18 Of The Greatest And Most Famous Female Country Singers Of All Time

Last updated

Country music often gets associated with male singers, but female country singers should not be overlooked. Their voices, at one moment soft and another moment powerful, bring the exact emotion needed for singing country songs.

Without women, we wouldn’t have some of the most iconic songs of all time. And in this post, we’ll look at 18 of the greatest and most famous female country singers who’ve lent their voices and talent to country music and see how they rose to such fame.

1. Dolly Parton

Up first we have one of the greatest country singers of all time, Dolly Parton who is one of the most recognizable names in music. She is a veteran in the industry, providing us with heartfelt songs since 1967.

Parton’s hard work has paid off. Today she has had 44 albums reach the top 10 country albums list – a record amount for musicians, male or female.

Her work is highly recognized, even outside of the country music scene, with 11 Grammy Awards, 3 American Music Awards, and nominations for Academy, Tony, and Emmy Awards. 

And to recognize her, Parton was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame for her outstanding work.

She continues to work, not only as a singer but as a children’s book author and philanthropist, among many other roles.

2. Carrie Underwood

Next up we have country star Carrie Underwood skyrocketed to the top of country music charts after winning the fourth season of American Idol.

While some American Idol winners fizzle out with time, Underwood has maintained her chart-topping success.

Her career has gone on for nearly two decades, earning her over a hundred awards from various organizations, which has given Underwood the outstanding title of the most awarded country singer of all time. 

She has released eight chart-topping albums and is still providing fans with great new songs, with no sign of her career slowing down. 

3. Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift was one of the youngest country music stars to rise to fame. At only 14, she became the youngest artist signed by Sony Music Publishing.

Maintaining her early success, Swift’s fans have had the unique experience of growing up with their favorite artist.

Swift’s music is unique, ranging from country to pop to folk. She identifies first as a songwriter, pairing the songs with whatever genre fits her music best.

She has become the youngest person ever put on Rollingstone’s 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time list for her songwriting work.

4. Reba McEntire

Reba McEntire is known as “The Queen of Country” and has earned this title after releasing an astonishing 34 studio albums since her career started in 1977. 

McEntire has created a career around songs about love, heartbreak, and family. These themes are also seen in her work as an actress.

She most famously portrayed Reba Hart, a divorced mother trying to find her way, on the WB Network. 

McEntire’s singing and acting careers have seen huge success and recognition. In honor of her work, she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame by a friend and fellow country music star, Dolly Parton. 

5. Shania Twain

Canadian-born female singer Shania Twain was born in Ontario but moved to Nashville, Tennessee when she was 28 to pursue a country music career.

Twain’s upbeat and twangy vocals combined with her punchy rock and roll instrumentals captured the hearts of country music lovers and rock lovers alike, propelling her to chart-topping success.

Today, she has sold over 100 million records, making her the best-selling female country artist of all time. This feat is particularly impressive, given that she has released only five studio albums since her career started in 1993.

Because of her multi-genre work, The Country Music Hall of Fame created an exhibit in her honor titled “Shania Twain: Rock This Country.”

6. Miranda Lambert

Miranda Lambert is another country star who got her start on a singing competition show. She finished third place on Nashville Star, after which she was signed to the Epic Nashville record label.

Lambert has formed an extremely successful career, beating out some country music veterans in less than two decades.

In 2017, Lambert won the American Country Music Award for Female Vocalist of The Year for the ninth time, taking the record from Reba McEntire.

Lambert has released 12 studio albums, including her collaborative work in the female-led country band Pistol Annies.

7. Maren Morris

Maren Morris is a grassroots country artist. She was able to self-release her debut album “Maren Morris” in 2015, which skyrocketed her into the record industry. 

A true self-starter, Morris’s album reached 2.5 million listeners without the help of a record company. Her talent was quickly noticed, and she was signed to Columbia Nashville almost immediately. 

Morris is also a successful songwriter, with credits on songs for country music stars like Tim McGraw and Kelly Clarkson. 

She currently has one self-released and two studio albums available for fans, with more on the way as her career grows.

8. Kacey Musgraves

Kasey Musgraves is another Nashville Star alum, placing seventh in the fifth season in 2007.

Since her days on the show, Musgraves has worked hard to get her career to the place it is today. Her career truly took off when she covered songs from OneRepublic and Miley Cyrus.

After the songs reached over 30 million listeners, Musgraves was signed to Mercury Nashville.

Musgraves has released five studio albums since 2013, and her career is continuously growing. She has already won album of the year five times from various organizations.

9. Carly Pearce

Carly Pearce started in the Nashville scene at just 19 years old. For the next seven years of her life, Pearce gained the interest of various record labels but was continuously rejected.

She was finally able to gain the attention of record labels by independently releasing her song “Every Little Thing.” The song made it onto the radio and was popular with listeners, finally giving Pearce the boost she needed to get signed.

Since signing with Big Machine Records, Pearce has released three studio albums. Songs from each album have been well received by the country music scene, earning her awards for each album she has released.

10. Faith Hill

Faith Hill is said to be a natural country music singer from birth, which shows, as her first two studio album releases were chart-topping hits, leading to her continued success. 

Today, she is one of the most successful country music singers of all time, with over 40 million records sold worldwide.

Her tender but powerful voice has become iconic to her fans. Hill has released seven studio albums to date, the latest one being a collaboration with her husband, country music great Tim McGraw.

It is their first collaborative album together, though they have been going strong together since the 90s.

11. Linda Ronstadt

Linda Ronstadt is the most eclectic artist on our list. Not only is she well known in the country music scene, but she is also well known in rock, opera, and Latin music, with each genre recognizing her achievements in their field. 

In the 1970s, Ronstadt became known as “The Queen of Rock” and was applauded as the first female “arena class” rockstar. 

She has had an extremely successful career, shown through her 25 solo studio albums, 19 collaborative albums, and 4 Spanish-language albums.

Through this, Ronstadt has also made an acting career for herself on Broadway, television, and acting in movies. 

12. Loretta Lynn

Loretta Lynn’s long and successful career began in the 1950s when she began singing in small clubs in her area. Six decades of performing later, Lynn is the most awarded female country recording artist of all time.

A trail-blazer for female country artists, Lynn was one of the first women to sell 500,000 albums, with her album “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin (With Lovin On Your Mind).”

Her 60-year career is nearly unparalleled, with a whopping 50 studio albums to show for it. 

Remarkably, she toured until the age of 85. While she stays closer to home now, she is still actively putting out new music. 

13. Martina McBride

Martina McBride’s career had an unusual start, selling Garth Brooks souvenirs at his concerts. Garth recognized her talent and eagerness and agreed to let her open shows for him on the condition that she get signed by a record label.

After creating a demo, McBride was signed to RCA Nashville Records, propelling her country music career.

Her first album fell short of its expected success, but her career was revitalized after her second album reached the top 10 on the country music charts.

Since then, McBride has released 12 more studio albums, seeing great success in the country music industry. She has chosen to keep her career at a reasonable level, not frequently touring to raise her children.

14. June Carter Cash

June Carter Cash is one of the most famous country singer-songwriters of all time.

Beginning performing with her parents and siblings under the name The Carter Family, at the age of 10, Cash went on to have a career that spanned nearly seven decades. 

While Cash had a somewhat successful solo career, her most prominent success was the work she produced with her husband, male country singer Johnny Cash. She famously wrote the song “Ring of Fire” about their relationship, which he subsequently sang and released. 

Cash released nine studio albums of her own and six albums with her husband. Nearly two decades after the death of Cash and her husband, their musical abilities and relationship are still iconic. 

16. Gabby Barrett

Another American Idol alum, Gabby Barrett, won third place on the 16th season of American Idol. Although this feat didn’t garner her much recognition, she continued to perform and grow her career.

Barrett’s career is still young but already very successful. Making an appearance on the next season of American Idol, she sang her debut song “I Hope.”

This performance caught the attention of record labels, getting Barrett signed with Warner Music Nashville.

Since the initial performance, Barrett’s song has reached the top 10 list of the Hot Country Music chart, top 3 on the Billboard Top 100 list, and went on to become 5x platinum-certified.

Barrett is expected to be country music’s next superstar.

17. Kelsea Ballerini

Kelsea Ballerini was signed with Black River Entertainment at just 19 years old. Her music has gained chart-topping success, landing her on the Forbes “30 Under 30” list.

In just five years, Ballerini released four studio albums. Her career is rapidly growing, with each album topping the charts and winning Ballerini awards. She has 12 major awards to her name already. 

While Ballerini continues her music career, she is also branching into other career paths. She can be found on various television shows and is the author of a book of poetry.

18. Gretchen Wilson

Gretchen Wilson kick-started her career with her hit “Redneck Woman” off of her debut album “Here for the Party.”

This song became number one on the Billboard Country Music Chart and became well-known in any country music-loving household. 

Heavily influenced by rock and roll music, Wilson’s music can be described as an upbeat country rock that you can dance to. 

While Wilson continues to release music that is popular in the country music scene, none of her work has been quite as successful as “Redneck Woman.”

The song earned her the only award in her career, a Grammy for “Best Female Country Vocal Performance.”

Summing Up Our List Of Great Female Country Singers

Country music is a genre that is tender, emotional, fun, and exciting. It would not be the same without the female leaders of the industry, who lend their talents to this genre so well.

From old school country music to modern-day tunes, from newcomers like Gabby Barrett, or seasoned veterans like Dolly Parton, we’re grateful for the amazing work they have brought to country music. 

Each of these singers deserves a listen, so treat yourself to some amazing music and listen through the list.

Photo of author
Written by Dan Farrant
Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 10 years helping thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. Since then he's been working to make music theory easy for over 1 million students in over 80 countries around the world.