THEY don’t make female country artists like they used to.
Women such as Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn and Dusty Springfield were different to most of the current crop of women at the top of the global country music charts.
And it’s not just because the stars of the 1950s and 1960s had bigger hair.
Melinda Schneider reckons the biggest differences are that the female country greats from yesteryear often had something daring to say in their songs, and a strength of character to deliver it.
“These women were taking on subjects that just weren’t sung about previously,” Schneider said.
Take Loretta Lynn’s The Pill (about the contraceptive pill), and Tammy Wynette’s D.I.V.O.R.C.E., for example.
“They had a lot of character which you rarely see in contemporary female singers coming out of America,” Schneider said.
“At the moment, a lot of their records sound the same.”
There’s an apparent cookie-cutter mentality in the recording studio.
“Very rarely today does someone emerge with a distinctive and original sound.”
In the 1950s and 1960s, though, there wasn’t such pressure to conform.
“I think the singers then were allowed to be themselves. In the 1950s and 1960s it was more daring times,” she said.
Schneider is again celebrating those halcyon days with her Great Women of Country tour.
It features 22 classic songs including Tammy Wynette’s Stand By Your Man, Linda Ronstadt’s Blue Bayou, Emmylou Harris and Gram Parson’s Love Hurts, Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You, and Dusty Springfield’s Son of a Preacher Man.
The tour follows the success of the 2014 album, Great Women of County, recorded by Schneider and Beccy Cole, at The Grove, on the Central Coast.
Schneider and Cole also did a tour performing the songs from the album, although Cole is not joining Schneider for this run of shows.
That means that Schneider gets the chance to perform the songs that Cole had previously had to herself in the show.
“I get to do songs like Harper Valley PTA and a lot of the ‘story songs’ that Beccy was doing,” Schneider said.
“Beccy’s off doing other things at the moment, including with Adam Harvey, so I’ve got my mum [legendary performer Mary Scheider] as my special guest.
“Mum does some duets with me, and she also showcases some of the songs from her new album, Yodelling the Big Bands.”
On that album, Mary Schneider givers her unique treatment to classics such as In The Mood and Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.
“It’s a lot of fun performing with Mum,” Schneider said.
“Mum is the first person I ever performed with when I was 3, and we did our first record when I as 8, so it’s a relationship that goes back about 40 years now.”
And when the Schneider women sing harmonies, it’s clear the family vocal blend is as special today as it ever was.
“Mum’s 85 now, so I really treasure these times,” Schneider said.
Backing Schneider is a six-piece band, including piano and pedal steel.
“They are just the best country music players there is. They are amazing,” Schneider said.
Great Women of County will be performed at Laycock Street Theatre, North Gosford, on Saturday, March 24. Tickets cost $54.90 for adults, and $49.90 for concessions, groups of 10-plus, and theatre members.
- Book at gosford.nsw.gov.au/theatres or phone 4323 3233.