As a little girl, Kansas native Chely Wright dreamed of becoming a country music star and spent hours studying the liner notes of Emmylou Harris albums. Years later, she went from Wellsville, Kansas to Nashville stardom.
Big label support, big budget music videos and high-profile music awards gave way to Kickstarter campaigns to release new music after the singer came out in 2010. Old fans and recent converts are eager for new albums, with another Wright release expected in 2019.
With 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. 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 great 2003 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 helps define a talented balladeer capable of performing powerful love songs that broke from the pop and rock-influenced trends of late ’90s country radio.
8. “Picket Fences”
Wright’s gorgeous song for folks who don’t fit the mommy, daddy and a white picket fence cliche carries 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 2010 Rodney Crowell-produced album Lifted Off the Ground came out around the same time as both her coming out, her autobiography Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer and the 2011 documentary Wish Me Away. It represents the lyrical depth of her new songs.
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 Harland 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 for socio-political reasons must’ve lost sight of Wright’s staunch pro-military stance. In this heart-felt 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 “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 turned a lot of fans onto the rest of an artist’s catalog often qualifies as their 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.