As a little girl, Kansas native Chely Wright dreamed of a country music career and spent hours studying the liner notes of Emmylou Harris country albums. Years later, she went from Wellsville, Kansas to Nashville stardom.
With the benefit of age, experience, and a more settled personal life with wife Lauren Blitzer and their sons George Samuel and Everett Joseph, Wright continues writing and performing the sort of tradition-honoring yet forward-thinking material that first put her in the public eye over 20 years ago. She's released 8 country albums, performed at the Grand Ole Opry, written songs performed by Grammy-winning vocalists like Brad Paisley, and has had multiple Billboard chart entries. From singing to songwriting, Wright has proven that she is an important voice in country music.
As a reminder of her consistency and quality of work, check out these 10 choice cuts from her growing back catalog.
10. "Back of the Bottom Drawer"
Wright's 2005 studio album The Metropolitan Hotel -- also featuring "I Got Him Ready For You," "The River" and her cover of "C'est La Vie" -- includes this sentimental ballad about a woman's box of knick-knacks that reminds her of the mistakes that prepared her to become the right woman for her current partner.
9. "I Already Do"
This Gary Burr co-write from 1997 introduced country music to a balladeer capable of performing powerful love songs that broke from the pop and rock-influenced trends of late '90's country radio.
8. "Picket Fences"
The country star's gorgeous song for folks who don't fit the mommy, daddy and a white picket fence cliche carries a different meaning now that she's living her truth. Even without the benefit of hindsight, this was always one of her most poignant songs.
7. "Like Me"
This singer-songwriter confessional from Wight's Rodney Crowell-produced 2010 album Lifted Off the Ground came out around the same time as her coming out, her autobiography Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer and the 2011 documentary Wish Me Away. It best represents the lyrical depth of her more recent material.
For something upbeat enough to make a separate Little Big Town cover song wish list, give this high-octane, modern version of "Jolene" from Wright's 2001 Never Love You Enough album a spin.
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5. "He's a Good Ole Boy"
Wright's lesser-known material from her mid-'90s years with Polydor allowed her barely buried roots to show. This 1994 cut from the Harold Shedd co-produced Woman in the Moon was penned by none other than Harlan Howard.
4. "Feelin' Single and Seein' Double"
Despite the staying power of the introspective material that dominates the first half of this list, Wright shone brighter with fun throwbacks like this spunky cover of a George Jones classic.
3. "The Bumper Of My SUV"
A lot of fans skipping 2016's I Am the Rain and subsequent releases for socio-political reasons must've lost sight of Wright's staunch pro-military stance. In this heartfelt hit, she wrote about an angry motorist's reaction to a bumper sticker Wright displayed in honor of her Marine brother.
2. "Shut Up and Drive"
Anyone who tries to shout down Wright with the predictable "shut up and sing!" insult misses out on the encouraging "Shut Up" request they should be hollering from the front row. With flashes of old school honky-tonk and Latin flavor, Wright cut this modern classic for her breakthrough 1997 album Let Me In.
1. "Single White Female"
The Top 40 hit that pointed new ears toward the rest of an artist's catalog often qualifies as that artist's most important (and sometimes their best) single. In Wright's case, her obvious hit allowed her to speak to women in and beyond her established country audience.
This story was originally published in 2018.