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Country icons: Documentary opens up the music vaults to provide an intimate look at 14 legendary female artists

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Patsy Cline. Kitty Wells. Brenda Lee. Loretta Lynn. Dolly Parton.

These are just a few of the iconic women in country music.

Fourteen of these powerful women are profiled in the documentary, “Iconic Women of Country,” which airs at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 4, on New Mexico PBS.

Dolly Parton is one of the 14 legendary country women spotlighted in “Iconic Women of Country.” (Rob Griffith/Associated Press)

“These women, they did the heavy lifting,” says director Barbara Hall. “There are so many women who have made a difference. And there are so many that aren’t on the tip of your tongue. They have entertained a lot of people and they have made the world feel like someone else understands their lives.”

The documentary opens up the music vaults to provide an intimate look at legendary female artists, their stories and songs, and why they’ve stood the test of time.

Hall says it’s a love letter to the women of Nashville and 14 icons of country music are in this piece.

Along with the performers’ stories, there are heartfelt stories from 10 contemporary artists, including Trisha Yearwood, Wynonna Judd and Kathy Mattea.

Terri Clark, Pam Tillis and Suzy Bogguss tell heartfelt stories about the legendary women whose music has influenced them in the documentary, “Iconic Women of Country.”

“The hardest part was to make the decision to spotlight only 14 women,” Hall says. “My hope, still today, is that they will let us do follow up films.”

Being able to tell the stories of women, immediately drew Hall to the project.

“The fact that these women were singing about women’s issues and it mattered,” Hall says. “Life isn’t easy now and it sure wasn’t easy then. Country music tends to be the voice of middle America. For women to hear other women singing about the stuff they all faced, it made them feel like they weren’t alone in the world.”

The process was a learning opportunity for Hall as well.

She says while we know the stories of Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton, there are other performers such as Dottie West and Brenda Lee, whose stories are just as powerful.

Barbara Hall

“These are women who came from nothing and managed to break through,” Hall says. “Being a woman in country music was a difficult thing to do. What I learned about these women is that they were there to support each other. Sure, there were stories that would pit two of them against each other. When you got down to it, these women created a safe haven for each other. As fans, we didn’t see how deep their relationships were. With the film, we are telling these stories.”

Hall says editing the film also proved to be difficult.

With just under an hour to tell all of the stories, she had her work cut out for her.

“We had the Carter family included and they made it to the DVD version,” Hall says. “My hope is that viewers will do their own deep dive after seeing this.”

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