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. Read on!
Related: Check out our list of the greatest country singers of all time here.
1. Dolly Parton
Up first we have possibly the greatest 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, who 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
One of the youngest country music stars to rise to fame is Taylor Swift. 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 Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time list for her songwriting work.
4. Reba McEntire
Known as the Queen of Country, Reba McEntire 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
Next up we have another country star who got her start on a singing competition show. Miranda Lambert 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
Grassroots country artist Maren Morris was able to self-release her eponymous debut album 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.
She has released five studio albums since 2013, and her career is continuously growing. Musgraves has already won Album of the Year five times from various organizations.
9. Carly Pearce
At just 19 years old, Carly Pearce started in the Nashville scene. For the next seven years of her life, she 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
Our next singer, Faith Hill, is said to be a natural country music singer from birth, and it shows, since 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
American singer 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” rock star.
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
Eighteen times Grammy Award winner 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
Our next singer’s career had an unusual start: selling Garth Brooks souvenirs at his concerts. Garth recognized Martina McBride’s 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
One of the most famous country singer-songwriters of all time is June Carter Cash. Beginning with 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.
15. Alison Krauss
Before Beyoncé hit the stage, Alison Krauss was one of the most Grammy-awarded female artist. She started her music career at a young age, participating in violin competitions, and eventually joined the band Union Station.
She went solo in 1989, but her 1990 album I’ve Got That Old Feeling shot her to success. It landed a spot on Billboard Top Country, and Krauss got her first Grammy for Best Bluegrass Recording for the title track.
Krauss continues to rise in the country music industry, both as a solo artist and as a member of Union Station. She also collaborates frequently with Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant.
16. Gabby Barrett
Another American Idol alum, Gabby Barrett, won third place on the 16th season of the TV talent show series. 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 five-times Platinum-certified.
Barrett is expected to be country music’s next superstar.
17. Kelsea Ballerini
At 19 years old, Kelsea Ballerini was signed with Black River Entertainment. 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 paths. She can be found on various television shows and is the author of a book of poetry.
18. Gretchen Wilson
Lastly, singer-songwriter Gretchen Wilson kick-started her career with her hit “Redneck Woman” off her debut album Here for the Party.
This song became #1 on the Billboard Country Music Chart and became well-known in any country music-loving household.
Heavily influenced by rock and roll, 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.