This Valentine's Day, the Sweethearts of the Rodeo are rounding up a romantic evening of country songs at Exo Bar. The brainchild of Exo owner/rock 'n' roll sensation Amy Rude, the evening will feature Lana Rebel, Lonna Kelly, Lisa O'Neill, June West, Karima Walker, Cristina Williams, Marina Cornelius, Tulip Sweet and Rude herself (along other special guests) doing country duets and "in general will be a celebration of the fact that the more we do together, the better we are together." Rude calls it "an opportunity to showcase the talent of some local Arizona women, the tradition of country and to see what happens when women collaborate in new and interesting ways. We also want to generate excitement for our midterm elections and get the vote out for women!" The evening will benefit Democratic candidate Kelly Fryer's campaign for governor. We asked a half-dozen of the Sweethearts to talk about the albums that won their hearts....
Sweethearts of the Rodeo: Arizona Women Duet Better is from 8 to 11 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 14, at Exo Bar, 403 N. Sixth Ave. $10.
Willie Nelson and Family
That whole era of country music just has a great nostalgic pull for me. Songwriters like Willie were really opening up in the most humble way. The realness and the grit is so comfortable, and familiar. It helped me to be OK with writing down my own experiences in my own way, and as plain as possible. —Lana Rebel
Everybody Knows This is Nowhere
I was given a burned CD with both albums by a friend, and it got jammed in my car stereo for over three years. I found almost every driving scenario during this time (particularly the time spent in my hometown) was blissfully soundtracked by one album or the other. Even though the CD eventually came out, they will forever be timeless treasures that continue to score the soundtrack of my life. —June West
Trilogie De La Morte
Trilogie De La Morte changed the way I understood what a song could be. The songs did what good songwriting does, but without language, and showed me how to hold the very teeny tiny and the sublime all at once.—Karima Walker
Ode to Billie Joe
I've been humming along to the title track and plucking it on guitar since I was a teenager. I always loved Gentry's way with a story. Her songs were always so down-to-earth but literary—like a Mark Twain yarn. They really drew you into her world. She also had a bit of swag to her, a little bit o' grit to the left of Loretta Lynn. I've always thought she was a way underrated artist. But she's my epitome of country—storytelling, a little humor and a lotta heart.—Cristina Williams
Colour Green I instantly fell in love with her dark and haunting voice. Her melodies change unpredictably. Her lyrics are simple even mundane. Yet there are hints at a deeper meaning and she leaves it up to the listener to decide what that meaning is.—Lonna Kelly
The album that shaped my song writing the most was Gillian Welch's Revival. Everything clicked there: the depression era, land-based imagery. Guitar and story-focused songwriting. Heartbreaking melodies. It also allowed me to consider how to write songs from a further distance, which made writing easier for me. Also, composition of chords in that record is spot on—perfect blues compositions with interesting twists. —Amy Rude