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A cloister of women just might reinvent country music 

click to enlarge Kacey Musgraves - DEBBY WONG / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Debby Wong / Shutterstock.com
  • Kacey Musgraves
Nashville’s claims of reinvention every five years often yields little but more black-hat bros and Carrie Underwood clones. But this year, an unexpected cloister of women just might be giving country a real shit-kick.

Ricochet Heart (Green Room), the sophomore release from Atlanta’s Alannah McCready, features a tight backup band and impressive arrangements, though McCready’s clever lyricism in tracks like “Enemies with Benefits” and “Last Girl Standing” is the real standout.

Two relative veterans have also expanded their style in surprising ways: Kacey Musgraves is known as country’s sassy rebel, but her new Golden Hour (MCA Nashville) album explicitly aims for ballads. It may be a kinder, gentler Kacey, but arrangements for songs like “Slow Burn” and “Oh, What a World” are breathtaking. Meanwhile, Jack White’s muse Ashley Monroe of Pistol Annies, who launched a mildly interesting third album three years ago, returns with the darker, more serious Sparrow (Warner Brothers Nashville); tracks like “Rita” and “Wild Love” are guaranteed to evoke shivers.

Finally, Ashley McBryde of Arkansas has a more stripped-down style, but the knowing, mature lyricism in her debut album Girl Going Nowhere (Warner Brothers) puts her solidly in the McCready camp of country women not to be messed with.

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