.

Best '90s Lyric: "Let the weak be strong, let the right be wrong/ Roll the stone away, let the guilty pay, it's Independence Day" (The Way I Am, 1993)

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Trisha Yearwood

Trisha Yearwood Performing live on stage

Beth Gwinn/Redferns

Whether she was recounting the story of two star-crossed lovers in "She's In Love With the Boy," a young woman's first run in with heartache on "Walkaway Joe" or delivering an anthem for career women with "XXX's and OOO's," Trisha Yearwood ruled '90s radio.
In the years since she's continued her reign as one of country music's most beloved and respected vocalists, collaborating with the next generation of greats such as Hailey Whitters, Lauren Alaina and more.

Best '90s Lyric: "Even if she has to run away, she's gonna marry that boy someday" (Trisha Yearwood, 1991)


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Faith Hill

portrait of Faith Hill

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From the moment I heard Faith Hill's "Wild One," I was hooked. Stories of rebellious nature usually revolved around cowboy hat-clad men singing about late night binges, but "Wild One" was a rare tale of a young girl who couldn't -- and wouldn't -- be tamed.
It was only the beginning for Hill, whose 1995 classic It Matters to Me included feminist tunes "Someone Else's Dream" and the criminally underrated "I Can't Do That Anymore," written by Alan Jackson, alongside  irresistible jams like "Let's Go to Vegas" and "You Can't Lose Me."

Best '90s Lyric: She's a wild one with an angel face/ she's a woman child in a state of grace...she's a wild one, running free" (Take Me As I Am, 1993)

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Shania Twain

Shania Twain performing, New York, February 26, 1996. (

Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images

Though she's now known as the Queen of Country Pop, Shania Twain wasn't always celebrated for her genre-bending music. Though she was following in a proud tradition of many country artists who came before her, she faced opposition and sexist remarks from those criticizing everything from her music to the way she dressed.
Twain's fans, however, drowned out the sound of her harshest critics. Her songwriting prowess couldn't be denied (she co-wrote nearly every song on her breakthrough album The Woman in Me and colossal hit record Come On Over) and her fiery stage presence and unapologetic spirit made a whole new generation of country listeners feel seen and heard.
In 2022, Twain announced her upcoming album Queen of Me and a 2023 world tour.

Best '90s Lyric: "I wanna be free, yeah, to feel the way I feel/ and man, I feel like a woman" (Come on Over, 1997)


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Reba McEntire

Reba McEntire performs at the H.P. Pavilion on November 23, 1994 in San Jose, California.

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Reba McEntire followed up her '80s success with back-to-back stellar releases: Rumor Has It, For My Broken Heart, Read My Mind....the list goes on. Now over 40 years into her career, the Oklahoma-raised phenom isn't even close to slowing down.
While we continue to marvel over her show-stopping rendition of Bobbie Gentry's "Fancy," don't forget to put some respect on "Is There Life Out There" and "Why Haven't I Heard From You," a ridiculously fun dose of McEntire's larger than life vocals and humor.
The multi-talented phenom is also a celebrated actress, currently starring in the latest season of ABC's Big Sky.

Best '90s Lyric: "Here's your one chance, Fancy, don't let me down" (Rumor Has It, 1990)

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The Chicks

Country-rock trio the Chicks perform at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, California in July, 1998. (L-R: Emily Robison, Natalie Maines, Martie Macquire.)

Photo by Sherry Rayn Barnett/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

It's impossible to overstate the impact The Chicks (originally known as the Dixie Chicks) had on '90s country. I can still remember the first time I heard the trio (Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer) sing "I Can Love You Better" and thinking who are these women? (I had to find out everything I could about them, leading to my first late '90s foray into fan pages.)
I must've listened to Wide Open Spaces approximately 10 million times on my new Sony 5-disc stereo (if you know, you know), reveling in the dreamy title track, "There's Your Trouble," "You Were Mine" and the JD Souther-penned "I'll Take Care of You." (It should've been a single.)
I didn't think my Chicks fandom could get any more intense. Then, Fly was released. The group endured their first round of controversy with "Goodbye Earl," flirted with disaster on "Sin Wagon" (probably the first country song to use the phrase "mattress dancin'") and released one of the greatest love songs of the '90s with "Cowboy Take Me Away."
In the 20+ years since the release of the trio's debut album, they've dealt with controversy, vitriol aimed at them over their political beliefs and much more. But through it all they've remained committed to speaking out on causes that matter, not to mention releasing some of the best music of their career, including 2020's Gaslighter.
Long may they reign.

Best '90s Lyric: "She needs wide open spaces, room to make her big mistakes/ She needs new faces/ She knows the highest stakes" (Wide Open Spaces, 1998)


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Patty Loveless

 Country Singer Patty Loveless photographed on May 20, 1997 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Pam Francis/Getty Images)

Photo by Pam Francis/Getty Images

Patty Loveless is my favorite voice in country music. I realize that's a big statement in a genre filled with remarkable voices with timeless stories to tell. But me and Patty go way back -- all the way back to me receiving her When Fallen Angels Fly on cassette and poring over the lyrics to "Here I Am." I still think there's no better country lyric than "You know that you're gonna find me if you keep on drinkin' fast 'cause, honey,  I'm right there waiting on you at the bottom of your glass."
I only fell deeper in love with Loveless' music with The Trouble With the Truth and
Long Stretch of Lonesome. "A Thousand Times a Day" and "You Don't Seem to Miss Me" were early introduction to that high-lonesome heartache Loveless perfected, and "She Drew a Broken Heart" and "You Can Feel Bad" were among the best  breakup anthems of the decade.
But I don't think there's a better country performance than the Kentucky-raised singer's recording of Gretchen Peters' devastating "You Don't Even Know Who I Am," an unflinching look at the end of a marriage. Over 25 years later, the song is still captivating listeners. Fellow Kentuckian and reigning CMA Female Vocalist of the Year Carly Pearce, who recently collaborated with Loveless on "Dear Miss Loretta," said the track was "one of the first songs that made me fall deeply in love with country music and the intricacies of writing a song that reflected real life."
"I used to listen to it over and over, and I recently rediscovered its beauty this past year as I dove back into some of my favorite old records," Pearce told Wide Open Country in 2021. "It's a timeless heartbreak song."
Check out our playlist celebrating '90s country women below. 

READ MORE: '90s Country Fashion: The Best Looks of the Decade

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