So the other day I counted down what I thought were The Top Ten Greatest Cowgirl Songs of All Time. I had a hard time pulling it together. Most Western and cowboy song compendiums are woefully short on songs sung by women. In addition, I had some strict criteria, one of which is that each song had to be truly Western, not just Country. That lets Tanya Tucker and Gretchen Wilson out. Yes, they’ve got some ‘Tude going, but they don’t really talk about ridin’ and ropin’ and wranglin’. I also didn’t just want female singers doing retreads of cowboy songs. I wanted the COWGIRL experience. I think I compiled a good list, but I hoped readers would flood the blog with suggestions of songs I’d missed.
Little did I suspect that I’d actually find the greatest Cowgirl Singer of All Time on iTunes. Yes, that place that refuses to understand that Country and Western are two completely different genres. (Stop lumping them together!) It started with an iTunes search on Dale Evans. Can you believe I missed her? This is the woman who wrote Happy Trails. And no doubt did everything Roy Rogers did backwards and in high heels. iTunes, of course, had no pieces sung by Dale. But I did come up with a song called Dale Evans by one Lynn Anderson. Yes, THAT Lynn Anderson of I Never Promised You a Rose Garden and Top of the World. I know! It’s the kind of Country music I loathe. Maudlin or saccharine Pop tunes dressed up as Country with some fiddles and a twang. Sorry, they’re about as Country as Debra Winger in Urban Cowboy.
Well, it turns out Lynn Anderson has put out the most kick-assinest, true cowgirl CD ever. And she’s got the Cowgirl Cred to back it up. First of all, every song is an original, written by her mother, songwriter Liz Anderson. This is a woman who penned some of Merle Haggard’s greatest hits, fergodsake! Her co-writer, husband Casey, was a real North Dakota cowboy who rode in a World Champion drill team, the Sacramento Sheriff’s Posse, as well as Pony Express recreations. And Lynn? She’s been in horse events since she was ten, eventually winning 16 National Championships, four World Championships and several celebrity championships. At 62, she still competes according to her official website.
Yes, she’s put a few miles of bad road behind her. She’s on Husband Number Four, she had several DUIs and a shoplifting arrest. But what cowgirl had it easy? You can hear some hard living in this album, and that’s what makes it so brilliant. I’m talking about her 2008 CD simply titled Cowgirl. What an embarrassment of cowgirl riches!
If there is a better cowgirl song than The Wild, Wild Women of the Wild, Wild West, I’ve never heard it. First, it gives an explanation for Lynn Anderson:
If sometimes I’m stubborn and mean
I was born that way, it’s in my genes.
They were my ancestors
My ornery kin
The way they were
That’s the way I am.
But it also goes on to list some of those legendary wild women by name, some of whom I hadn’t even heard of. And I’m a collector of cowgirl stories.
Yes, Lynn Anderson has gone back to her roots — putting out, not just this gem, but a Cowgirl II CD and a number of acclaimed Bluegrass offerings. Why did she succumb to fake Country/Pop and what brought her back? I think she addresses it in If I Had My Boots:
You were never at home on the range
But I wanted you with me so I made the change.
I hung up my hat and my jeans
And traded my stallion for a long limousine.
But if I had my boots I’d go walkin’.
If I had my guitar I’d sing a sad tune.
You shot my heart out of the saddle
And if I had my hoss here
I’d ride out on you.
I’m not even going to go into gems such as You’ve Been a Bad Cowboy (Go to My Room), Cowboys are a Girl’s Best Friend, May the Trail Rise Up to Greet You and the aforementioned tribute to Dale Evans. Yes, Lynn Anderson’s back. She’s saddled up and she’s packin’ six guns. Or maybe she never left and we just haven’t been paying attention. I suspect the latter judging by how hard it is to find her latest cowgirl offerings. Cowgirl is the one CD you can find on iTunes. The sequel Cowgirl II can be found on the Showboat Records website where you can also find a CD of cowgirl songs by her mother, Liz Anderson. Amazon seems to be the only place where you can buy Cowboy’s Sweetheart, her CD of Western standards.
Here’s the clincher: she’s touring. Her website says she’s the headliner at the California Rodeo Salinas in July, although the official website makes no mention of her. I hope that’s an oversight, because if Lynn’s coming to my backyard, I’ll be there. You should be, too. Or at least get her Cowgirl CD. When is such an authentic cowgirl going to ride your way again?