I also prefer female vocals...my pick would be Eva Cassidy. I only got to know her music this year but since I was first introduced I have purchased all of her cds. There are so many more but she is the first one I thought of.
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I think that female vocals gets interesting, when the listener is willing to explore different genres of music. Typically female vocals is taken to mean jazz and pop music and then you get the usual suspects ... Eva Cassidy, Norah Jones, Diana Krall, Patricia Barber, etc.
If you are willing to explore opera (Anna Netrebenko), country (Rosanne Cash), world, or even goth (Evanesence comes to mind), you will get to experience the purity of the female voice in a whole new way.
Good listening, Rich
I have fallen in love with an acoustic band that features Jessica Havey on vocals. This young group of players from Canada called The Duhks plays an interesting mix of Celtic, Traditional, Gospel, Zydeco, even Reggae, and more. Jessica Havey has a voice that can be clean and clear, a little smoky and soulful at times and compelling without flashy pyrotechnics or style for its own sake. Their recent release, Migrations, is well recorded and features a variety of styles. Between Havey's vocals and Tania Elizabeth's sweet violin, my ears are caught in an aural love triangle.
Just listen to the track "Who Will Take My Place?". A true relief from over produced rubbish and a lesson on how to take a simple song and cut directly to the heart.
And Margo Timmins (Cowboy Junkies) is ALWAYS a great pick. Her brothers and her put together another great album, Early 21st Century Blues. it's mainly a great covers album, but the 3 originals are some of my most favorite Junkies songs in the past few years. Saw them in Kent OH last month and they were incredible.
I have a couple OTR albums and really like them. Another CDBaby find was Third Road Home - Sister/brother act, and Trinity has a very good voice with better songwriting talents ... al but one cut is hers.
One of my fav's is Tift Merritt - her first sounds like the premature reincarnation of Emmylou Harris, her second is more roots rock, and again she writes almost all her own music. And she's a great kid (well, not a kid anymore actually)
Some other somewhat different non-traditional-best-female vocals:
Ruthie Foster (try 'Hymns' - it's not what it sounds like)
Kasey Chambers (first one more 'country', second and third more rock, but categorization is blurry)
Ollabelle - bluegrass and gospel
And a final favorite - Maura O'Connell. Try 'Stories' - produced by Jerry Douglas (who also plays on it along with Edgar Meyer, James Taylor and many others). More of the 'traditional best voice' with a Celtic/Country/rock twist.
Keeping it to 2006 narrows things down a bit, but a very nice standards singer is Robin McKelle, who debuted this year with her self-titled cd. Just a couple of years older, coming out in 2004, the "all of our names" cd from Sarah Harmer gets a lot of play on my system -- the sound quality is also quite good. Audphile1, I've heard Peyroux and she is very good but I've not yet purchased any of her cd's -- need to leave something for the gift list ;-)
I still think that you are better off doing this by genres, but rather than have you pout ...
her most recent work is
Violetta - Selections from La Traviata / Netrebko, et al .
I too love female vocals. I just picked this one off the shelf at Borders last summer (2006 but realeased 05) Great voice and great recording for a redbook cd. On my system it sounds as good as sacd and the soundstage is wide with an you are there performance. It has displaced Sade, Nora Jones and others as my current favorite.
Lizz Wright / Dreaming Wide Awake.
A lot of greats listed here. Another is Vienna Teng, a classically trained pianist.
Her's is a very unique style. Poetic, lyrical, sparse at times; heartbreaking melodies. Some influences include Tori Amos, and Sarah McLaughlin. Her cd "Warm Strangers " is a winner. There's a newer one out that I'm not familiar with.
I second you choice http://www.nativelanguage.com/Merchant2/merchant.mv?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=NLM&Product_Code=NLM-0949-2
I just bought her CD and her music, the simple sonics of the acoustic trio and her voice in this Native Language recording are superb. (I see a copy of this CD is currently available on EBay for a thifty price!) God, I love Audiogon.
Some good suggestions, I could'nt agree more about Sarah K, Rosie Thomas, eleanor Mcevoy and many others. Some other suggestions:
Katrine Madsen (hard to find but worth the look, great Danish Jazz singer)
Kate Rusby(great British folk singer)
So many more, but you won't be disappointed by any of them. I will look out some of the recommedations here, particularly Lizz Wright.
My new favorite female singer is Nancy LaMott. A night club singer who died recently at 43. Her cd is My Foolish Heart with emotionally charged renderings of many songs from the great American songbook. The song "The Best is Yet to Come" is one of the most provocative songs ever. The whole cd is intense, emotional, and somewhat sad, but well recorded and well sung.