It seems as if, like me, you’re somewhat more into chick singers. Gotta tell you though, two of the`best live performances I have`ever scene (with great CDs to match) were from Tom Russell and Fred Eaglesmith. I hate`labels cuz they leave out as much as they reveal, but these guys are usually called Americana, or sometimes country or alternative country.
What sets them apart is really unique vocals and phenomenal songwriting. If I had to compare them to someone famous it’d be Lyle Lovett.
I don’t know where you stand on Norman Rockwell — over-rated hack who was really just an illustrator versus genius who could tell an entire short story with a few deceptively simple strokes–but I fall on the genius side. These guys are the same way with their song lyrics.
Listen to “Alcohol and Pills” or “Water in the Fuel” by Eaglesmith. If you can find Russell’s “Gallo del Cielo” heck, you don’t just get a short story you get an epic tragedy.
Also: Locally, the guys that wrote that well were Jesus Presley (might be defunct), Fernando Viviconte (myspace) and 17 Reasons Why. 17RW was led by singer/songwriter Sattie Clark and won a nation-wide contest for best unsigned band a few years ago for their album The Dark Years. I think Sattie is still kicking it around Portland.